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Digital Twin exchange with the European Commission

By Robyn Francis | Global Engagement Coordinator | Smart Cities Council

In this session at Digital Twin Week 2021, we met the Technologies for Smart Communities Unit team at the European Commission, and heard about their Digital Twin work for EU cities and communities.

Those in attendance during this exchange heard about the latest in:

  • EU policy for Digital Twins

  • A summary of Digital Twin programs advancing capability for cities and regions

  • The various use cases EU cities are using Digital Twin to deliver

  • Emerging enablers of Digital Twin success

The panel included a number of city representatives, including Rennes (France), Helsinki (Finland), Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Flanders (Belgium).

It certainly was one for the Digital Twin policy aficionado's, as we gathered to hear the latest from the EC and their member cities.

The European Union talks about local Digital Twins, with the aim of making Europe fit for the digital age while, at the same time, making Europe a climate-neutral continent, in line with the European Green Deal.

The commission works with regions who in turn work down the chain to influence communities.

Policy drivers for the commission include a number of measures which trickle down to local levels including the ethical and human-centric use of AI, public procurement and the enablement of data sharing. Alongside this, sit conditions for EU funding and the community which is an actively growing group of people committed to working along and developing mechanisms for digital transformation.

Working together, as well as with the U4SCC and G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance, the commission has developed minimal interoperability mechanisms as a set of practical capabilities based on open technical specifications that allow cities and communities to replicate and scale solutions globally.

To ensure data availability, the commission works on creating a secure data space allowing for exchanges for smart communities. Legislative measures go a long way to facilitating data sharing, but the commission's focus here is creating a safe space to, under certain conditions, for exchange.

In terms of application, many smart city projects are often focused on a single domain. The commission sees digital twins as the opportunity to allow for cross domain application. To illustrate this, we walked through use cases from a number of European cities.

First up was the city of Rennes, France, where the digital twin project is the result of over 20 years of 3D urban modelling. The aim of the project is to enable cooperation with all stakeholders to achieve ecological and democratic transitions through an understandable and shared vision of the territory and its issues; data technology to model, simulate, analyse urban systems and functions; and collaborative tools.

We then hopped across to Helsinki, where we were walked through two model projects - reality and cityGML, both of which operate on an open data model.

In Helsinki, the urban digital twin is an entity of cooperating datasets and systems, where awareness of data sources allows for the combination and further processing of data under a ‘digitally first’ mindset. We looked at a current Energy and Climate Atlas model, the Heat Demand Prediction model, the Geoenergy Potential model and the Solar Energy Potential model before moving across to review the Kalasatama Digital Twins Project, the report for which is freely available here. Minecraft Helsinki is also available for free download - a great addition for use in hackathons.

Crossing to Rotterdam, we reviewed the DigitaleStad where we celebrated the digital twin as it introduces a new reality, changing the paradigm of the concept of a ‘city’.

Alongside key building blocks, we walked through the conditions outlined for the urban digital ecosystem of Rotterdam, which include:

  • Privacy / GDPR

  • Security

  • Ethics

  • Trust

  • Standardisation

  • Data Ownership

  • Marketplace

  • Testing grounds

  • Innovation

  • Interoperability / Interconnectivity

Before wrapping up, we also looked at governance and the various roles in the ecosystem.

From there, we looked at the Duet project and findings from across Europe (think the Czech Republic and Greece). Goals in bringing entrepreneurial thinking, agile processes and open innovation to Government decision making aims to connect legacy systems, make data understandable, explore policy impact, influence better public decisions and experiment and innovate in cities and across regions.

The approach used has been that of facilitating experimentation and co-creation to deliver policy and services that were previously impossible.

We looked at a number of use cases covering people flows throughout cities during peak COVID periods, as well as air quality and the mapping of shady areas in cities. The use cases showed implementation in a big city as well as smaller regional levels.

Flipping to the technical side of things, audience members got a closer look at the interconnection of data within the digital twin, from model gateways to user interfaces before we dove into cross domain support and the required data spaces, covering how they affect data security, governance and agreements.

Audience members posed questions to the panel, most notably how Australia and New Zealand should approach central data standard to utilise for data exchanges and what the key factors are for enabling digital twin developments.

Want to know more? Keep an eye out for more articles from us as we unpack the various presentations.

A recording of this session will be made available on the Smart Cities Academy website on November 1 2021. Subscribers to the DT Hub will be notified when available.

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