Local Digital Twins (LDTs) offer public administrations a cost-effective and strategic way to improve urban operations, the environment and economic outcomes through real-time decision support modelling and impact prediction.
The LDT business case is its ability to be a central repository for data across a whole city or region, providing an inherent understanding of complex systems for all stakeholder communities to use in order to address common goals which transcend across multiple domains.
Despite a range of benefits, important challenges in LDT adoption include issues of trust and transparency especially around data quality. Therefore starting with a single use case and focusing on data and modeling standardisation is the key to successful and sustainable growth of an LDT.
DUET LDT pilots - Athens, Pilsen, Flanders - provide a range of findings, resources, and real-life data-supported policy case studies which can help cities on their digital twin journeys independently of their starting point.
This policy brief explores the potential of local digital twins for data-supported decision making in a time when cities are under pressure to deliver more sustainable policies, optimise service performance and grow local economies, all while keeping people safe, reducing budget spend and managing a wide range of socio economic challenges.
Digital twins already play an important role in industrial transformations as they help users better understand and have control over their assets. For example, in an engineering context, by connecting engineers to the right data and right processes, they can derive greater end-to-end insights and intelligence about their resources. As a result engineers can quickly determine the best actions needed to deliver sustainable system performance improvements.
DUET (Digital Urban European Twins), a European innovation initiative, transferred the concept of digital twins from an industrial setting to the public sector domain creating a technology called Local Digital Twins (LDT), also known as urban digital twins. Replicating a city's physical assets, processes and systems using data, analytics and machine learning, DUET created virtual replicas of the cities of Athens, Pilsen and the Region of Flanders that automatically updated and changed in real-time as the physical cities themselves changed. Through a 2D and 3D interface policy makers, city managers and stakeholders were able to simulate, model and explore the predicted impact of different policy options on their city, before making better informed decisions.
This policy brief features a quick-start digital twin maturity model, alongside three key policy recommendations using the experience of DUET to inspire and encourage European cities to start their own digital twin journeys.
Understand that Local Digital Twins are a method and a journey, not an end goal: Cities should start from a relevant policy issue and use it to define a policy case. This will ensure that their journey is driven by real needs instead of just a focus on having perfect 3D models which have little to offer beyond eye-catching visualisations. As a city’s confidence in developing and using LDT’s grows, more use cases may be added to the mix to take advantage of the tool’s cross-domain policy simulation capabilities.
Take advantage of existing city data to get started and focus on ensuring data quality: LDTs are data hungry. The insights you get are as good as the data used to feed LDTs. Having the right data will make a difference between an experimental policy case and one that can have a real-life application. With the data issue settled, think about the kind of predictive analysis you want to perform using a LDT.
Collaborate and break down silos to drive the LDT business case: LDTs reach their full potential not when they are used behind closed doors by a single department but when they are deployed as a collaborative tool to engage internal and external stakeholders, including citizens. To achieve that, a multi-actor governance approach is needed, one that promotes cooperation and knowledge sharing between different administrative units, and at the same time keeps the wider community informed and engaged in local policy processes.
Acknowledgements: DUET received funding from the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 870697. This policy brief represents the views of the DUET project only.