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New Legal Framework

We have built up centuries of law to determine our rights in the real world.  These provide both fairness and certainty for access, use and trade – reducing time, cost and disputes.


       The Key Elements for New Legal Framework to govern the Virtual World

The virtual world demands no less:  a simple legal framework to define the ‘authorised’  models, to determine requirements for their long term retention, and to establish uniform rights of access, use and trade.


Ideally, the law should be based on the simple principle that: ‘rights in the model = rights in the real’.  So no matter where you reside, or where in Australia the modelled property is situated, your rights in the authorised models are the same… and the same as your real property rights.


The legislation should also spell out which professions can legally certify each aspect of the model.


It would also define the entity responsible for each model (eg Local Council for the Authorised City Model, Utility for the Authorised Services Model [Telecoms, Water, Power, etc]). In the case of Private Property, it would be the Owner.


       Creating a Completely new Uniform Framework

As the Authorised 3D Virtual World does not yet exist, it requires a completely new regulatory regime.  Ideally one that is national and not a mish mash of local, state and federal laws.


With the electronic data (forming the Authorised 3D virtual World) being accessed, used and traded across all Local, State and Federal Boundaries, it would seem appropriate for the legislation to be enacted under Federal powers - like Telecommunications and similar to Banking (both national ‘infrastructures’).


       Creating Valuable New Rights

The new framework would not increase the regulatory burden.  It would simply create valuable new rights for people in the virtual world - just as the law creates valuable rights of access, use and trade in real property.

Maintaining Freedom of Choice


The proposed legal framework would not dictate the hardware or software to be used in creating and visualising the model.  Nor would it set out any standards.  These would be left to the industry.


People would also remain free to create their own models for their own purposes, storing them where and how they like; giving rights of access, use and trade for whatever purposes they wish. 


However, any models that have not been appropriately certified by an independent third party would not be covered by the new simple legal framework.  Instead, they would be governed under existing contract and copyright laws, corporate terms of use and licences, and other complex regulations that differ between jurisdictions  - local, state and federal, as well as other nations (for data held offshore).


      The Risks of not Acting

If we don’t take a proactive uniform approach to defining the ‘authorised virtual world’, it is inevitable that additional laws will be enacted by each jurisdiction (as new difficulties arise from working and trading in the virtual world) – further complicating the regulatory environment and vastly reducing productivity, increasing cost and adding delays.


Instead of a national virtual infrastructure, we will have another ‘multiple rail gauges network’… only orders of magnitude more complex and costly to traverse.  It will be almost impossible to create a fully integrated federated model as the rights, responsibilities and restrictions applying to each model will differ jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and also differ from the rights, responsibilities and restrictions applying to the property in the real world.

New Business Processes and Organizations

       Authorised Models created using any Hardware and Software

Authorised Models could be created using whatever hardware and software an entity chooses.

These models would include: designs, as-built and future scenarios.


       Authorised Models to be Certified, Locked and Lodged

All authorised models would be certified and locked against change and held ‘in perpetuity’ as the official model (at a point in time) of the building, infrastructure, or city (as the case may be).  It would be under the control of the entity owning or controlling the real property that it modelled - subject to a new legal framework.  No authorised model could ever be deleted - to retain a full history.


Spatial Surveyors would certify the as-built physical attributes and legal boundaries.  Architects would continue to certify the design; and engineers the structural, electrical, mechanical and other services models – just as they now certify and lodge paper plans.

For this to work, everyone needs to know ‘what’ and ‘where’ each part of the ‘authorised model’ is, and ‘how’ to access it, and on ‘what terms’.  We’ll come to these questions in a moment.


       Authorised 3D Model as Authority for Change in the Real World

Ideally, nothing should change in the real world until it has been first modelled and approved in the ‘authorised’ virtual world - to ensure the model remains in sync with the real world.  Naturally, it will be up to each stakeholder to modify their processes to create and use authorised models in this way. 


       Authorised Models to contain all necessary Meta Data

The Spatial Surveyor (and other professionals) must have processes to ensure each authorised model contains the necessary meta data for any user to determine suitability for their purpose, with the Spatial Surveyor (and each other professional) liable for any miss-statement in relation to the aspects they certify. 


       Certification of Legal Boundaries in the Authorised Model

Importantly, the Spatial Surveyor would also be responsible for fixing all legal boundaries (in 3D) within the authorised City and Building models, tied to the national position and elevation grid.


