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  • Writer's pictureEthan Fulton

New podcast: "Digital Twins" and the future of cities

On October 20, 2023, Jeffrey Beyer moderated Episode 8 of the Future Energy Insights podcast, which delves into the impact of "digital twins" on urban planning and strategic decision making in a rapidly urbanizing world.


Digital twins are highly detailed and dynamic virtual models that replicate real urban environments, allowing cities to use real-time data to simulate responses to various scenarios and optimize city planning.




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Jeffrey Beyer is joined by:

Key discussions:


1) Digital Twins in Urban Planning

virtual singapore platform
Virtual Singapore is a fully functional digital twin of the entirety of Singapore.


Singapore developed the first city-wide "digital twin", its $73 million "Virtual Singapore" built on topographical data and real-time dynamic information. Since February 2022, it serves as Singapore's authoritative platform for scenario simulations as well as virtual tests of new urban planning solutions.


As digital twins become more widespread in cities like Singapore, Cristina Savian of BE-WISE awaits an "unprecedented fidelity, frequency, and fluency of information" that fuels a seamless new loop of updated data that can help optimize for energy efficiency and other targets.


2) Collaboration in Technology Implementation

Olivier Kraft, leading the IoT blueprint for Expo 2020, developed its digital twin. Kraft says that one of the first steps to "turning a strategy into reality is to select the right partner, bringing together stakeholders with complementary perspectives to identify new use cases. Savian points out that the tangible, actionable benefit of a new technology must be immediately clear even in a co-creation ecosystem.


Bhaskar Raman emphasizes a stepwise approach to innovation, testing pilot projects to show practical value to investors. He believes, from a July 2022 interview, that the "worker on the ground" should see the benefits of smart urban technologies and thinks that they will in 5-6 years.


3) Security in Digital Twins & the Metaverse

Siemens managed security risks in the monitoring for its Expo 2020 digital twin, fighting the threat of breaches with robust cyber and physical defenses. Kraft notes the potential benefits of real time monitoring. For example, a smartwatch detecting a health emergency can communicate with the nearest hospital or detailed scenario planning can help a building refine its evacuation plans.


DMCC, the UAE's largest free trade zone, has transformed 65 of its buildings into 3D digital twins. Digital twins are already possible, but for smaller startups there are still scaling barriers. Sivian says that there are "lots of startups with amazing technology" that "don't have the balance sheet" to have their solutions implemented, requiring the attention of major investors. Siemens spends €3.5 billion annually on research and development and has a venture capital arm and investment companies.


abu dhabi dmt digital twin showcase
The Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities & Transport recently unveiled the Abu Dhabi Digital Twin project.


The episode also touches on the interplay between digital twins and the metaverse, noting their complementary nature and potential to benefit from the Internet of Things as a catalyst.


Summary

The use of digital twins, especially in urban planning, is increasingly recognized for its role in enhancing energy efficiency and addressing the climate crisis. Stay tuned for future episodes of the Future Energy Insights podcast - available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.


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