Digital Twins a Key to Creating Smarter Cities

 Digital Twins a Key to Creating Smarter Cities
Digital Twins a Key to Creating Smarter Cities

While some may still be unfamiliar with "digital twins," they are increasingly playing an important role in society. These virtual models of real-world assets–such as vehicles, airplanes, buildings, factories, cargo ships, wind turbines and electrical power plants–are revolutionizing how assets are created, monitored and maintained. In the construction industry, for example, digital twins span the entire lifecycle of a project. This includes creating efficiencies in the planning and building phase, as well as operation and improvement initiatives and, eventually, decommissioning and disassembling an asset in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.
A new use we are starting to see for digital twins is in smart cities. Creating an ecosystem of digital twins can generate data driven insights that improve the operations of municipalities such as roads, public transit, buildings, streetlights, waste management, energy and more. When all these facets of a city are connected to a digital twin in the cloud, they become much easier to monitor for performance and potential failures.
For city planners and managers, using digital twins could pay huge dividends. A study from ABI Research found cities can expect to save $280 billion by 2030 as a direct result of deploying and utilizing digital twins. You may be asking yourself where those savings are coming from, and the answers are plentiful. For starters, city planners in Las Vegas and New York City have already started using digital twins for use cases such as creating buildings that have net-zero carbon emissions to increase sustainability while also reducing energy costs.
The regular exchange of data between digital and physical twins through their shared lifecycles could potentially create a way for smart cities to learn from the insights generated by the digital twin ecosystem and evolve over time. This would enable the city as a whole to anticipate and respond to events like pandemics, blizzards, or even just mundane traffic jams much more quickly and efficiently.
A digital twin ecosystem may seem like something from science fiction, but there are already some promising real-world concepts and implementations. The city of Helsinki, Finland, uses a digital twin of its Energy and Climate Atlas to mitigate climate change and improve energy efficiency. The digital twin provides information on electricity consumption, building heating systems, renovations, and water, which is in turn analyzed by city planners to determine the solar potential of buildings.
A digital twin is also in practice in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The city is utilizing digital twins to build a thermal grid to facilitate heat exchange between buildings and make entire neighborhoods more energy efficient. It is also implementing smart parking using mobile apps and wireless sensors to help drivers find parking spaces faster, reducing car mileage and pollution. 
An area where BIM model coordination and digital twins can be seen is through a Virtual Command Center at the Oracle Industry Lab. The lab offers organizations an opportunity to explore new technologies and strategies as part of their digital transformation journey and is yet another example of customers and partners coming together to accelerate innovative new ideas from artificial intelligence to robotics and digital twins.
There are a few considerations for cities thinking of implementing a digital twin ecosystem. First, it is important to note that digital twins require a sophisticated technology framework that is implemented from the onset of construction projects. Cities will need an elastic cloud infrastructure in which to build new applications. A common data environment (CDE) can also play a key role in allowing companies, property owners, and subcontractors to design, construct, and operate building projects in a highly agile and collaborative environment. Finally, cities will need to be prepared to install thousands of sensors to gather the necessary data to generate meaningful insights, as well as building information modeling and validation solutions.
While digital twin ecosystems may seem way off into the future, the reality is that they are already starting to help smart cities become even smarter. With the right technology investments, the way cities operate might just be completely revolutionized.

About The Author

Frank Weiss is a senior director, responsible for strategy, new products, BIM and innovation at Oracle Construction and Engineering.

Before joining Oracle Construction and Engineering in 2018, he was the co-founder of Conject, a company for project collaboration in construction, founded in Munich in 2000. While at Conject he opened numerous international offices, but has always remained faithful to his passion for product management. As an experienced entrepreneur, he is known for his focus on IT and SaaS for the construction industry. Frank is a tech evangelist, thought leader, and presenter at national and international high-tech industry events.
He represents Oracle as a Strategic Advisory Council Member at buildingSMART International, and has launched several standardization initiatives such as DIN Spec 91391 and openCDE APIs. Currently he focuses on CDE, Digital Twins, Smart Cities, GIS, Integration and others.

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