Coping with IoT data overload? Try 3D visualization

DottyView offers interactive visual IoT consoles using engineering drawings from Autodesk Forge’s 3D viewer for engineering models

Coping with IoT data overload? Try 3D visualization
Pixabay (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

Could you captain a supertanker—a ship longer than five football fields and 16 stories tall?

In addition to navigation, you would have to stay abreast of  thousands of sensor readings from across the ship that monitor spills, explosions and fires. You may need some help to cope with the data overload.

You'd need a captain’s console with 3D IoT visualization.

Essential components of an IoT data solution

It’s difficult to process the enormous volume of data generated by IoT systems. Monitoring multiple real-time data feeds adds to the complexity. Automated data filtering helps. How can human intelligence be applied to very large, complex datasets?

+ Also on Network World: IoT is not about radios; it’s all about data +

Traditional management consoles aren’t well suited for managing real-time, complex systems. Decision making is easier with visualization—especially with thousands of sensors in large structures such as supertankers. The solution requires three components:

  1. 3D representation of the structures (in this example, ships)
  2. Overlaid real-time sensor data
  3. An interactive management console that combines both IoT and operational systems


Engineered structures are designed by CAD systems such as AutoCAD. These designs first have to be converted into 3D models that can be overlaid with sensor data and viewed smoothly within a web browser. Autodesk Forge allows data from different design file formats to be extracted and displayed on a web browser using a zero-client, customizable, WebGL-based viewer. 

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Dotty Digital and Autodesk Forge provide 3D visualization

Dotty Digital builds 3D visualizations of IoT systems with Autodesk Forge and live data from systems such as Autodesk Fusion Connect. It also incorporates information from other applications such as Excel, Oracle and SAP. Sensor data is visualized directly on the 3D model with an Autodesk viewer.

A captain can inspect conditions all over the ship from a web browser, as well as a mobile device. This enables the captain to view situations from anywhere on the ship. Different types of alarms and readings can be prioritized and activated. When a trouble situation is identified, the captain can zoom into it and obtain details immediately. The 3D visualization can be swiveled and navigated in an augmented reality mode.

“The Forge Viewer is a great platform for building visualization solutions based on design data," said Stephen Preston, senior manager of Software Partner Development at Autodesk. "There are many IoT applications where being able to visualize sensor data in the context of a model of the ‘thing’ being monitored greatly enhances our ability to understand and act on that data. Dotty’s solution is a great example of this.”

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How DottyView works

Dynamic markers, such as the sensors installed on the ship, are built into the 3D model. Every part of the ship has two representations:

  1. An entry in the IoT platform database where sensor readings are stored
  2. A dynamic marker on the the 3D model along with its geographic position

DottyView updates the status of a sensor on the 3D model as new readings are received. Different colors represent the "health" of that part of the ship. The captain can click on the sensor in the 3D model to determine what’s causing the alarm. Details on that sensor are retrieved from the database and displayed in a separate window.

The DottyView console exposes the highest level of information in a visual, geographically connected manner. Alerts can be responded to quickly with this context.

“Clients notice an immediate change in their business operations when they can expose any and all information to a visual dashboard or 3D models,” explains Wesley McCombe, founder and CTO of Dotty Digital. “This closed loop system now allows everyone to monitor every aspect of their business in real time.”  


Captaining supertankers is best left to the pros, but 3D visualization can help anyone who manages complex IoT systems.

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