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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

New Update from CloudCities

March 30th, 2017 by Susan Smith

CloudCities announced an update to their cloud platform for building insights that adds procedural terrains and advanced search features. CloudCities for AEC professionals and their clients highly simplifies the process of creating 3D plans and combining them with data. The new version makes it possible to immerse the models in beautiful terrains that load quickly and are generated procedurally. The new CloudCities is now available at

This new release brings advanced search functions with color mapping.

Says Jan Halatsch, chief product officer and co-founder of CloudCities, “Our users need terrain for context. Moreover, obtaining terrain data is usually a painful undertaking in the GIS and AEC world. Terrain data involves typically converting digital elevation models into meshes (Triangulated irregular networks or TIN) or vice versa to be used in expert applications. However, the results are data sets that are quite hard to share in size and also not easy to display using an online service.

We wanted to eliminate this hideous process so that our clients can concentrate on their work.”

GISCafe Voice: What kinds of elevation services are you using that load fast?

The reason why our terrain is super fast is quite simple. We created our own terrain service. The terrains in CloudCities are created directly in the 3D view using intelligent computer graphics algorithms. For displaying the terrains in CloudCities, no heavy meshes or digital elevation models need to be transferred to your computer or mobile. We are using similar approaches that game studios use in high-end games. As a result, the actual amount of data to be downloaded is quite tiny, and the performance is very fast.

Our terrain service leverages from open data sources such as 3DEP, SRTM or GMTED. The precision of the terrain data ranges between 10 feet for urban areas and more than 100 ft rural areas.

GISCafe Voice: When you import terrains, do you open another file to modify them? How does that work?

So far terrains cannot be directly manipulated inside CloudCities. However, this will come. As a user, you have currently two options:

Option 1. Let’s say you do not have any terrain data at hand. All you need to do is to upload your 3D models (IFC, FBX, OBJ, KMZ, DAE, and 3WS are supported) and check if a location is already provided. In case there is no location then you can quickly set one yourself using our geographic referencing tool. You can use latitude and longitude values or look up an address and confirm the location of your data. After that, you can activate our terrain service and align your models to the terrain.

Option 2. CloudCities offers support for your custom terrains, which are typically based on triangulated irregular networks (TIN). This type of terrains can be produced using AutoCAD (and its extensions like Civil3D), Infraworks or ArcScene and only need to be exported in one of the many file formats that CloudCities supports. Once uploaded, the terrain will be auto detected and sliced into lightweight terrain tiles. Users can even try to blend their custom terrain with CloudCities inbuilt terrain service.

GISCafe Voice: How much and what kind of building data is important with the terrain?
Building data typically comes without site context information. So to say buildings in AEC or GIS solutions are usually just floating free in 3D space. However, in reality, buildings are having a location and an elevation at their location. CloudCities gives that context back.

GISCafe Voice: How shareable are the files? Does another user need to have CloudCities loaded on their computer?
The great thing is that CloudCities is a web-based online service. It is built on Html5 and WebGL. So there is no need to download software. All that users need is an Internet link to a CloudCities web scene. Once the URL is clicked, the content will immediately show on your web browser. It does not matter if you are on a mobile, tablet or at your desktop computer.

GISCafe Voice: What is the price point of CloudCities?
CloudCities is targeted towards enterprise customers that are part of larger organizations.
Most of our clients are from major AEC construction or design companies that need to communicate information instantly to clients or contractors.

We offer enterprise plans between two and several hundred seats. Pricing is variable between USD 2’000 and 5’000 per seat and including a full annual subscription.

GISCafe Voice: Are you using districting data or census data for the advanced search? What other kinds of data is used for that?

No, we do not have such information right now inside CloudCities. Advanced 3D search is performed on the 3D models that are stored inside a CloudCities web scene. Attribute or property data can be highlighted and colorized. For instance, users can set up search ranges for building ages, costs, vacancies or conditions. CloudCities can import metadata using BIM files (IFC) and geospatial data (3WS). The CloudCities attribute editor makes it quite easy to attach and edit 3D models that originally came without any object information.

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Categories: 3D Cities, 3D designs, analytics, asset management, Building Information Modeling, climate change, cloud, cloud network analytics, data, drones, geospatial, GIS, image-delivery software, lidar, mapping

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