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Digital twins could form the "end game" for optimum smart city design

Research finds that urban digital twinning and city modelling technology is having a transformative effect on how cities are designed, monitored, and managed.

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Digital twinning technology can transform how cities are designed, monitored and managed
Digital twinning technology can transform how cities are designed, monitored and managed

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, according to ABI Research.

 

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

 

The global tech market advisory firm said the technology is helping to transform how cities are designed, monitored, and managed and optimising the holistic performance of cities across verticals in terms of energy management, mobility, resilience, sustainability, and economic growth.

 

Combining technologies

 

Digital twins combine spatial modelling of the urban built environment, modelling of electrical and mechanical systems based on mathematical descriptions or deep learning informed training, and real-time sensor data derived from IoT platform solutions.

 

Cities having deployed digital twins to date include Newcastle, Rotterdam, Boston, New York, Singapore, Stockholm, Helsinki, Jaipur, and Amaravati. Amaravati, the new capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, is thought to be the first entire city born with a digital twin with a 3D prototype of the city having been built using Cityzenith’s Smart World Pro software.

 

“Originally developed for industrial systems, the digital twin concept is now spreading to the smart cities environment,” says Dominique Bonte, vice president end markets at ABI Research.

 

“However, it won’t be a single Uber-like digital twin for an entire city but rather an aggregation and integration of domain-specific digital twins for systems like smart buildings, traffic infrastructure, energy grids, and water management.”

“Just adding a thin layer of IoT tech on top of legacy infrastructure will no longer suffice to address the multiple challenges cities will face in the future”

ABI said that key use cases across verticals include the simulation of people movements and emergency evacuations, modelling of flooding risks, smart building design and energy management via occupancy tracking, road traffic modelling and simulation, air quality monitoring and prediction, modelling of green infrastructure and circular urban economies, and cyber threat analysis.

 

Benefits of modelling

 

The benefits of modelling range from preventive maintenance to operational efficiencies and cost savings, improved services for citizens, increased safety and security and the inherent possibility of automated generative design. For example, such software could help to maximise solar energy exposure of entire neighbourhoods.

 

Technology suppliers of urban modeling solutions include the big three of Microsoft, Siemens, and Dassault Systemes along with smaller providers like IES, Bentley Systems, and CityZenith.

 

ABI also reported though that challenges for adoption remain, mainly related to the complexity of city-wide modelling and the lack of standards supporting cross-vertical data exchange. Other inhibitors include the little awareness about benefits and return on investment, commercialisation challenges related to the siloed organisation structure of city governments, and concerns about consumer privacy and cyber threats.

 

“Just adding a thin layer of IoT tech on top of legacy infrastructure will no longer suffice to address the multiple challenges cities will face in the future,” Bonte concludes.

 

These findings are from ABI Research’s Digital Twins in Smart Cities and Urban Modeling application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Smart Cities and Smart Spaces research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights.

 

Findings are based on extensive primary interviews, application analysis reports present in-depth analysis on key market trends and factors for a specific technology.

 

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