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TweetCity: Building London using Real time feeds and CityEngine

As part of our time here in CASA UCL, Stephan Hugel and I, developed a simple tool to capture and visualize live tweet feeds and project them onto the actual form of the built environment.

The application uses the Twitter API, and visualizes results in 3D, similarly to the known London Twitter map by UrbanTick, developed using the data collector created by Steven Gray, in an attempt to create a new urban landscape.

This work is a first attempt to bring real-time data feeds directly into 3D GIS and 3D cities and visualize them using a different view. As Stephan wrote: "What if London's buildings grew according to the amount of data they generate?". There is currently a big emphasis on BIM and data management, with a clear focus on sustainability and social infrastructure. However, there is very little information on how and if this process affects the way the built environment grows and evolves.

Of course this project does not aim to address such questions, but to demonstrate new ways of augmenting already existing spatial data. The application was built entirely in ESRI's CityEngine, as it offers a range of 3D visualization techniques which relate to the urban environment. CityEngine allows the generation of forms using simple "rules". In this case, the project collects real-time tweet feeds, aggregates them by a custom discrete zone system and by default, visualizes them as building heights. CityEngine provides the key-advantage of  allowing the automatic storing of spatially geolocated data directly on a shapefile, augmenting GIS with live information and update the visualization real-time. That is why this application, can work with different basemaps, such as a land use map, wards, or even roads.  At the moment, the script stores the number of total tweets for any discrete zone and keeps track of time and date.

For example, if the user wants to know how many tweets will fall in the area of Hyde Park for a specific period of time, he will only have to import an outline of the park in the scene of CityEngine and adjust the values appropriately. The rules that generate geometry are independent of the Information System, a feature which according to my opinion is one of the main advantages of CityEngine, as is allows the customization of different visualizations.

Use of different Basemaps to represent real-time twitter activity - Greater London - 1 km Grid zones. 

Here is a little video preview, while thanks to Stephan you can download the full script along with instructions and samples from GitHub.
Works with CityEngine, download trial version here.


  1. Excellent use of twitter data, shame everyone around here (NZ) doesn't have the same inclination to geotag their tweets. Big cities really are the perfect place to carry out this particular piece of analysis and visualization.

  2. How cool is this, very clever. this could be used to open the eyes of funding bodies wary of social media.

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