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New South Wales government launches digital twin

The government has worked with the digital arm of Australia’s national science agency to create a virtual 4D model of the Western Sydney built and natural environment.

A screen grab of the digital twin created for the NSW government
A screen grab of the digital twin created for the NSW government

Australia is using digital twinning technology to better plan and manage its cities.


The New South Wales (NSW) Spatial Digital Twin is a virtual 4D (3D plus time) model of the Western Sydney area’s built and natural environment that will enable planners, developers and policymakers to make more informed decisions.


The technology behind it can also bring together data from public agencies and the private sector and will enable the NSW government to better communicate plans for infrastructure development to citizens.


Open platform


The twinning platform is being developed by CSIRO’s Data61, the digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency, and NSW Department of Customer Service’s Spatial Services.


The digital twin is an open platform that can visualise 3D and 4D data over time, such as buildings, strata plans, terrain, property boundaries, utilities including power, water and sewer pipes.


"The digital twin represents a step-change in how we visualise environments and processes taking place in them,” said Mats Henrikson, geospatial web systems group leader at CSIRO’s Data61.


“Until now decision-makers have referred to property boundaries in 2D. Having them available in 3D together with how they have changed over time, and being able to easily share this with other related data, makes it much easier to fully understand the context of the boundaries."


"Cities have never been so data-rich as a result of connected sensors and many are growing vertically in addition to horizontally. This creates incredible opportunities to overlay 3D/4D data from satellite and drone technologies which is spatially accurate, to show the bigger picture of what’s happening above and below the ground over time.


"An infrastructure developer can now use the digital twin to identify the location of underground utilities before building works commence, or see the potential impact of planned future infrastructure."


"Cities have never been so data-rich as a result of connected sensors and many are growing vertically in addition to horizontally."


The secure-by-design, federated platform incorporates Data61’s open-source catalogue technology, MAGDA, to bring together data from public agencies and the private sector.


It can be accessed by a web browser and while most of the data is available to the public, the built-in security features ensure only authorised individuals have access to certain types of data.


The NSW Spatial Digital Twin is built on Data61’s TerriaJS platform, which also powers the National Drought Map, an online tool that brings together information on Australian drought conditions and support measures.


This first phase of the NSW Spatial Digital Twin includes visualisations of the local government areas that comprise the Western Sydney City Deal and Greater Parramatta to the Olympic Peninsula.


Future phases will include other areas of NSW.


Digital twins and smarter cities


The past two years have seen a rise in the use of digital twinning software to help design and manage cities. The technology was cited as one of the use cases expected to see the fastest spending growth over the next five years in the International Data Corporation’s latest Worldwide Smart Cities Spending Guide.


According to global tech market advisory firm ABI Research, urban modelling, and digital twins in particular, will form the “end game” of the smart cities journey to optimised design and the ultra-efficient operation of entire cities.


It predicts that the installed base of urban digital twin and city modelling deployments will rise from a handful to more than 500 by 2025.


Digital twin technology providers include Bentley Systems which launched a number of digital cities initiatives at the end of last year to tackle a range of urban challenges. It predicts 4D digital twins will become a common and federating index for previously siloed information in the building and infrastructure sectors.


Software from provider CityZenith is being used to create a digital twin to help design and create the new smart city capital for the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.


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