Digital twins are fuelling the development of new ways of delivering more efficient and effective service offerings across multiple industries. The world has seen initial successes in areas like manufacturing and design, but it is still early days for understanding how Local Digital Twins (LDTs) can best deliver benefits to the public sector.
To help administrations better understand the kinds of benefits LDTs can deliver for their needs, DUET decided to share its knowledge and insights at Major Cities of Europe, a high-profile conference that brings together representatives of local and regional governments from across the continent.
DUET’s participation at the event included a plenary speech and a 90-minute webinar, both of which took place on 14 October 2021.
The speech was delivered by Lieven Raes of Digitaal Vlaanderen. In his presentation, Lieven explained how digital twins are shaping the future of government, making its processes more efficient and citizen centric. LDTs enable this transformation by providing a risk-free testing environment for simulating alternative policies to improve city management. They can reveal policies that underperform and identify leverage points for interventions that may succeed. This ex-ante evaluation function makes LDTs a coveted tool among public authorities. And while city administrations are often the main users of LDTs, there are plenty of international examples demonstrating LDT use beyond policy making. A digital twin that is open to the ecosystem can benefit other actors, too. For instance, it can help citizens experience public services better and faster, while companies can develop new products and services based on LDT data.
The webinar started with a presentation of DUET’s LDT typology. The typology was developed to capture the variety of LDTs emerging all over Europe (there are more than 20 LDT projects at various stages of development). It uses a network-centric approach to categorise LDTs according to two exploitation parameters: usage and control. This mapping leads to the creation of four LDT types: Closed, Network Oriented, Network Owned, and Network Enabled. The typology stops short of prescribing which type is best for what city. The choice clearly depends on local needs and priorities, on data that has to be included and the desired maturity level of a digital twin. For some cities, the Network Owned LDT will be a natural target determined by recent progress in data governance. For those that simply want to enhance urban planning, the Closed LDT may be a more appropriate option.
The typology presentation was followed by a demo of the DUET platform which will be accessible to the public end of November 2021. Experts and specialists will be able to create an account, access the data catalogue, make map views, and create new cases and scenarios. Participation and co-creation on the platform will be stimulated through the use of gamification techniques.
The second half of the webinar focused on three DUET case studies. The Flemish team gave an overview of several policy challenges their region aims to address through the digital twin. Mobility, spatial planning, health, environment and public safety are top priorities for many Flemish cities. The pilot is currently integrating the required datasets into the digital twin to enable real-time monitoring and what-if simulations of different scenarios linked to these domains. Some interesting results have already been obtained using Cityflows data, which includes telecoms data, wifi scanning and floating car data, among others. For instance, crowd modelling for the city of Antwerp provided insights into the movement dynamics that can be used for a more accurate crowd monitoring in the context of Covid-19.
Crowd monitoring in Antwerp
The Pilsen team presented the city’s journey through the European H2020 projects (e.g. OpenTransportNet, PoliVisu), explaining how this experience has helped Pilsen embrace the digital twin concept. The results of these projects will be exploited in the Pilsen digital twin to improve interaction between traffic, air quality and noise pollution models. Ultimately, the city will be able to simulate different scenarios of urban development, including road construction/closure, and their impacts on various outcomes, such as the environment and citizens' well-being.
Simulation of traffic-induced air pollution in Pilsen
The Athens team started by describing two main challenges they are facing in their pilot. One is data related and concerns the lack of open, accessible, usable and interconnected data sources. Another is related to urban challenges such as traffic and air pollution, and also the lack of green spaces and routes for citizens to use. DUET’s solution for Athens will include 1) an open real-time traffic model that can be correlated with environmental data, and 2) a dashboard for green routing. Eventually, the Athens digital twin will serve as a smart hub for ‘green’ city planning. The city will be able to run what-if analysis and mobility simulations taking into account CO2 emissions so that they are reduced through better planning. In the long-run, this will make Athens an enjoyable place for both local and tourists alike.
Green route planning in Athens
The audience actively participated in the Q&A discussion that ensued. To address Athens’ data challenges, participants suggested several options: Public Private Partnerships, citizen science, an inventory of different public organisations, a mandate for transparency of certain datasets, and more city funding for open data. Responding to the example of crowd monitoring in Flanders, participants generally agreed that LDTs can contribute to Covid-19 control, mainly through better spatial visualisation of infection related data. When asked about policy domains that are most relevant for starting a LDT, the audience clearly favoured environment and wellbeing (air quality, pollution, noise). This was followed by mobility, energy and urban planning.
To conclude, the webinar confirmed that interest in LDTs is growing, and it’s largely driven by the need to address urban challenges with advanced data based solutions. DUET is uniquely positioned to offer cities both a theoretical framework and a technical blueprint for identifying and implementing a digital twin project that meets their ambitions and existing/desired maturity level. If you want to build a LDT for your city but not sure how or where to start, please do get in touch with us via contact form on the home page. We’ll be more than happy to help you!