It has become somewhat of a habit in DUET to attend the Major Cities of Europe (MCE), a conference that dates back to 1982 and that has become a place where experts from policy and innovation communities get together to discuss local challenges and their solutions. After a successful participation in two previous MCE editions, and considering that DUET is coming to a close in just a few months, the decision to go to #MCELarissa2022 was a non-brainer. With over 200 participants representing some of Europe’s most innovative projects and communities working on digital transformation, this year’s conference was a perfect opportunity for DUET to showcase its digital twins solution to potential adopters in local and regional administrations. This was achieved in three ways: dissemination at the booth, a plenary speech, and a workshop.
DUET was among 20 or so initiatives represented at the event’s ‘EU project corner.’ Members of the DUET consortium who travelled to Larissa (Digital Vlaanderen, DAEM, 21c, GFOSS) looked after the booth from the start of the conference through to the end (2-4 November) to make sure every passer-by was engaged and received all the necessary information about the project. Our booth featured a big 42” screen that played video recordings of the digital twin platform (see Figure 1). This helped to attract people’s attention and pique their interest in DUET’s technology. More than a dozen city reps, most of them from Greece and Italy, left their business cards with a view to continuing a conversation about possible adoption after the conference.
Figure 1. DUET booth
On the first day of the conference DUET was presented to the entire MCE audience by Lieven Raes of Digital Vlaanderen. He started with an introduction to Local Digital Twins, and then explained how DUET can help public sector decision-making become more democratic and effective, both in the short and long term, through the development and use of Local Digital Twins for policy impact exploration and experimentation in entire cities and regions. These digital replicas of a city’s system will ultimately
enhance day-to-day city management by helping city managers react quickly to real-time events through rapid experimentation of different decision impacts
ensure longer term policy decisions are more effective and trusted by enabling city managers from different units, to explore and discuss with citizens and businesses city issues in a visual, easy-to-digest way via a common view
Here's a snippet of Lieven's speech.
On the second day of the conference, DUET partners held a workshop in which almost 50 participants had a chance to see and play with the citytwin.eu platform. We had a truly international audience in the room as can be seen from the word cloud below (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Geographic spread of participants
The vast majority were working at a local administration, while the distribution of other stakeholders was more or less equal. See Figure 3.
Figure 3. Professional background of participants
An interesting finding was that the Digital Twins concept was new to most people in the room. Only a few considered themselves to be experts on the subject or had previously worked on a Digital Twin project (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Participants' familiarity with Digital Twins
The use case that was selected for the experiment was the ‘Athens partial reduction of traffic’. During a demo, those with a laptop were able to login and cast themselves as an urban planner with a powerful tool under their fingertips. At the end of this session, participants were asked whether they would like to have this tool for their city. Overwhelmingly people said yes (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Participants' interest in the DUET solution
After the demo, the audience split into three groups to explore various aspects of Digital Twins.
The first group discussed the use of a Digital Twin for policy making on a neighbourhood level, the integration of local sensors in a Digital Twin, the pros and cons of a Digital Twin solution, and the link with open data and citizen science initiatives.
The second group discussed the barriers to adoption of Digital Twins, focusing mainly on data availability and quality. The group also explored various requirements linked to the interoperability of systems and skilled personnel.
The discussion in the third group centered around several topics, including the need for qualitative data and models, the indisputable extra value of real-time data streams and dataset combinations, the rising demand for scalability and target-group customisation, and how historic datasets can trigger self-learning in an optimal Digital Twin setting. In addition, this group explored the increasing security challenges and the volatility of visualisations and interpretations in a fast-changing world.
Here's a sneak peak into the group discussions held at the workshop.
Europe’s cities create vast amounts of data, most of which isn’t used by urban planners and policymakers in their decision-making. Participation at #MCELarissa2022 revealed yet again a strong need by policy makers to harness this information and transform cities for the better.
During the project and at the conference DUET has demonstrated how Local Digital Twins can support co-creative cities with planning and management. A Local Digital Twin has the potential to go beyond an organisation’s internal planning and simulation tool. It contributes to greater transparency, and the DUET Local Digital Twin already offers tools for policy scenario comparison and storytelling. Visit http://citytwin.eu/ to learn more.