Urban Planning with Building Blocks and RFID Paint Brushes

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 @ 08:21 AM

Tags: RFID, Construction, Urban Planning

Next-Generation Building & Cityscape Modeling

After being commissioned by Alexander the Great to lay out the city of Alexandria, the Greek Hippodamus (c. 407 BC) became known as the "Father of City Planning".  My guess is he didn’t use a CAD system or RFID to help with his design.  How times have changed.

3D ModelingAs mentioned in our post Construction Management with RIFD, RFID and sensors (RFIDS) are being integrated into building materials, enabling new Building Information Modeling (BIM) capabilities and allowing construction firms to use real-time data to enhance construction processes.  And now, new RFID-enabled 3D building design tools are being developed to assist planning professionals even before the construction phase begins. 

According to a recent EE Times Europe story, researchers at the CEA-LETI (Electronics and Information Technology Laboratory of the French Atomic Energy Commission), are developing 3D interactive urban modeling tools using a combination of RFID and Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) based motion capture technologies.

The prototype application includes an interactive table that holds a physical model of an urban area under construction.  13.56MHz HF RFID tags are applied to movable 3D pieces used to represent existing and planned buildings and are read by a total of 960 embedded RFID readers.  The interactive table is coupled with computer assisted design (CAD) software that renders the views of the urban landscape. 

During the planning phase of an urban area, users can reorganize the layout of a city or suburb by manually moving the 3D pieces around the table.  This movement is captured by the CAD software which renders new views in real-time.  Taking the solution even further, the research team has developed a number of modeling functions like applying textures to buildings with and RFID “brush” and an RFID-enabled magnifying glass that can be moved over specific blocks to zoom in on elements displayed in the CAD software.

This is a great example of how RFID can bridge the physical and electronic worlds – turning a physical model into an interactive computer-based platform that can be used easily by experts and non-experts alike.  What do you think about the future of tools like these?  Let us know your thoughts on how RFID and sensors can be used for construction planning.

[Photo credit: Gérard Cottet]

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