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How to create the Digital Twin of a city and why it matters

The Digital Twin of a city is the latest innovation to create increasingly smart, interactive and sustainable urban systems. Discover the benefits of this technology

The concept of the smart city through digital twins is an evident trend of the digital transformation. From urban planning to land-use optimization, it has the power to govern the city in an effective manner.

It’s a technology replicating the physical environment, processes, relationships and behaviors by taking in vast amounts of data, including data streams from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, to monitor current operations and historical trends and plan for what may happen next improving quality, sustainability and efficiency of urban systems.

This article highlights the ways in which this advancing technology can help and which are the benefits of digital twins to support cities infrastructure and services.

Start experiencing the potential of the so-called “digital twin cities” with a GIS digital twin software, the system that allows you to virtually replicate the physical assets of an entire city and supports you in every process related to the management, maintenance and monitoring of urban resources.

What is the digital twin of a city?

A digital twin is a virtual representation of an object or system that spans its lifecycle, is updated from real-time data, and uses simulation, machine learning, planning, testing, monitoring, maintenance to help decision making.

The main feature of digital twins is connectivity. These models use intelligent technologies to create a two-way connection with the physical world and collect relevant information in real time.

Digital twins are used across many industries (including manufacturing, healthcare and automotive) for a wide range of applications. With the advancements of Building Information Modeling we have been able to witness some of the most exciting recent developments also in the field of engineering and construction.

Digital twins are now elevating traditional 3D city models to new possibilities. Moving away from the traditional approach to city design brings excellent benefits, such as the ability to compare virtual design with smart maps driven by geospatial analytics.

A city digital twin can be considered, basically, as the virtual copy of a real city, to be used as a collaborative tool for the design of urban space and for the management of all aspects related to mobility, pollution, resource consumption, accessibility of public services, and so on.

How to create the Digital Twin of a city and why it matters

Creating a City Digital Twin

The Importance of Digital Twins for Smart Cities

Digital twins play an essential role in the development and operation of smart cities for a number of reasons. The most important ones relate to the ability of these models to:

  • improve urban planning and design: the creation of a digital twin allows urban planners to visualize and simulate different scenarios. Through virtual representation of the physical environment (including buildings, infrastructure and public services) planners can make more informed decisions in relation to urban development and improve zoning and resource allocation. This allows to optimize the layout of the city and create a more efficient, safe and sustainable urban environment;
  • increase the operational efficiency of public services: digital twins enable you to manage and monitor urban infrastructure and services in real time. They are able to integrate data from smart sensors located in strategic points of the city in order to provide useful information on water supply, traffic management, operation of energy networks, public safety management, waste disposal, etc. This data-driven approach enables proactive maintenance that improves resource performance and ensures a timely response to any problems or emergencies;
  • predict and optimize urban operations: Digital twins leverage intelligence to perform predictive analytics. Through the analysis of historical data and those collected in real time, they are able to anticipate potential problems, predict future trends and optimize the management of services. With the help of a digital twin, it is possible, for example, to predict traffic congestion patterns, improve urban mobility routes, optimize the energy consumption of buildings based on employment patterns, etc.
  • ensure greater citizen involvement: Digital twins facilitate citizen participation in decision-making and urban planning. They provide a sharing platform that allows stakeholders to explore and interact with their city’s digital twin. The use of a digital twin allows, for example, people involved in urban development to analyze the proposed changes, provide their feedback and actively contribute to the growth of their community;
  • optimize resource management: the ability of digital twins to monitor urban resources in real time allows greater control over energy consumption, water use, waste management, and so on. Using a digital twin, cities can then identify inefficiencies and implement the most appropriate strategies to reduce waste;
  • improve resilience and risk management: city digital twins are able to simulate hypothetical scenarios and assess their impact on urban systems. They are, therefore, the only tool that can help our cities become more resilient and improve their ability to respond adequately to natural disasters, climate change and emergencies of various kinds.
Planning Urban Cities Smartly With Digital Twins

Urban planning through digital twins

Three examples of city digital twins

Many of the world’s biggest cities are already embracing the changes that are being brought about by the adoption of smart technology. The important role digital twins play in creating and developing smart cities can be better explained through some examples:

  • Copenhagen is famous for its initiatives focused on sustainability and quality of life. It is taking advantage of digital twins to monitor energy use, improve waste management and promote sustainable transport solutions such as bike sharing and electric vehicles;
  • Barcelona has implemented numerous systems based on Artificial Intelligence (including intelligent parking systems, adaptive street lighting and waste management systems) that contribute to improving the quality of public services. This city also fosters a collaborative approach to urban development, through the use of digital platforms that allow citizens to report problems and suggest possible improvements;
  • Singapore has developed a digital twin of the city that integrates real-time data from different sources. It uses smart sensors and IoT devices to increase transport efficiency, improve energy management, promote public safety and ensure easy access to services for citizens.

How to Create the Digital Twin of a City

The creation of a digital twin involves a series of steps that can be outlined in five fundamental points:

  1. data collection: the first step is to collect reliable data on the physical infrastructure of the city (including buildings, roads, services, public spaces, etc.) to be integrated with other types of data (such as geospatial, demographic, environmental, etc.). This process can be carried out through the use of different methods and tools, which can include remote sensing, ground surveys, surveys, the use of IoT devices and so on;
  2. data integration: the data collected in the first phase can be derived from different sources. It is important, therefore, to structure this data in a coherent format, organizing and integrating it within a shared digital platform;
  3. model generation: the next step involves the creation of the 3D model of the city, which must faithfully represent buildings, natural features, the infrastructures and all the urban elements, highlighting the relationships that exist between these elements. Among the techniques adopted for the generation of the city digital twin are photogrammetry, laser scanning and BIM modeling;
  4. connection with the real world: to make the digital twin “alive” and dynamic, it is necessary to connect it to its physical counterpart through the use of IoT devices and intelligent sensors. This allows you to create a constant flow of information with the real world, which helps you make more informed decisions and keep tabs on the day-to-day activities of the city;
  5. analysis and simulation: Once properly configured, the City Digital Twin can be used to conduct analyses and simulations of various kinds, necessary to evaluate the performance of the city’s systems and infrastructure. You can, for example, simulate traffic flow, energy consumption, or environmental impacts to identify areas for improvement and optimize resource allocation.

If you work in Urban Planning or Infrastructure Asset Management and are looking for a platform to help you create your city’s digital twin, try a digital twin software immediately. With this system you can integrate various data sources and obtain a complete and interactive model of the urban environment. You will also be able to visualize, analyze and manage different aspects of the city, facilitating the development of increasingly intelligent and sustainable urban systems.