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How digital twins can make cities better

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New publication by the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR) on the potential and use of digital twins in urban development published

Hands on a screen showing a simple 3-D model of a city

© Angela Pfeiffer for Connected Urban Twins

"Digital twins can make a valuable contribution to integrated urban development and high-quality and efficient planning". So says Dr Vilim Brezina of the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR). He accompanied a recently published study that examined the potentials of digital twins for urban planning in the Model Projects Smart Cities (MPSC) programme.

Many municipalities are currently working on the use of digital twins. For them and all other interested cities and municipalities, the study systematically summarises basics, requirements and practical examples. It shows that digital twins are not only used for visualisation, but above all for the simulation of scenarios: What is the effect on congestion if 30 km/h speed limits are introduced throughout the city centre? In which places is there a risk of flooding during heavy rainfall? And where can trees be planted to improve the urban climate?

Based on these principles, the authors design a conceptual model for the development of a digital twin. A guideline shows an ideal-typical process from goal setting to implementation, explains essential building blocks and gives advice on how to proceed.

According to the study, mobility is one of the topics for which a digital twin will be used most often. In Herrenberg in Baden-Württemberg, for example, there is an extensive digital twin of the city that is supposed to represent the traffic behaviour of people in the city. The model is fed by camera data and people's movement profiles voluntarily donated via an app.