digital model of city (Shutterstock.com)

Digital twins the ‘ultimate tool’ for city infrastructure planning

Cities can expect to save $280 billion by 2030 with the deployment and use of digital twins, according to a new report from ABI Research.

A digital twin is a simulated model of a physical process, product or service that can increase efficiency. According to the Defense Acquisition University, a digital twin "uses the best available models, sensor information, and input data to mirror and predict activities/performance over the life of its corresponding physical twin." ABI Research calls this technology “the ultimate tool” for urban planners and city governments to design and build their infrastructure in a cost-effective way

Digital twins allow cities to design buildings more accurately so as to avoid expensive modifications after the initial build, find more resilient ways to improve physical infrastructure to reduce the cost of emergency response and incorporate green design choices to yield long-term energy savings.

“Cost savings can be obtained in key areas, such as energy and utilities, transportation, safety and security, and infrastructure,” Dominique Bonte, vice president end markets at ABI Research, said. However, urban digital twins also offer many other advantages in terms of supporting and improving sustainability, circularity, decarbonization, and the overall quality of urban living,”

Its ability to run simulations based on large datasets has made digital twin technology a valuable asset for smart city initiatives. For instance, researchers at the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory partnered with Chattanooga on digital twins to increase energy efficiency while also optimizing drivers’ travel time, speed and safety.

The Navy is using digital twins of its ships to ensure combat readiness without the need to dock and conduct shipboard repairs and maintenance at sea. The Air Force has seen the benefits of digital twins firsthand, with its ability to create synthetic equivalents of data -- without any of its private, sensitive or classified information – that can be shared with research partners

“While the cost-saving advantages of digital twins allow cities to achieve fast ROIs, the increasingly complex nature of connected and smart urban infrastructure, especially in view of future smart urban concepts, will simply mandate the deployment of digital twins as critical, holistic management tools, similar to the role they play in other industries like manufacturing,” Bonte said.

About the Author

Shourjya Mookerjee is an associate editor for GCN and FCW. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and has written for Vox Media, Fandom and a number of capital-area news outlets. He can be reached at [email protected] – or you can find him ranting about sports, cinematography and the importance of local journalism on Twitter @byShourjya.

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