Expert opinions, TECHNOLOGY

Digital twins in city management: direct effects and use perspectives

Cities have changed substantially since their inception. In the 21st century, the city is a complex technological ecosystem with an appropriate management system. How to make the right strategic decisions? How to track the effectiveness of changes being implemented under ever-changing external conditions and emerging conditions? Correct analysis of big data allows you to find non-obvious solutions. Today, this is a question of the safety and effectiveness of the development of any territory, its future and, most importantly, the comfortable interaction of residents with urban infrastructure.

What is the digital twin of the city?

The digital twin of the city is a digital reflection of the city, which shows aspects of the functioning and development of the urban environment. These digital twins support the ability to fine-tune and synchronize with the real state of the urban infrastructure through data coming from various sources in real time. The basis for the effective functioning of the digital twin of the city is always data – their continuous flow, generated by various sources in the digital infrastructure of a smart city.

The concept of the “digital twin” provides the creation and support of virtual models of objects and processes of the real world. The digital twin approach focuses on the ability to obtain and efficiently process data streams collected automatically through distributed sensor systems. For example, data from outdoor surveillance cameras, information on the physical parameters of the urban environment and data from open state portals. The “digital twin” of the city is gradually filled with real-city data collected in real time from the deployed IoT infrastructure and urban information systems. The “digital twin,” analyzing information about the state of urban infrastructure, the dynamics of people’s movement and transport, their interdependence, as well as their fluctuations in time and space, is able to predict changes in the state of urban systems and offer optimal solutions. Data centers use various approaches to model real objects and technological processes, including statistical and data mining methods, computational modeling methods, such as finite element method, and others.

Direct effects:

  • Monitoring of the current state of the urban environment

This can include any optimization of urban work, for example: in snow removal work, real-time data on the situation on roads, weather conditions and nearby snow removal machines help to distribute load and resources correctly, and a smart irrigation system in parks and public places will help to take into account weather conditions and the current state of the soil for an energy-saving model in the city.

  • Emergency response

Emergencies are inevitable, but a competent fire or flood response can save lives. From a three-dimensional copy of the building in a matter of seconds, firefighters can find out what materials were used in the construction and how many people are on each floor to plan and organize the necessary actions.

  • Identification of potential risk sources

The digital twin can monitor the wear and condition of bridges, streets and urban infrastructure, aimed at timely maintenance and extension of service life, preventing possible risks and saving a significant amount of taxpayer funds.

  • Territory development planning

The introduction of a digital twin in city management helps to reduce costs at the stage of analyzing and choosing a building territory, predict security threats (from overloading utility systems to transport interchanges), and therefore manage risks in the territory.

World experience

Big case from Asia. Singapore is rightly considered the most advanced city in the world in terms of using technology to plan and manage changes over time. The Virtual Singapore project has been helping to collect and analyze real-time data since 2018. The platform was conceived for scientific research and simulations before planning infrastructure repairs or even the simple development of logistics for a night walk around the city. Since the system is not focused on any sole technology, domain or user group, this allows the platform to divide problems by systems. This provides an opportunity to create solutions proactively for a wide variety of stakeholders, including businesses, the municipality, the research community, and concerned citizens who can model, analyze, and visualize any available data.

Another project from Atlanta is Chattanooga, a city with a population of approximately 180 thousand, is located in the foothills of Appalachia, almost equidistant from the larger cities of Atlanta, Georgia, to the south and Nashville, Tennessee, to the north. The original project, called CTwin, focused on a major thoroughfare in the city to explore mobility-related energy use by creating a digital representation of traffic light infrastructure. The subsequent project uses sensors and laser imaging at intersections to monitor pedestrian traffic and compare them to vehicle traffic in the interest of safety.

Another striking example is the city of Takamatsu (Japan, a population of 420 thousand people). As a pilot project, the city district authorities have introduced a digital twin to prevent emergencies. The digital twin for monitoring and preventing emergencies is based on the technology of collecting and analyzing data from water level sensors located throughout the city, it provides real-time monitoring of the flood risk of each of the city’s districts. The system also monitors the condition of shelters for city residents by collecting information from humidity and electricity consumption sensors. The mobile application available to every resident of the city allows not only to notify residents of the area at risk in advance, but also to provide all the necessary information in case of an emergency, including the path to the nearest functioning shelter.

Prospects for Digital City Twins

What we can be proud of right now: our country is the first to approve standards in the field of digital twins. In the future, the introduction of digital twins will expand to all major Russian cities. Standards are necessary to create a unified information exchange environment without distortion of data. With government support, a strong manufacturing base and a growing IoT ecosystem, expanded AI adoption practices, the twins will ensure city security and the development of the transport and industrial sector.

By Konstantin Negachev, head and co-founder of VRT

Previous ArticleNext Article