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Nextspace brings super data to the supercity

With the likes of the Auckland Council and Melbourne's South East Water on the books, Nextspace is scratching the surface of a $2 billion market potential.

With the likes of the Auckland Council and Melbourne's South East Water on the books, Nextspace is scratching the surface of a $2 billion market potential.

Greek astronomer and father of geography Claudius Ptolemy wrote that it was geography’s task to present the known world as one and continuous, and to describe its nature and position.

Small wonder, then, that 3D visualisation technology company Nextspace, which specialises in data-rich 3D renderings of cities, has adopted Ptolemy’s quote as its mantra, and Ptolemy as its patron saint of sorts.

But while Ptolemy existed at a time when visual representations of the world existed firmly in 2D, Nextspace’s 3D edge has piqued the interest of the likes of the Auckland Council and Melbourne’s South East Water. But even that is just scratching the surface of what it says is a $2 billion market potential.

It has created the Visual City, a rich set of Auckland data (maps, consents, development plans, transport routes, as well as economic, social, cultural, historical and environmental data) to be communicated three-dimensionally through a digital ecology.

While paper plans are still the norm, Nextspace business development director Richard Simpson is adamant the approach will become the standard for Auckland’s planning, creating a living and breathing account of the city.

Users can do a 360-degree fly-through of the city or flip it upside down to see what’s happening below ground level – for example, what the proposed rail loop might look like. It’s been so popular, mayor Len Brown took the model with him on a trip to China in November where he explored the country’s tunnel building technologies.

Nextspace is also making inroads abroad. Melbourne’s South East Water is using the technology to help save money and time in building low-pressure sewer systems across the city.

Chief executive Gavin Lennox says the dilemma was that while South East Water had a lot of geospatial and building data, it wasn’t available in a single, easy to access digest context. Drawing on geological survey data from a number of sources, the technology enabled the South East Water project team to see underground land form that had not been available with the patchy bore hole data traditionally used.

If rocks below the surface were hit during the installation of the sewer system, it would have cost South East Water five times more.

“It’s great working with a client who gets it,” Lennox says. “They’ve got great data and they’ve got a culture that’s about innovation rather than risk aversion.”

In five years’ time Nextspace is hedging its bets on being a ‘truly global’ company. But with the pragmatism of being a startup, for now it’s happy defining itself as an Australasian player. It plans to use its success in Auckland and Melbourne as the catalyst for taking the technology to the world – a $2 billion opportunity, according to Lennox.

“There are almost 500 cities of Auckland size or bigger,” he says. “All of them are facing the same global challenges of urbanisation and managing infrastructure.”

With a staff roster of only nine, like most companies these days, more employees would be nice, especially if it’s going to successfully scale its technology for global use.

No doubt its recent capital raise courtesy of The Icehouse Ice Angels will help in that department.

While the exact amount invested remains a bit hush-hush, the money will be used to further develop its Visual City technology so it can, indeed, take on the world.