This could be done over time on a job by job basis, whenever a Spatial Surveyor (or appointed technician) is required to visit a site for whatever reason… so little additional time or cost would be incurred.


By using cm accurate city models, any boundary line included in the model will remain fixed in its relative position, so over time all boundaries can be added line by line, without the need to modify the location of any other boundary to retain positional accuracy.

It means that through normal business practices the full 3D Cadastre can be built into the model at no extra cost.


       Use of Approved Devices, Apps and Processes to create Authorised Models

The actual survey of the 'as-built' could be done by anyone using any device and app approved by the profession.  A technician would mostly likely be employed in commercial cases working for (or sub-contracted to) a qualified Spatial Surveyor using increasingly ‘automated’ equipment, (again approved by the Spatial Surveyor).


       Checking, Certifying and Locking Authorised Models created by non-professionals

While anyone will be able to create a model, because it can be altered during or after capture, it would not be recognised as ‘authorised’ until checked, certified, locked and lodged by a Spatial Surveyor.  This may entail a brief on-site visit to confirm critical measurements (eg boundaries, height and set-back) and to spot check the rest of the model before certifying, locking and lodging it.


       Ability to Change and Add Data to Authorised Models

All authorised modelling apps will require the ability to add meta data and boundary data to a model before it is certified and locked. Once certified, locked and lodged by a Spatial Surveyor, the model must be immune from change.


       Spatial Surveyor to carry Risk of Error for all Data that they certify

The Spatial Surveyor would carry the risk and be required to ensure the equipment and apps used, and the calibration and processes employed to create the model meet their requirements.  Importantly, they would require processes to ensure the data are not tampered with during or after collection or processing, or at any future time.


As under current law in relation to on-ground measurement, the profession would be held accountable for any spatial or legal errors in the authorised model or its meta data, with appropriate PI in place to compensate those who relied on erroneous data.

The other professions would remain liable for their own model components (eg design and engineering).


       Federated Authorised Model

The ‘authorised’ model cannot be a single centralised model.  It can only be built out of the millions of separate models made by/for each property owner and government authority, linked together as a ‘federated’ model.


The challenge is to integrate these millions of separate models built using different hardware and software into a cohesive representation of the world that can be relied on, while protecting privacy, maintaining security and limiting liability.


It is here that the proposed 'Data Bank Network' could come into play.


       Establishment of ‘Data Banks’

The Data Banks would hold your property model, like traditional banks hold your money.


You could choose to keep the model on your own computer (like cash in your pocket).  Or you could deposit it in a Data Bank with much better protections against loss, destruction or change, with better back-up and data sharing capabilities.  And at less total cost, including costs associated with possible errors and fraud inherent in linking to or using non-authorised models, as well as the time to find and access models through data searches; and then validating them through cross-checks.


The Data Banks may be a commercial organization set up for the purpose, or any local, state or federal government department, utility or other semi-government enterprise that has responsibility for any public land or assets.


It would be up to each entity to decide if they wanted to establish their own ‘Data Bank’ under the legislation or use a commercial service.


       Operation of ‘Data Banks’

Essentially, the Data Banks would provide a regulated ‘cloud’ service for the whole community. They would control security and access based on each person’s rights under the new law (which would be based on their rights in their real property).

Under the proposal, every data set will have its unique geo-references.


The Data Banks would facilitate data exchange based on the geo-references to deliver an integrated data set for any specified region to any authorised user… eg to automatically provide the city model that a building sits within, together with the models of all the utilities servicing the site, and all the legal boundaries and laws applying to the site.


The Data Banks would be paid transaction fees for any commercial data exchange, eg with a financier, insurer or architect, etc.  These fees would be set in the market.


       Access, Use and Trade in the Authorised Model

Under this scenario, each person would need their own ‘Data Bank’ account that would permit access based on their statutory rights and rights delegated from the owner.  Thus an owner may delegate access to an architect, or a financier or insurer or facility manager, etc. who may (if the terms allow) also delegate to other parties (employees, tradespeople, etc).


There are now cloud-based cyber-security solutions using ‘single sign-on for multiple devices’ that enable unlimited delegation with less administration and higher protection than is the case with most traditional in-house security systems.


      Transfer of Rights for Access, Use and Trade

An owner would transfer their access rights in the authorised model when they sell the underlying property to a new owner.  Rights would also pass to any lessee in accord with the terms of their lease, etc.


