8 Cities Using Digital Twins to Help Residents
Seoul’s “Digital Twin S-Map” is the latest example of cities utilizing digital twins to make life easier for citizens
What do Squid Games, K-Pop, and digital twins have all in common? Well, if you’re paying close attention to what’s coming out of South Korea then you’ll have your answer.
The city of Seoul released an interactive 3D map of the region for smartphones and tablets late October. The map can deliver real-time information like traffic conditions and real estate info at any time, reports Aju Business Daily. The “Digital Twin S-Map” is a mobile-friendly version of its S-Map digital twin that the city released back in April 2021 and offers the same top-down perspective for users.
It’s the latest digital twin from South Korea and comes after a successful 2019 partnership between cellular provider SK Telecom and the country’s nuclear power plant operator, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, to build digital twins of nuclear power plants to help improve the facilities’ energy efficiency and durability.
Here are seven other cities that have become examples of how digital twins can help citizens.
1. Auckland, New Zealand
The city of Auckland partnered with consultancy firm Mott McDonald to build its Safeswim program. The app displays information from monitors installed at 10 points across the city’s wastewater network. Combined with real-time tidal, river hydraulic and weather data, the app is able to predict when sewage overflow can make swimming unsafe at the city’s 80+ beaches. Users can then see which beaches are okay to visit before heading out via the app.
The program has become so successful it’s getting exported to other cities as part of a multi-million dollar joint venture between the city and Mott McDonald, the New Zealand Herald reports.
2. Carson City, Nevada, United States
Carson City, located about 32km south of Reno, Nev., has had something of a drought problem for the last few years. With more water shortages looming, the city turned to a software company, Aveva, to roll out a digital twin of the city’s water system.
By training city workers on how to view the twin on iPads, they were able to run simulations of peak water usage and see how that would impact the city’s water supply levels. In the end, the city was able to make informed decisions on rebalancing the water usage across transportation, landfill, fleet, environmental, renewable power, and waster-water systems across three counties. In the end, they were able to find a 15 percent reduction in staff’s hours, thanks to saved drive time.
3. Valencia, Spain
Global Omnium, Valencia’s water utility company, teamed up with smart water technology company GoAigua to build a digital twin of the city’s water network in 2009 and the city has been reaping the benefits of it ever since.
The system serves the city’s 1.7 million residents and has boosted customer satisfaction by 60 percent; saved 15 percent of the energy needed for water treatment; and saved one billion gallons of water a year through a 20 percent reduction in maintenance operation expenses.
The digital twin technology shined again during the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic, playing a vital role in reducing preventable malfunctions, according to Pilar Conejos, Head of Network Control and Regulation for Valencia Metropolitan Area at Global Omnium.
“GoAigua’s Digital Twin makes it possible to prevent problems and determine the measures required to avoid the appearance of contingencies or minimize their consequences,” said Conejos in an internal interview. “This is very important in situations such as the present one, where travel and fieldwork are very limited, and where it is also necessary to minimize breakdowns or interruptions in service as much as possible.”
4. Maracaibo, Venezuela
Maracaibo is Venezuela’s second-largest city but its digital twin is one of the earliest in Latin America. The project comes courtesy of a partnership with Esri Venezuela and the University of Zulia, mapping 100,000 buildings spread over 22,000 hectares of urban sprawl. The twin offers a robust display of information like power usage, mobility patterns and gives good insight into zoning and regulation information for specific properties and developments, notes ArcGIS.
The twin has since been used for government policy planning like evaluating future development projects based on their proximity to medical services and public parks, according to Esri Canada.
5. Helsinki, Finland
The Finnish capital has not one but two digital twins. Virtual Helsinki was created in partnership with Zoan and Epic to create a virtual reality tour of the city through all four seasons of the year using the Unreal engine.
Users begin at the empire-style senate square and the white church, journeying to the home of architect Alvar Aalto, known for his contributions to Nordic design, before journeying to Lonna Island and gazing at the city skyline.
Helsinki’s second digital twin focuses on the neighbourhood of Kalasatama and was completed at the end of January 2019 after eight months of development. The purpose was to build a digital twin so the city could test and plan initiatives digitally first before rolling them out in real life.
Success with the Kalasatama digital twin has already spun off a city Energy and Climate Atlas where residents can see building-specific information like energy certification, heating systems, energy consumption and the potential for solar energy.
6. New York City, New York, United States
The Vision Zero task force came together in 2014 with the goal of curbing preventable traffic fatalities in the city. The group brought together members from 15 different groups and agencies and also birthed a dashboard that tracks the key metrics on pedestrian safety.
It’s powered by Internet of Things sensors to track pedestrian and vehicle traffic along with cameras. Data is collected on a monthly basis and collisions are mapped to the nearest intersection. This gives decision makers the power to monitor real-time traffic flow, collisions and allow for predictive analysis to manage congestion and help keep pedestrians safe.
You can’t talk about digital twins of cities and not bring up Singapore. The Asian city launched its plans to build a digital twin of their entire city in 2014 and rolled it out in 2018 with an estimated price tag of $73M. The project had buy-in from four government agencies: The National Research Foundation (NRF), Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) and makes it unique in that it didn’t begin with any outside partnerships.
The twin was created with four goals in mind: Research and development, virtual test-bedding, planning and decision making. It has since gone on to be used to improve accessibility for the elderly and those with disabilities by highlighting convenient routes and sheltered pathways to public transit stations.
Are there any examples of cities using digital twins that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.