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Hexagon’s Dr Uwe Jasnoch highlights cities around the world that are making digital twins a key strand of their climate action and sustainability strategies.

With July 2023 being the hottest month on record, we can all agree the time to act on climate change is now. In addition to blistering heat waves, today’s cities are facing other environmental challenges around air pollution, as well as heavy rains that can cause flooding and significant loss of green spaces.

According to the World Bank, approximately 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from cities, but only account for two per cent of the earth’s surface.

On top of this, the world’s urban population is predicted to grow to six billion by 2045 – pointing to a need to both protect citizens from the impacts of climate change, as well as embrace new sustainability efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

These include adopting integrated, green urban planning strategies that address interconnected challenges, such as investing in green spaces and more sustainable infrastructure. Overall, resilient, green and low-emission cities are essential for an economically sound, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable future for our planet.

Digital twins and city sustainability

In recent years, digital twins have received a lot of attention due to their ability to revolutionise various industries such as manufacturing, healthcare and transportation, but are now coming more into focus around sustainability.

Digital twins provide a virtual replica of a product, service or even an urban process. These urban digital twins are becoming rapidly indispensable in helping cities become more sustainable.

Often thought of as a simple 3D model, a true digital twin pulls together data from several existing technologies that can comprehensively provide cities unprecedented insights and actionable information.

Many cities are now taking action with digital twins around water and energy management, pollution reduction, greening efforts and more.

Digital twins and sustainability coming to life

In Campo de Cartagena, located in the Murcia region of Spain, they are building the country’s first digital twin that will make visual comparisons of changes to water, vegetation and the environment over time.

The new digital twin will also run simulations to predict and prevent disasters, including flooding, pollution and the effects of climate change. Modelling the impact of urban growth will also be a key priority for Campo de Cartagena.

Expected to be completed by the end of 2023, this new platform will connect, manage and publish large volumes of data pertaining to Campo de Cartagena and the Menor Sea, a coastal saltwater lagoon in the region. It will also have a powerful web-based user interface for visualising and analysing the data in 3D.

Well known for its green spaces, Stuttgart, Germany is also developing a digital twin platform that aims to preserve its natural environment, with 39 per cent of the city being protected to preserve land.

This new digital twin platform will visualise and analyse data from IoT sensors across the city to promote sustainability and enhance quality of life for its 600,000 citizens. It will also be used to monitor water quality, flood levels and parking space occupancy – enabling the city to optimise operations and make informed decisions for their future.

AI and digital twins in action

In Klagenfurt, Austria, a recently launched digital twin created a 3D model based on 19,000 individual images taken during a four-and-a-half-hour flight over the city at an altitude of 1,200 metres.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), the digital twin maps the total area of properties with different land use categories to better understand how properties within the city are utilised. The 3D model also shows how valuable individual plots of green space are for the urban area’s climate.

The digital twin provides initial information to assess if photovoltaic and solar thermal systems can be installed on building surfaces. It even calculates the effect of the shadows cast by each individual tree, in summer and in winter, providing a calculation of the solar energy potential of each Klagenfurt home and business.

In León, Mexico, city leaders are using a digital twin to gain insights for taking action in the event of environmental contingencies. For example, the platform provides data about the current wind, rain temperature and UV radiation, plus several air contaminants such as suspended particles, ozone and CO2.

With climate change being one of the most significant issues facing humanity today, many cities are already taking steps forward to help ensure the health of our planet for future generations.

Fortunately, digital twins can play a major role in providing global city leaders with the actionable insights they need for creating sustainability programmes that ensure the health and safety of citizens.

Learn more about Hexagon’s urban digital twin solutions here.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Dr Uwe Jasnoch

Quelle/Source: Smart Cities World, 17.10.2023

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