How digital twins contribute to this

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Cities face the task of making their infrastructures more sustainable, resilient and livable. A digital twin can contribute to this by enabling better and more informed decisions in urban development and by engaging citizens. At the Intergeo show, Bentley Systems showed what sets these digital infrastructure twins apart and how they can be used profitably in urban planning.

Sustainable urban development of the future: Plant operators and service companies use Bentley Systems software solutions to plan, design, manufacture and operate. After Bentley Systems in the past decades transition from CAD to BIM that is, the company sees its main task today in offering this to its users Creation and functioning of digital twins allow.

the twin of digital infrastructure is the digital and dynamic representation of a physical asset that enables better and faster decisions and leads to better results. The emphasis is on dynamics. It is not a static model (like BIM, for example), but there are regular updates between the cyber world and the physical world. In addition, bidirectional communication is central, which makes a digital twin a core technology of Industry 4.0: it provides predictive feedback to the real world and forms cyber-physical systems.

The digital twin technology combines engineering, operations and IT systems. Bentley also calls it the merger of ET, OT and IT. Digital twins offer the ability to view a plant on a screen or with 3D glasses, track changes, and perform analysis. In this way, plant and process performance can be better understood and optimized. By providing a unified view, digital twins foster interdepartmental, interdisciplinary, and distance-independent collaboration.

Sustainable urban development: four driving forces

But digital twins can do even more. Because they help meet emissions targets, improve infrastructure resilience and increase infrastructure capacity. In the urban context, digital twins can be used in various ways, for example in vertical applications such as energy, mobility and water, or horizontally as a city-wide decision-making and automation tool.

The main urban drivers of today can be summarized in four thematic areas: sustainability, resilience, economic growth and citizen happiness. These four factors require attention and drive investment in cities. Bentley Systems focuses its urban digital twin software solutions on six themes, helping planners and their teams work more effectively and efficiently. And all of these goals are strongly linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With a connected data environment as the basis for digital twins, the value of the underlying data can be fully exploited.

Bentley Systems has worked with pilot cities for many years and has learned important lessons. All of these pilot cities have digital strategies, dedicated teams and financial resources, which already show some key elements of success. This results in further insights: Urban digital twins need to be built step by step. Key events (such as a major earthquake or the Olympics) are proving to be catalysts for creating a digital twin in a city, and citizen engagement is key to adoption.

Users want liveable cities. Citizen satisfaction derives both from the high quality of urban services with easy access to information and short response times, and from the high quality of life that goes hand in hand with the improvement of infrastructure for a growing population and the reduction of risks related to extreme weather events and other disruptions.

use cases

Compared to expert applications, an urban digital twin must have an even more intuitive and simple user interface. Why such a portal should be the daily starting point of a digital experience for city or campus decision makers and visualize all relevant data and visualize use cases critical to success. Besides the administrator, there are mainly non-technical users who want quick decision support. This also applies to the public, who can access the specified content.

For example, a 3D portal was created to allow a company to manage their urban project portfolio and group projects by customer, project status, sector or similar. If you select a traffic project in Stockholm, you get a comprehensive map that comes with reality models. They are based on a network of point clouds from lidar and photographic data and offer millimeter-level accuracy when required.

By activating transparency, the underground infrastructure of a metro station under construction can be made visible. Such iModel acquires and merges 4D information about the infrastructure, for example from a BIM model and many other sources.

Probably one of the most important issues for smart cities right now is mobility. With the modeling tool, mobility data can be imported from various sources. Presenting this data in an urban digital twin for planning or operation helps users identify the potential for change. Is the transport system not efficient enough? Why are there traffic jams or inefficient routes? Which investments are worth the most? Where are the vulnerabilities that require prioritization of maintenance? Or how would movement patterns change if we changed traffic control or infrastructure?

Sustainable urban development: how to successfully introduce the digital twin

Users wishing to create a digital twin should start with the data they have and integrate a first tier into the Bentley Systems platform. These can be GIS data or a reality model. Then they can gradually add more levels, increasing the accuracy of each level and increasing the refresh rate of each level. Each level can be added to the platform in any order and updated at your own pace and accuracy.

Software requirements

Each digital twin must reflect the actual state of a physical asset at all times so that stakeholders can manage it in a virtual, effective and collaborative way. The 4D digital context is the union of all 3D reality data acquired on real assets at different times using a variety of techniques. This context reflects all geometric, visual and spatial aspects of the structure on any scale at the time of acquisition. It enables workflows such as online collaboration, remote review, virtual operations, contextual planning, and mixed reality applications.

Other important considerations are rendering and simulation. To this end, Bentley Systems collaborates with Nvidia and uses the Nvidia Omniverse platform for photorealistic real-time visualization and simulation of digital twins in large industrial and infrastructure planning projects. There is immersive visibility, for example to view sections of a bridge, add annotations, dimensions and other markings, and provide detailed contextual information for the building structure.

Furthermore, sustainable urban development requires operational intelligence to create and use smart city dashboards and online project portals. For this, Bentley Systems has integrated sensor data in real time. In this way, users can link attributes and semantic data to objects and components and link them to engineering data. In this way, they can optimize the performance, safety and comfort of the building.

And finally, urban digital twins need to be as open as possible. Because many applications and systems are often already in place and a city cannot simply switch to a new platform or replace running systems. So there must be interfaces, connectors and APIs that can be integrated, made possible by a collaborative attitude.

Image: Bentley Systems

the author Dr Richard J. Vestner is responsible for the development of urban twins at Bentley Systems.

Read also: Intergeo 2022: Great entrance for the digital twin

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