The days of flat maps are over; everything is moving to 3D’, according to Dr Sisi Zlatanova. She has developed a 3D data infrastructure for the Port of Rotterdam.
There will obviously always be maps, but in the future, they will be compiled from a personal selection of 3D information. If Sisi Zlatanova has anything to do with it, such 3D geo-information systems (GIS) will show the interior and exterior of buildings, as well as the location of underground cables and pipes. As an associate professor in the GIS technology department of the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, she has spent recent years leading the 3D SDI (Special Data Infrastructures) project that TU Delft has been conducting in collaboration with TU Eindhoven, the City of Rotterdam and the Port of Rotterdam, within the Next Generation Infrastructures project for Maasvlakte 2. The plans call for managing all of the information in 3D. For demonstration purposes, a design firm developed a system in which the wall of a quay was designed as a part of the Maasvlakte. As a special feature, the designers also received spatial information on the surrounding area. This was possible because the Port of Rotterdam made all information about the port (including the underground cables and pipes) available in a 3D database. The design firm delivered a ‘Building Information Model (BIM)’ containing spatial information about the quay wall that had been designed.
On her laptop, Zlatanova shows how the design of the wall fits into place, as well as where problems are located. Under the wall, the software uses a red symbol to indicate conflicts in several places. Closer examination reveals that ground anchors for the quay wall are cutting into the foundations of the silos to the rear. It is much better to discover this during the design phase than during the construction phase.The result is refreshingly simple, although it required considerable effort to reach this point. It is not easy to incorporate information from different sources under the same denominator. For example, in the Netherlands, geological information is based on ‘tiles’ measuring 100 by 100 metres, with a depth of 0.5 metre. This is difficult to relate to above-ground information on streets, houses and canals, which occur at a much smaller scale. Another issue concerns meanings: a property can be identified according to its usage (e.g. parking areas, brownfield sites or industrial areas).
‘There are problems with semantics, geometry and resolution’, summarises Zlatanova enthusiastically. ‘So we have many problems, and we’re going to solve them. In the future, all information will be 3D’. The Port is a pioneer in the use of 3D geo-information. In addition to preventing accidents by making contractors aware of the exact location of existing cables and pipes, the 3D information is playing an important role in the Port’ ambition to become the most automated port in the world. Because when we get rolling robots to do the work, they really need to know exactly where they are.