       Layered Authorised Models

Ideally, each higher model would draw off data from each lower level (via the Data Bank Network) without duplication, adding only information that was unique to its level.  This ensures the data used are always from source.  This is important, as with the right business processes, any change at a lower level will always be available within the higher level, without the need to ‘resurvey’, or the need to fix errors due to duplication, often many times over.


If the network is built with this requirement at the outset, it will make integration of the models far easier, quicker and more certain.

Value of Authorised Model

It is anticipated that a certified, locked and lodged model will be highly valuable for finance, insurance, renovation and development, as well as leasing, valuation and sale… as it would be quick and easy to access, comprehensive in scope, and all parties could rely on it without further checking… saving considerable time and cost in the future.


The value is in the certification by a trusted third party that the data is true and correct within a specified level of accuracy at any point in time – including confirmation of:

       a) the models physical attributes

       b) the model's position within the authorised site model, which would sit within the authorised city model, which sits within the
           authorised State and Federal Models, and

       c) all legal boundaries – all tied to the national position and elevation grid.


It means the model itself can be used for decision-making - including the set out of new lots by surveyors, as well as by architects, engineers, planners and building authorities, financiers and insurers, lessees, valuers, and buyers etc. - each for their own purposes - without the need to go on site to re-check the attributes of the model, or re-construct it


Value also comes from the ability to easily locate, access and integrate all the different data sets required to model the complete natural and built environment at the appropriate scales, across the whole area of interest, whether a single site, or a whole region… with the ability to ‘zoom in’ to any scale required for decision making.


Gradual Development of Federated Model

The aim is for the Federated 3D model to be built bit by bit, using whatever software each person chooses to create and visualise their property as and when they need to.

The Digital Built Environment as Infrastructure

The proposed legislation would in effect create a new piece of infrastructure. The Digital Built Environment:


“Permanent, Federated, Fully-integrated, Authorised, Certified, Standards Based, Secure 3D Computer Model of:


·       Physical Attributes (World/Nation/State/City/Precinct/Infrastructure/Building/Component)

·       Legal Entitlements (Rights, Responsibilities & Restrictions as 3D Legal Objects)

·       Spatial Relations (Position, Elevation & Boundaries)


Of All Significant Features in the Natural & Built Environment (above & below ground, inside & out)


On All Scales Necessary for Decision Making (m in Outback, cm for Cityscapes, mm for Buildings & sub-0.1 mm for Components)


At each Stage of Development and During Use (Past and Present Plans, and As-built, as well as Future Scenarios)


All built from the bottom up, with extra ‘layers’ added only to encompass broader features not apparent at smaller scales (ie without duplication of data).


Linked to:


·       Identity of Property (Title, 3D Cadastre & Address), and

·       Identity of Parties (Name, Title, 3D Cadastre & Address)


Held within a Secure Regulated Cloud.


Where Rights of Access, Use and Trade in the Model reflect an entity’s Rights in the Real World”.


Ultimately, with all data stored and exchanged in an agreed open format with common data definitions – so data can be exchanged between systems and proprietary software without loss of content. While this is not possible, it will have to rely on automated translation tools and manual processing (not ideal).


This federated model is envisaged as a new piece of infrastructure for use throughout the Property Cycle (Surveying, Planning, Designing, Engineering, Costing, Financing, Fabrication, Logistics, Construction, Fit-out, Lighting, Painting and Decorating, Landscaping, Insuring, Furnishing and Decorating, Asset and Facility Management, Leasing, Valuation and Sale to Decommission), as well as in the management of cities, including people, transport, energy, chemical, water, air and waste flows, and for emergency management and disaster recovery.


Its purpose is to achieve better, quicker and cheaper outcomes, with much less risk - using the virtual world to test, communicate and approve ideas before manifesting the perfected designs in the real world - avoiding duplication and errors in the process.

Model as Placeholder for All other Information, including the Cadastre

With the creation of ‘authorised’ models, it will also be possible to use the modelled objects (city, building, equipment, etc) as the placeholder for all information about the object.  This will enable it to be accessed by simply pointing a smart device at the object and touching its image, or by clicking on its virtual counterpart, or by doing a text, voice or image search of the model.


Importantly, with a 1:1 scale model at 2cm accuracy for cities and mm accuracy for buildings, it will be possible to use the authorised model as the place holder for the Cadastre.   Spatial Surveyors can then input the boundaries, directly into the model.  Because the model has its own spatial integrity, any boundary line will retain it spatial relation to any other, no matter when it is delineated in the model.  With each City and Regional model integrated into a uniform fabric, this allows the 3D Cadastre to be built up over time with a consistent accuracy across the whole State and Nation.


