A digital twin is a virtual model designed to accurately represent a real world process or system. Urban digital twins provide a representation of our built environment, including infrastructure services and social dimensions, for data analytics and simulations that can be updated as their equivalents change.
Digital twins can be used to test scenarios and assess the impact of changes in the urban environment on things like street shading, walkability and heat islands. This has the potential to transform the design and management of urban environments, improving liveability and climate adaptability. Unfortunately, at the moment there is a lack of publicly available data of the built environment that is sufficiently granular and descriptive, as well as algorithms and tools demonstrating their power and potential uses.
Aiming to address this lack, AURIN partnered with UNSW Research Infrastructure and FrontierSI—working in collaboration with NSW Spatial Services, Data61, QLD DRNME and Astrolabe—to deliver the Liveable City Digital Twin Project.
The Liveable City Digital Twin is a precinct-level, analytics-aided and standards-based 3D/4D digital twin in Western Sydney focused on urban liveability and climate adaptability use cases.
Western Sydney was chosen as a pilot location because it is a typical example of Australian peri-urban area—an area of development on the edge of a city. In these areas development and population increases are outpacing the rigorous research needed to provide an evidence base for planning and policy decision making.
Phase one of this project is now complete and resulted in the following outcomes:
- Algorithms for computation of shadows and the monitoring of de-identified vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian movements.
- A spatial schema and generic workflow for creating a digital twin from data portals, BIM data and sensor data.
- A mechanism and interfaces for maintaining up-to-date digital twin data.
- Recommendations for developing strategic overview, industry stakeholder review and recommendations.
AURIN’s contribution to this project was the development of a 3D representation of the terrain and built environment for the study area of the digital twin. The framework and method we developed can also be applied to other urban areas with other features and dimensions.
AURIN also developed solutions to connect across a digital twin software stack, from back to front end, and facilitate the update of data into the future. The team also conducted reviews of digital twin emerging globally and took recommendations from the user community. This valuable feedback is informing our strategy and will contribute to AURIN’s modular foundational digital infrastructure capabilities to accelerate the development of Australian Urban Digital Twins.
The Liveable Cities Digital Twin project team is now looking ahead to making its achievements scalable and transferable, continuing to innovative, find opportunities and deliver impact.