Transforming Greater Launceston with a digital twin

PSMA Australia

Monday, 11 June, 2018

Transforming Greater Launceston with a digital twin

Digital city models built on world-class analytical data are enabling area activation, evidence-informed decision-making and enhanced community engagement.

Powerful 2D and 3D digital modelling, including new simulation capabilities, is providing strategic insight for the four local councils participating in the Greater Launceston Transformation Project (GLTP) — a collaborative endeavour of the Tasmanian State Government; the University of Tasmania; the cities of Launceston, Meander Valley, West Tamar and Georgetown; and industry partners.

The aim of the project is to reinvigorate the heart of the city to develop a vibrant and livable Greater Launceston region.

“Greater Launceston is embracing the future of strategic planning through its use of emerging data and 3D simulation technologies, generating insights that will also support the initiatives of the new regional innovation ecosystem,” said Sara Bennett, co-owner and Managing Director of analytics firm Sensing Value.

Sensing Value was established in 2014 to provide businesses and governments with dynamic intelligence about how people use spaces.

During two years of project scoping, and now through implementation, the company is layering datasets and providing visual representations of entire land areas to help local councils tackle long-term issues concerning social equity, educational attainment and economic opportunity.

“We’ve been able to sit with strategic planners and hear about their issues and identify how analytical tools are going to help in the next generation of planning,” said David McCloskey, Sensing Value’s co-owner and Founding Director.

The digital city models will revolutionise regulatory development application processes by providing local councils with the ability to simulate how land use planning decisions affect the future functioning of the city.

It’s a perfect example of how to go beyond static, standalone GIS images to create highly analysable, accurate data that can support productive and realistic decision-making.

At the heart of the solution is PSMA Australia’s Geoscape product, which provides accessible location data for every address in Australia.

Before the arrival of Geoscape, reliable and accurate geospatial models of Australia’s built environment were very expensive and difficult to efficiently produce for regional areas. Now, with the availability of Geoscape, geospatial data including building footprints and heights, tree coverage and surface cover can seamlessly combine with other data and technology to accurately represent regions such as those in the Greater Launceston area.

“Geoscape is one of our base layers of data — it’s an accurate foundational dataset providing analytical capabilities for scenario modelling,” said Bennett. “No other dataset offers that level of detail, particularly for regional or semirural areas.”

The modelling for Greater Launceston is helping governments at all levels develop realistic and sustainable planning rules, land use criteria, transport and amenities. At a glance, simulations allow decisions to be made based on evidence.

“Geoscape is compatible with 3D building facade structure data, which enables a superior visual experience, providing an effective way of demonstrating concepts and engaging with the community,” said Bennett.

Geoscape image showing buildings on Launceston's waterfront

While other cities have built 3D visualisations, the Greater Launceston Transformation Project is the first in Australia to offer a full regional virtualisation, dynamically modelled on a range of factors, including energy consumption, people movement, land use and the environment. Importantly, the 3D models enable interaction between the four local councils for better regional planning, perspective and resource sharing.

“Because Geoscape data is national in coverage and is regularly updated, the solution is far more cost effective to maintain and update compared to using customised LiDAR or aerial photography data for entire local government areas,” said McCloskey.

Powering city decisions

Sensing Value’s 2D and 3D digital city models use both open source platforms and Esri ArcGIS Pro, together with CommunityViz. The models are powered with Geoscape and CyberCity 3D data, and other mobility data products.

“In addition to the great visuals that standard 3D techniques can deliver, Geoscape adds the ability to interrogate and analyse the 3D data on built form, land use and vegetation,” said McCloskey.

For strategic land-use and urban planners, the digital models combine datasets and leading-edge analytics to support area activation and revitalisation, including:

  • mobility patterns showing how people (residents, students, workers or visitors) use each part of the city at different times of the day and week
  • areas of vibrancy and economic potential
  • energy consumption by building and city block
  • solar energy generation potential of current and projected built forms
  • transport patterns and projections
  • understanding equity of access to community infrastructure
  • land-use optimisation (agricultural, residential, industrial or commercial) aligned to population growth forecasts
  • environmental impacts of land-use planning decisions.

The rich data streams on the physical topography, built environment and patterns of usage have enabled new approaches to managing significant social and community challenges.

“This fast-track approach is being activated through a collaborative ecosystem involving a range of universities, leading industry players and all tiers of government,” said McCloskey. “The knowledge being generated from the Greater Launceston Transformation Project, the first of its kind in Australia, is set to become a model and showcase for investments in smart cities and smart suburbs across Australasia.”


Sensing Value’s 2D and 3D visualisation and projection analysis, using PSMA Australia’s Geoscape and other sources of data, is providing the Greater Launceston Transformation Project partners with actionable intelligence on:

  • public space usage
  • current and proposed developments
  • floods
  • traffic and parking
  • energy consumption
  • water supply and disposal
  • air pollution and noise
  • environmental quality
  • population patterns
  • emergency responses.

Images courtesy PSMA.

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