Last updated: 13 March 2023

Published on: 13 April 2016


Welcome to Virtual Singapore, an intelligent and computable digital version of Singapore.

This is a heads up to fans of SimCity, the popular classic city simulation computer game.

Singapore is developing a digital ‘twin’ with the potential to predict floods, keep homes cool and make sure you never lose your mobile phone signal.

VS Ronnie1

Dr Ronnie Lee from IDA: Behind Virtual Singapore is the concept of a semantically-enriched 3D model which is not just about 3D visualisation, but is also able to represent the city along with its semantics.

Conceived as an intelligent, computable sibling to the physical Singapore, Virtual Singapore caters for virtual experimentation and paves the way for the delivery of pre-emptive services.

And it does this by bringing together disparate simulation models, connecting to data sources from different public agencies and tapping on high performance computing resources to carry out city-wide simulation for a better understanding of the environment.

Speaking at the A*STAR HPC (High Performance Computing) Symposium on 28 March, Dr Ronnie Lee, Deputy Director with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), noted that a rich data environment is needed for planning and decision-making in various urban planning and management scenarios.

For example, data related to heat and noise can be used to simulate pollution dynamics in the urban environment for pollution management, while the data used for wind flow simulation and the study of urban heat island effects can play a part in urban planning.

However, while many agencies and research institutes have been carrying out data analysis and building simulation models for different applications, many of these models are not reusable, noted Dr Lee.

Virtual Singapore seeks to address this with the concept of a semantically-enriched 3D model which is not just about 3D visualisation, but is also able to represent the city along with its semantics.

As Dr Lee explained, “When you look at a building, you know that it is a building, but does the computer know that? Does it know what kind of a building it is, whether it has a roof and if so, what kind of roof? What about the surface of the floor, the windows and the doors?”

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Researchers can run simulations and even conduct experiments on the semantically-enriched 3D model in Virtual Singapore.

By layering these additional details and infusing the model with semantics, Virtual Singapore opens up many possibilities.

For example, it allows for virtual experimentation. 

Before a project is implemented, its impact can be analysed to identify the issues that have to be resolved. For instance, for telecommunications purposes, it allows for predictive analysis of signal penetration loss to facilitate better planning and infrastructure design and ensure better radio frequency coverage.

With real-time data being fed into Virtual Singapore, it will also be possible to create pre-emptive services, for example, anticipating the effects of flooding in built-up areas through predictive geomodelling.

There can also be cross-domain modelling and simulation for better planning and decision-making. For instance, the integrated analysis and visualisation of multiple simulation models on a single platform allows for a better understanding of the micro climatic condition of a proposed property development.

We Built This City With CityGML

IDA also hopes that Virtual Singapore will help catalyse further research and development by providing a rich data environment for researchers to innovate and develop new modelling and simulation apps. 

A key piece that is required to take this forward is the development of CityGML, a standard for the modelling of an entire city.


CityGML is a common information model for the representation of sets of 3D urban objects, and a standard for the modelling of an entire city.

CityGML is an information model and extensible markup language-based encoding of the representation, storage and exchange of virtual 3D city and landscape models. 

It captures geometrical, topological, semantic and appearance properties in five levels of detail ranging from the external terrain to interior models, and allows for the storage and exchange of 3D urban objects such as buildings, city furniture, vegetation, transportation and water bodies. 

By allowing real-time information from sensors to be tagged onto the smart visualisation platform, Virtual Singapore also paves the way for the development of new applications to help address urban challenges. 

For example, information on roof types and roof surfaces can be applied in the study of solar potential of buildings, while information on building usage, wall surfaces and vegetation can be applied in studies into noise propagation, urban heat island effects and wind simulation. 

To do all these, however, there has to be a unified, semantically-enriched city model, and part of the Virtual Singapore journey is to create a standard that will enable this, said Dr Lee.


The Virtual Singapore project is championed by the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF), the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and IDA. 

Screenshots of Virtual Singapore courtesy of NRF and SLA.


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