Research, Technology & engineering

Berkeley prof’s urban planning software goes into wide release

By Thomas Levy

Paul Waddell, a Berkeley professor.
Paul Waddell, a Berkeley professor and founder of Synthicity.

Urban Canvas, a powerful software-based simulator for planning and analyzing urban development — created by Synthicity, a Berkeley startup founded by Paul Waddell, a UC Berkeley professor and the chair of city and regional planning — goes into wide release after being acquired by 3D software giant Autodesk.

Urban Canvas’s desktop software and cloud-based data resources uses a “SimCity”-style 3D digital city as an interactive backdrop to help city planners collaboratively edit and share urban data about complex city phenomena, including tracking buildings from plan to construction.

The Synthicity team that began work on the simulation software in 2012 was led by Waddell and included, among others, Fletcher Foti, then a Berkeley Ph.D. student in city planning, and Eddie Janowicz and Conor Henley, alumni of Berkeley’s master’s in city planning program.

According to Waddell, Synthicity was launched to bring research ideas in urban planning, analysis and visualization to scale by developing new methods for translating massive amounts of data into practical solutions for a range of urban problems. Last year Synthicity was chosen by the city of San Francisco to be one of six entrepreneurs in residence.