Digital twins have changed the way architects, construction companies, and real estate developers plan growth in urban areas, but what does this mean for communities and their residents? With the power of real-time 3D, Vectuel is supporting a more efficient and collaborative future through its digital twin of Paris – aiming to empower citizens to help envision and develop the future of the communities they live in.
Envisioning the future today
Vectuel, a French company providing visualization solutions, has spent more than a decade recreating the greater Paris metropolitan area in real-time 3D in Unity. Today, its enormous digital twin city spans over 2 million existing and proposed structures on 1,000 km² of territory.
City officials and architects are working with Vectuel to design, review and construct buildings more efficiently. Creating digital replicas of the city's infrastructure, shared through Furioos, Unity's cloud streaming solution, allows for visualization at scale to improve and expedite decisions on architectural style, color, floor plans, and equipment placement – inevitably reducing downtime, construction time, and errors, as well as overall project costs.
Within Vectuel's digital twin, viewers can interact with particular areas of property in the greater Paris metropolitan area, allowing them to interpret projects within the broader urban context. Vectuel created these 3D models using geographic information system (GIS) and building information modeling (BIM) data, collected through terra photography – photographs of the territory taken from a plane – as well as data provided by the Institut national de l'information géographique et forestière (National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information) in France. Using 3ds Max, Vectuel prepared the data and imported it into Unity Pro using its own software, Virtual City, with some help from the Pixyz Plugin.
“We moved to Unity because it allowed us to publish to multiple devices, including the web,” says Vectuel's CEO Grégory Morlet. “This was very important to us because our customers and the public need to be able to easily access the platform from any location. Unity's products have really helped this process become easier.”
Vectuel's unified project vision has ensured that the digital twin can be used by many workers in a variety of roles. Not only can employees access the models from any jobsite, but they can also view the proposed buildings in the neighborhood before they are even built. Vectuel's visualization solution emphasizes an all-for-one principle – access for everyone in service of a unified vision.
These features are made possible through Furioos and similar cloud services that host the 120 GB model. Before using Furioos, Vectuel had trouble finding a platform that could house the vast amount of data that the model contained. However, the model runs smoothly on Furioos without sacrificing any aspect of its collaborative workflow. Collaboration is now even easier for the team as Furioos allows employees to view and manipulate the model from any web browser.
Smarter buildings and stronger communities
The user-friendly interface of Vectuel's digital twin allows viewers to simply toggle from one realistic infrastructure model to another. It is now being used for various projects in partnership with the City of Paris – helping people see what the proposed infrastructure will look like within their own environments. This allows citizens to participate in the city's development in a fresh way, giving residents a voice in the future of their community and helping to improve overall satisfaction among locals.
The Vectuel model currently has approximately 250 projects in progress, including the Grand Paris Express expansion – the biggest transportation project in all of Europe. It is also linked to all urban planning projects in France, including the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. The Société du Grand Paris is working with Vectuel to plan its expansion of Paris's primary transportation system, which will include 4 new train lines and 68 new interconnected train stations – significantly cutting down commute times for Parisians.
Planning the expansion within the digital twin will enable engineers and architects to see how each train line and station will affect the surrounding neighborhoods, pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow, as well as further urban design and development. From there, the model can be used to identify problems and areas needing improvement, before construction starts. Additionally, locals will be able to see the proposed project and interact with the model to view the location of new train lines and stations. The ability to visualize spatial data, simulate construction, and see into the future are a few of the fundamental benefits of a city digital twin.
“We want to help the people of Paris make informed decisions when it comes to feedback on proposed developments, know what their neighborhoods might look like in the future, and be a part of the community’s growth,” says Teïlo François, Vectuel’s Director of Innovation. “Unity is helping us do that.”
Construction on the first Grand Paris Express station will begin soon, as planning for other stations continues in the digital twin. Once the expansion is complete, it will be used by over 2 million people per day, with trains arriving every 2-3 minutes across 200 km of new tracks.
Vectuel plans to grow its model, partnering with more clients to add data and detail. The evolving digital twin of Paris is casting the city in a new light, deeply engaging its citizens in its urban development.