Cloud computing: This new AWS tool will let you simulate entire cities

Amazon Web Services lets developers run large urban simulations across up to 10 EC2 instances.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on
Image: Getty/Busakorn Pongparnit

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has unveiled AWS SimSpace Weaver, a new service that lets users run real-time simulations of different situations in city-scale environments in the cloud.

The new SimSpace Weaver service lets city managers and event planners run simulations of things like traffic, public transport, or supply chain infrastructure for entire cities or countries, according to AWS. 

City planners, for example, could run simulations for natural disasters that might occur in order to test response systems. Event planners could similar a large sporting event to see how it would impact nearby traffic conditions.

The compute problem AWS claims to solve is that spatial simulations have been generally confined to running on one piece of hardware. Simulating bigger worlds with more dynamic entities required a bigger computer, and so simulation developers have made trade-offs around the size of the world and how many independent entities were in it. 

Simulating the environments requires modelling different elements like people and vehicles, whose different behaviour need to be calculated as they move through a world and interact with other entities. 

AWS suggests it's useful for simulating large crowds and simulating smart cities populated by vehicles, people and other objects.

Users can use SimSpace Weaver to run simulations across up to 10 very large C5 Intel Xeon-based EC2 instances and it supports over a million independent and dynamic entities. Users specify how many instances are needed and how the simulation should be split into partitions, with SimSpace Weaver automatically handling resources when transferring entities between the partitions. 

In the image of a simulation below, each row represents one instance, with each instance handling 16 partitions.

"SimSpace Weaver handles the provisioning of the EC2 instances, launches the simulation applications, and cleans the environment after the simulation ends," AWS' Marcia Villalba explains in a blogpost. 

The SimSpace Weaver app SDK for C++ offers the APIs that developers can use to control entities in a simulation and respond to events in the world.  The app is then uploaded to the Amazon S3 storage and can be used as part of a simulation by allowing it to interface with the SimSpace Weaver software running on a user's instances. 

Developers building with Unreal Engine 5 or Unity engines can also use SimSpace Weaver's out-of-the-box plugins.

SimSpace Weaver costs $6.09 per hour per instance. It's available in the US East (Ohio), US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Oregon), Asia-Pacific (Singapore), Asia-Pacific (Sydney), Europe (Ireland), Europe (Frankfurt), and Europe (Stockholm) AWS Regions.

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