The value of this approach is that it requires no additional cost.  This assumes that the model itself is developed for its own purposes… which is now the case in most capital cities and soon regional towns.  The actual measurements can be done as part of normal business whenever a ‘spatial surveyor’ needs to check the Cadastre on-site.

Realising the Vision

To create awareness, we could hold workshops and ask people to comment on alternative ways the vision may be realised and the benefits and shortcomings of the alternatives.


The aim is to determine what each stakeholder would prefer… not what they think is feasible.


Once we have identified preferences, the next step would be to consider the struggles and countermeasures to achieving it.

As most people have difficulty conceiving of the issues confronted by a blank canvass, we could give them options to consider.

Some Issues and Options

Underlying it all, we require a definitive data set that is the ‘authorised’ version of the physical attributes, spatial relations and legal entitlements (in 3D) of every significant feature, over time.


Clearly, this can only be a Federated data set controlled by millions of different entities, created using different hardware and software.

Where and how will this data set be held? How will it be identified?  How will it be certified, by whom?  How will it be kept up to date, by whom?


       Business as Usual                      

In relation to where and by whom the data are held, some alternatives are:-

  • By each person on their own computer for any model they make or commission, or in the cloud under their control (but perhaps not legal ownership, depending upon the terms of the cloud provider)

  • By the Local Council, each with its own set of regulations governing access, use and trade in to data.

  • By each Power, Telecoms and Water, Road and Rail Authority (with their own processes and requirements for data access)

  • By a/(several) State Authority(ies) (again with each having its own set of regulations), or

  • By any Combination

In all these cases, the data would be subject to the existing laws, contracts and licences within each jurisdiction, including other nation’s laws for data held offshore – with no guarantee of accuracy or rights of access by other parties who have a legitimate interest in the model (eg State Authorities, Lessees, etc).  It means every time you want to model a property or precinct or city, you will have to search for the required data sets (city model, local services, etc), just as you now have to go to each authority for a copy of their paper plans.  And just like with the paper plans, you will need to check the accuracy and validity of the data and rights of access, use and trade yourself based on each party's terms of use and licences.


       New Data Bank Network           

Another Alternative is for the data to be held by new entities (set up under Federal Law) to hold the authorised version of each ‘property’…  all plugged into the same network for data sharing - based on the same rules, within the same legal framework, where:

  • the data are certified, locked and lodged by the professional creating/certifying the model

  • rights of Access, Use and Trade are explicitly set out under law to reflect each entity’s right in the real world in relation to the object modelled… so that any person who is authorised can access the core data sets of all objects (including city and services models) in which they have a legitimate interest, without having to search, or get approvals.  Simply log on and get access via any portal offered in the market, using your own software to model it... based on rights of access, use and trade that mirror your real world rights, including free use of 'public' data.

The ‘Data Banks’ simply act as a secure repository for your data.  They also manage the data sharing and security – for which they are paid a small transaction fee in relation to all commercial uses, with all public views of the data available for free to any party (including the likes of Google, etc to value add services)

The Data Bank Network (not the government) would need to develop the web services architecture to enable secure data sharing based on rights of access, with the ability to pull all data together within specified spatial boundaries.

Each user and each professional would have to develop the business processes to certify, lodge and update the data – as part of normal business in the 21st century.

The Government would need to set up the legal framework to establish the data banks and regulate the operation of the network (including integration of Local and State Models).  This arrangement would provide legal certainty in dealing with the data, as well as clear lines of responsibility for the validity of the data and PI cover to compensate for errors.

The Risks of not Creating the Digital Built Environment

Without the legal framework, web services architecture and business processes to support an ‘authorised’ virtual world (the Digital Built Environment), we are headed for a great deal of pain.


At the moment we are seeing a massive increase in cybercrime.  Yet we have hardly begun to rely on the virtual world.


Imagine what it will be like when the virtual world is embedded in every aspect of the property cycle from planning though surveying, design, engineering, financing, fabrication, construction, insurance, fit-out, painting, lighting, landscaping, furnishing and decorating, asset and facility management, leasing, valuation, and sale to decommission.  As well as for managing traffic, energy, water, chemical and waste flows and in emergency management and disaster recovery!


Imagine when even our factories are modelled and simulations used to guide the operation of every process!

We are facing the abyss, with many opportunities on the other side.  Our only way across is to recognise the threats, and how to mitigate them using secure, certified models.


If we act now, we can realise all the benefits the virtual world offers, without the great risks it also brings.


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