A new mapping tool will help city planners visualize vital but invisible information like noise pollution by simulating a 3D cityscape. Created by the Fraunhofer Institutes for Industrial Engineering and Building Physics, the tool takes data from existing sources like traditional survey maps and renders it in a form that planners can see from above or even "walk" through. In the picture above, noise pollution is represented in dots with different colors for varying intensity.

Besides showing what's currently happening in cities, the model could also be used to simulate changes. The tool's creators, for example, used it to visualize how different proportions of electric and gas-powered cars would affect noise pollution. "Initial simulations found that the conventional simulation models stipulated by public agencies tend to average too sharply: we have yet to see any significant difference in the noise level in electric vehicles or gas-driven cars," says Roland Blach, who heads the Institute for Industrial Engineering. This tool, along with several others, will be presented at the Hannover Messe technology fair from April 23rd to 27th.