Why are Digital Twins essential for Smart Cities?
With the growth and booming adoption of IoT-based technologies, digital twins have been gaining popularity and deployment in many industries and have become indispensable in smart cities. Whether in urban planning or resource optimization, they enable the simulation of plans before implementation, anticipating problems before they become a reality.
The utopia of living in a city powered by smart data that can foresee traffic congestion, the malfunctioning of a structure, or the arrival of an environmental catastrophe is already a reality. We tell you all the details!
Importance of Digital Twins in Smart Cities
Smart cities have positioned themselves as the perfect solution to tackle the environmental and social problems arising from the rapid urbanization of recent years. They are the way forward to improve citizens’ quality of life while achieving a more sustainable city model.
A replica like the digital twin, constantly updated with data from its physical twin, allows users to analyze data, monitor systems and perform simulations as if they were doing with the real thing. It is an approach that has emerged from the manufacturing sector, as it allows a new asset to be tested without the risk of it failing during the testing of the physical asset. Today its applications range from testing new designs or spaces, carrying out health diagnostics, granting access to public spaces for residents, or enabling more efficient management of cities, among many others.
In the context of smart cities, digital twins continuously collect information from the environment via sensors, drones, and mobile devices, as well as from vehicles, buildings, infrastructure, or people. To this is added data ingested by the IoT, which is complemented by AI and advanced analytics.
These technologies can process static, historical, and synthesized data almost immediately to provide valuable insights into city performance. As such, a digital twin accelerates these strategies, enabling public sector organizations to identify insights and connections more effectively and to provide greater confidence.
Cities that can harness this technology and reap the benefits will prosper the most. Moving away from the traditional approach to city design brings excellent benefits, such as the ability to compare virtual design with smart maps driven by geospatial analytics. Multiple, large, and complex geo-referenced data can be visualized, processed, and analyzed. The digital twin changes dynamically in real-time as the state of the physical object changes, saving time and increasing responsiveness.
Benefits of Digital Twins in Smart Cities
Digital twins optimize planning, operations, finance, and decision-making to reduce carbon emissions or construct large projects in a single, simple way.
Users can benefit from cost savings, increased productivity, and more environmentally friendly models. Risks created by natural disasters can be simulated to build a more resilient and sustainable environment. In addition, initiate preventive maintenance of physical assets or urban networks to minimize downtime or operational problems.
Planning now for the rapid urban growth we will face in the coming years will be crucial for the smooth functioning of cities, from public transport and retail safety to residential buildings. Digital twins provide better information to assess the risks and opportunities of large-scale projects. They are also a powerful tool to facilitate an agreement between the public and private sectors, society, and policymakers.
The ability to simulate scenarios and translate data into valuable insights through a virtual representation of the real world enhances the formulation of policies and services, as well as the ability to show good governance and value creation for communities.
Digital Twins and Sustainability
Developing countries face the fastest urbanization process in history, so the need to create large-scale affordable residential units and fully equipped urban areas is enormous. In addition to the need to develop these residential areas, the factors of sustainability, improvement of citizens’ quality of life, and preservation of natural, social, and local heritage are crucial today. Moreover, resources and time are limited, so efficient solutions must be found to solve this global challenge.
To address these challenges, we have collaborated with Heijmans, one of Europe’s leading construction companies, to create a “command center” to control, monitor and analyze all devices and assets in the country, to improve traffic flow and infrastructure maintenance.
We have used Azure Digital Twins services to have a virtual representation or IoT ecosystem. This service has allowed us to model locations, devices, and the relationships between them to build the spatial graph.
All the information collected can be visualized on the web. It displays a map (using Azure Map) showing the specified street and the different iVRIs in their locations with associated information (errors, incidents, metadata…). It also has other options, such as Power BI graphs and stored data. Email notifications are done through Azure SendGrid, and are triggered when certain events occur, such as device signal errors.
On the other hand, we have placed particular emphasis on security, implementing software that automatically tests for errors, vulnerabilities, and other potential problems that could threaten the project, from database encryption to the definition of authentication flows, security certificates, etc.
The result is a highly scalable cloud architecture using AKS, which ingests more than 25 different types of sensors. We currently manage 40,000 devices and are constantly adding more, with a plan to reach 150,000 devices this year.
Creating the Structures of the Future
Current urban design processes are encountering numerous obstacles when considering environmental and growth values, forcing a rethink of urban development models. In addition, we are at a time when many industries are seeing how digitalization brings them many competitive advantages, saves time and costs, and improves safety and security.
The advantages of using Digital Twin are so numerous that they will revolutionize the industrial sector. We can have a model that is faithful to reality on which to carry out tests without putting the replicated infrastructure system at risk, design new scenarios and observe their behavior in the face of the variants we introduce, improve productivity in a more agile way, predict possible changes and anticipate failures or problems…
Thanks to this intelligent digital monitoring system, we can measure the load and performance in real-time of the building/public space/bridge to be studied and analyze its specific situation to ensure that the installation is safe and will function perfectly and realistically predict its lifespan. We can now know at all times what the state of our building is thanks to the large amount of data we receive through the installed sensors, which allows us to make decisions and plan maintenance, as well as to program investments appropriately based on concrete facts.
We are immersed in the so-called Industry 4.0, which makes models such as Digital Twins, integrating AI, Machine Learning, Big Data, and spatial networks. We are creating a business culture based on continuous improvement and constant innovation in previously unthinkable areas. Thanks to the IoT, this is a reality, and all sectors will see how this transition will bring them significant benefits.
We help you meet today’s urban planning challenges so you can make the most of digital data and optimize your decision-making. Contact us!