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Cesium 3D tiles, helping cities stream 3D models

May 2019

When dealing with Cesium 3D Tile datasets that are measured in the thousands of square miles, it’s necessary to manage computing resources efficiently.

May 2019



Nearmap introduced offline 3D datasets to enable photo-realistic visualizations of wide-scale urban landscapes — 3D cities — that power a variety of real-world scenarios, from emergency response planning to construction BIM modeling to 5G network rollouts.
Nearmap 3D was designed to be as flexible as possible. It allows you to seamlessly plug in a 3D aerial view to leading GIS and CAD software platforms, including Esri, Autodesk, and Bentley.
Nearmap 3D is also offered in Cesium 3D Tiles, to enable integration of 3D aerial maps into custom applications. In a gesture of broad acceptance from the GIS industry, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) has now accepted 3D Tiles as a community standard, “empowering app developers to make massive and complex 3D information more accessible, interoperable, and useful across all kinds of tools and applications,” according to Gabby Getz, Cesium software developer, writing in the Cesium blog.
The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is an international consortium of more than 525 companies, government agencies, research organizations, and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly available geospatial standards. OGC standards support interoperable solutions that “geo-enable” the Web, wireless and location-based services, and mainstream IT.
Tim Rivenbark, director of business development at Cesium, sees a lot of upside with the new standard. “I believe this designation motivates application developers to adopt the 3D Tiles format, not just for the format’s superior streaming performance, but so they are compatible with open standards,” he explained. “I believe this benefits end users because they can process their data into an open standard format and then use the data in various apps without the need to reprocess or convert to other formats. In addition, end users would not be locked into a proprietary format and thus proprietary tools associated with a proprietary format.”


Cesium 3D Tiles are well-suited to working with the wide-scale datasets being produced by Nearmap. When dealing with datasets that are measured in thousands of square miles, it’s necessary to manage computing resources efficiently. The Cesium framework does this by only loading an appropriate level of detail when needed, and it can do this fast, which leads to a great user experience.
Below are more than 1,800 square miles of Sydney 3D content loaded into a browser application:


Cesium is a leading innovator working at the intersection of 3D, mapping, and the web to craft world-class software that realizes the potential of 3D models derived from aerial imagery.
With the rapidly expanding applications for photogrammetry-derived 3D city models, Cesium identified the need for an open global standard that efficiently enables the streaming and sharing of 3D geospatial data across a diverse range of platforms and apps.
3D Tiles draw on the toolbox of innovative techniques and technology applications of graphic research, movie-making special effects, and gaming industries to deliver exciting new capabilities to 3D GIS models. 3D Tiles have enabled expansion beyond traditional 2D and 2.5D mapping to support 3D models such as point cloud, 3D building and interior visualization, instanced models, and photogrammetry.
The new 3D Tiles standard is designed to optimize the dissemination of 3D data over the web and offline, with compatibility across devices and platforms. To support the 3D visualization community, the new standard tile formats that define spatial structure are optimized for streaming and rendering across various apps and platforms. The new standard tile formats are:
Batched 3D models – for 3D buildings, photogrammetry, BIM/CAD models, etc.
Instanced 3D models – for trees, bolts, valves, and other finer details.
Point clouds – for textured mesh and massive point clouds, including per-point attributes.
Composite – for aggregation of tiles of different formats.
Nearmap continues to expand 3D aerial photography with exceptionally high-resolution, wide-scale 3D models of urban areas in Australia and the US. To date, we’ve captured and processed over 23,000 square kilometers spanning 12 urban areas in Australia, and 99,000 square miles across 78 urban areas in the US. The new 3D Tiles standard will help ensure that data can be more efficiently shared and used across platforms and devices. With this enhanced adaptability, the adoption of 3D mapping for scenario analysis, site planning, and large-scale project monitoring will become increasingly standard.
With 3D Tiles now accepted as a global community standard, Nearmap 3D is supporting a whole new dimension of location intelligence capabilities and applications.
Stephen Neale is Nearmap's product manager for 3D content. With a master’s degree in GIS and remote sensing from UNSW, Stephen solves business problems by creating products that benefit from spatial information. He is passionate about emerging 3D technology and the role this content can play in helping us understand reality.