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Alberta company animates cities with data

3D visualizations of real estate the world over

Tim Querengesser is senior editor with Alberta Venture. Email Tim

Oct 21, 2013

by Tim Querengesser

A Calgary-based urban visualization startup called Cube Cities has been grabbing global attention for its ability to animate urban skylines using open, free real-estate data. The company’s engaging animation of the growth of Manhattan’s skyline since 1840, for instance, was recently featured on The Atlantic’s popular cities blog.

Until now, real estate data has been free but also, well, flat. What Cube Cities has done over the past three years, as it prepares to commercialize its products, is develop software that takes free open city- and real-estate data and represents it in three-dimensional animations. Money-making applications for the software include showing companies looking to move offices all the available commercial real-estate in any city in the world. Or, in simple terms, rather than providing executives with a list of buildings and prices per square foot, they can now watch an interactive video showing them what floors in what buildings are available, with colour coding to delineate different prices and other search criteria. Since these decisions are often made remotely, the ability to see where a potential office will be in a virtual representation is a game-changer.

Greg Angevine, CEO and founder of Cube Cities, says commercial applications for his company’s software are growing beyond commercial real estate. Cube City is looking into offering animations to display available residential condo and rental properties in real time, or even to offer someone shopping for a hotel room through an online travel website the ability to fly around a city and spot available rooms, colour coded by price, and know where they’re located relative to everything else. “With all the open data sources, there are all kinds of opportunities to partner with groups and take their data and contort it to 3D.”

Okay, but is the company profitable? “Not at this stage,” Angevine says. “We’ve been identifying different revenue models.” Two main ones have emerged, he says: Visualizations of commercial real estate around the world, and animations for city governments to display buildings based on energy consumption and other environmental criteria.

Of course, Albertans will be far more interested in the animation of the growth of Calgary’s skyline, the only non-American animation currently on Cube Cities’ blog.

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