The INDICATE Virtual City Model (VCM) will be both a free tool and a commercial tool; here is a scenario to illustrate how this will work.

Lauren is chief officer in the administration of medium-sized city which recently elected a new mayor. The mayor is very engaged in improving the energy efficiency of the city’s neighbourhoods as well as increasing the quality of living, and Lauren has to support him in implementing the desired goals. Lauren recently learned that a new service is now available that supports organizations wishing to identify measures that fit their context. She opens the web application and accesses the free dashboard. After she creates an account, the system asks her a set of questions about her city and its goals, such as a reduction of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. After a few moments a dashboard comes up with potential solutions. The first thing she notices is the list of studies conducted in other example cities. Each study has a bar next to it indicating how well its outcomes match the goals she entered before. She quickly browses it and selects a study called “Large-Scale District Heating & Cooling using Heat Storage”. The study is displayed, providing an overview of the measures taken, their context and their impact on energy consumption, CO2 and other emissions as well as on the value of the properties. She drills down on information about the different phases of the project, such as the policymaking process or the planning and construction. Intrigued, she decides to follow this project and receives a short message from the system that she will receive updates about the project when they become available. Furthermore, she sees that the system offers her an option to transpose the study results to her own city via the use of a commercially available software product and service.

She approaches the Mayor about the purchase of the commercial product and service and provides him with the information she has found on the example cities using the free tool. He agrees that it is a sound investment to purchase the software and create a Virtual City Model for their city. Lauren does this via the web-based server and is then asked for several data sets required for the generation of the Virtual City Model, such as information on the utility and transport networks as well as on the state of the built environment. Lauren asks her co-workers for this information and uploads it to the cloud-based server. A few days onward, she receives notification that all required data has been entered and is now available. Again, she visits the dashboard, and is now greeted with a 3D map of her city. The map highlights potential changes to the “energy landscape” of her city. She can select an example study from the dashboard, and see how the approach implemented would affect her city. She plays around with it, noticing how some approaches affect older residential areas, others mostly work on commercial areas, some have little effect. One particularly striking example shows how the impact of a particular advanced Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) system improves the energy efficiency of historic buildings in the city.

This information now allows Lauren to understand the potentials that exist in the city and provides her with the navigator to explore this concept further and understand how this can be implemented in her city. Lauren and the Mayor can now decide if they want to make the Virtual City Model of their city publicly available for other stakeholders to use, or if they would like to advertise its use for a small fee that would go towards the improvements in the city.

The INDICATE interactive cloud based tool has the following goals:

  • PLAN development through a dynamic simulation, energy-based decision support tool, which takes into account the buildings and their interaction with the urban environment;
  • REDUCE energy consumption and carbon emissions through an indication of the impact of best practice Energy Conservation Measures via Dynamic Simulation Modelling;
  • INTEGRATE new technologies and services in the city to better manage supply and demand, via Dynamic Simulation Modelling, Graphical Information Systems (GIS) and 3D urban modelling which will reliably inform the impact of the integrated technologies;
  • OPTIMISE existing installed systems, to enable local balancing through demand response analysis and tariff analysis via Dynamic Simulation Modelling, which will model the interactions between the buildings the installed systems and the electricity grid, across multiple buildings in the urban environment.

As a result, the INDICATE cloud-based interactive decision support tool, can be used at any stage of development; it can be used in a city where the buildings and their urban environment are at an early stage of the sustainable development or in contrast where the city has already installed smart grid infrastructure and energy efficient technologies are present in many buildings.  The project outcome is the delivery of a cloud-based interactive decision support tool that can be used by City Architects/Planners, Urban Planning Consultancy Firms, the Public and Business Community, ICT/RET (Renewable Energy Technologies) system suppliers and potential investors and developers in a city.