Partners from the DUET project took to the stage at the Smart City Expo and World Congress in Barcelona this November to showcase its award-winning digital twin technology with accompanying policy use cases from the cities of Athens, Pilsen and the region of Flanders.
Fig: DUET Partners participate in main Congress roundtable discussion on disruptive tech for cities
Digital Vlaanderen with the DUET digital twin project was awarded the best enabling technology prize at the World Smart City awards last year. The awards are presented annually to the acknowledge the most outstanding initiatives and projects in the innovation and urban transformation industry. One year later the DUET team were invited back to participate in a special panel at the Congress entitled ‘disruptive tech empowering digital services’.
Chaired by Cecilla Tham, founder and director at Futurity Systems, members of the panel included DUET partners Lieven Raes, smart cities manager at Digitaal Vlanderen and Susie Ruston McAleer, founder and director of 21c, alongside Mahel Abaab-Fournial, director at Dassault Systèmes and Cynthia Curry, senior director from the smart cities and cleantech eosystem in Atlanta. The session posed a number of interesting questions around how new technologies , including digital twins, are starting to be used for shaping urbanism and decision-making in cities. “How have these technologies disrupted urban developments and transformed cities life so far? Do cities have the sufficient skills in place to use these technologies? How do we balance the impact of new digital interactions while ensuring the sustainability of the whole urban ecosystem?” asked Tham.
“Cities have passion and drive to modernise and improve life for the people they serve” said Ruston McAleer. ” We witnessed an accelerated pace of change over the last three years, but now at the tail end of the pandemic, as barriers to innovation have come back up, cities are struggling to continue the momentum. Digital twins provide an important vehicle or continued and sustainable transformation”.
“These real-time, virtual replica’s of cities,” continued Raes...
“interconnect various urban data sources, simulation models and algorithms, making them an ideal sandbox for policy experimentation. Cities can save time, cost and resources by modelling the predicted impact of different decision choices on city systems before deciding upon the best course of action.”
Curry stressed the importance of the human side to disruptive technology, ensuring that no-one is left behind in the course of the digital transition. Abaab-Fournial provided case studies from the Paris Region where cloud, data and AI are supporting regional traffic challenges. The conversation then circled to discussions around barriers to change.
“All of us in this room, working with smart cities have a collective responsibility to ensure disruptive tech does not cause harm, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Those driving urban change need ways to unpack the black box of AI, make algorithms more transparent in order to encourage its use and drive urban innovation further” said Ruston McAleer.
Raes continued the theme, “digital twin simulations such as DUET show why a particular policy or urban planning decision is made and can be a good starting point for transparent democracy”.
The session ended with all panellists encouraging the audience to get started with their transformation journey by leveraging partnerships and focusing on the use cases that matter most to them.
"It's a misconception that digitalTwins should always be 3D and cities must start big. Its best to start this journey with a single 'right' use case, such as traffic which can be visualised and analysed equally well in 2D" reminded Raes.
Fig: DUET speaking at the Green Agora on digital twins for local decision makers
SCEW’s 24,000 attendees who could not attend the congress session also had the opportunity to meet DUET partners and see the twins in action at numerous points across the Expo.
Fig: Sharing DUET lessons at the European Smart Cities and Communities stand
From presence at the European Commission’s prominent smart city initiatives stand, to participation in the EC's panel on 'Digital twins for local decision makers' as well as a private presentation to the Tokoyo delegation from Japan, DUET was visible across the conference floor.
Fig: DUET presented to the delegation from Tokyo at the Japan Pavilion
Jurgen Silence of Digital Vlaanderen, who delivered the presentation at the Japan Pavilion, shared his thoughts on the knowledge exchange afterwards:
"As an EU project manager, it is inspiring to see and learn about the approach of smart city solutions on the other side of the world. We build comparable solutions, and face similar obstacles to tackle. Especially the sometimes diverging technical approaches are intriguing, offering opportunities to improve solution performance and fine-tuning in both directions.
DUET officially comes to an end at the start of 2022, but is seeking new opportunities to take its technology to market ready status.