How an urban digital twin can forge a more livable city

Digital twins have been around for decades — utility networks, for example, are easier to work with when they’re modeled. But an urban digital twin is more than just a 3D model and works for more than just utility networks. Urban digital twins pull together several existing mature technologies that, when leveraged comprehensively, can provide unprecedented insights and actionable information.

A traditional digital twin is a virtual replica of assets, but an urban digital twin is layered to go beyond that. Urban digital twins have three distinct layers: the digital city, the connected city and the intelligent city.

The digital city is the digital replica of the city, which serves as the foundation for the urban digital twin. The connected city goes a step further by using IoT data, integrating devices and gaining real-time monitoring, analysis and control. Finally, the intelligent city applies AI simulations to data, visualizing all data from the connected city, resulting in a fully realized urban digital twin.

How can an urban digital twin help cities?

An urban digital twin provides a view of current city assets with real-time reports and allows users to visualize future city projects. Urban digital twins are also capable of running simulations so officials can see if their plans and projects will fulfil their short- and long-term goals.

City leaders know that, in good governments, priorities lie beyond just today. As climate events increase in frequency, urban populations grow and federal regulations change, an urban digital twin can prepare leaders to act before events become problems. Officials are looking to make their cities sustainable and livable for larger populations despite challenges like the effects of climate change. Turning to an urban digital twin can help.

Using technologies that cities already employ, an urban digital twin can bring systems together to create actionable data useful for urban planning, acting against climate change and making life better for residents.

Urban sustainability and climate change

Combating climate change is paramount, with deadlines approaching more quickly by the day. It can be hard to determine where the battle should begin, but urban digital twins can focus on many aspects of urban planning and help leaders choose a course of action, taking the pressure off while still prioritizing planning for sustainability.

An urban digital twin can also aid renaturalization plans, such as utility management with water or energy, air quality monitoring, expanding green spaces and more. Palermo, Italy uses urban digital twin technology to monitor its urban green spaces and mitigate the risk of fires.

Efficiency and quality of life

Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. That number is expected to grow to 70% by 2050. Urban planning is a primary concern for growing cities that want to be livable for all residents, new or native. With urban expansion on the horizon, municipal planners need technologies that will help their cities stay on top of daily functions and maintain residents’ quality of life.

Urban digital twins are invaluable tools when it comes to predicting future city movements, selecting projects that meet important goals and envisioning how to work with or around current towns, parks, bridges and more. An urban digital twin empowers leaders to maximize efficiency when it comes to urban planning.

Safety and transparency

Many factors are at play when it comes to keeping cities moving. Maintaining infrastructure based on combined information is one thing; keeping residents safe is another. Intelligent cities use urban digital twins to elevate their data, which influences plans for infrastructure, expansion schemes and crime policies.

Easy access to reliable crime data and resident reports shows where a city’s shortcomings lie and allows officials to understand residents’ expectations. Cities committed to solving crime — both the root causes and the effects — contributes to resident safety. Likewise, when residents can easily access reported problems in a public portal, it creates a sense of transparency and government accountability.

Using urban digital twins for the future

While initial results from implementing digital twins are impressive, we can do even better. As essential as GIS data is for urbanization, adding 3D and AI capabilities enhances real-time situational awareness. Urban planning requires a structured approach, and an urban digital twin is meant to provide planners and leaders with just that – delivering all the knowledge required to tackle projects and problems.

City leaders’ priorities may change based on regulations and resident expectations. In addition, long-lasting damage from increasingly frequent natural disasters will negatively impact communities. Bringing city data together allows officials to take unified action to protect their infrastructure and residents from whatever problems arise.

By 2050, 4.4 billion people will live in cities. To manage this, those cities are going to have to be sustainable, resilient and livable. Many technologies can contribute to achieving those goals, but an urban digital twin will help you exceed them.

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Make your city more livable, safe and sustainable with an urban digital twin from Hexagon.

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