Digital twins – it’s been a hot topic amongst city planners and innovators for some time now and is gathering momentum as governments discover that it is more than just a 3d rendering tool. 

But first, what is a digital twin? 

A digital twin is a digital replica of the built environment to model and simulate outcomes, for improved decision making. The replica is not of a static point in time but should be ever evolving and updating in near-real time.

How does a city digital twin differ? 

A city digital twin is more complex, with more layers and data inputs than even the most advanced smart factory or industrial processing plant – industries which are more commonly using digital twins. 

A city is comprised of extensive systems that supports its citizens, its economy and its environment.  At a high-level these are systems manage the energy, water, safety, mobility, waste, health, education, community, tourism and city environment. And it is a government’s responsibility to manage these in a responsible manner. 

By combining data from city systems, city officials can monitor, manage, analyse and possibly control many aspects of the city within the digital twin.  Ultimately to make more informed decisions and improve outcomes for the city.

Why are city digital twins gathering momentum? 

In the last few years, technology has rapidly advanced.  Photorealistic 3D rendering is now able to be produced efficiently using gaming technology, as can be seen in the cloning of Shangahi, or the City of Wellington.  Also, with the Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity from sensors and devices, as well as spatial information tools, there is more data then ever being produced by a city. Data processing and cloud storage is cheaper and now a safe, efficient alternative to costly on-site servers. 

Through the combination of these things, it is now possible to integrate real time data from a city’s ecosystem into a real-time digital replica. 

A city digital twin is a real-time replica of cities ecosystem

This sounds great; but what is the purpose of a city digital twin?

A nice high resolution 3D animation or are their economic and social benefits.  We’ve listed out five separate departments within a local city council and the possible applications and benefits for each:

1. Urban Planning 

• Real-time traffic flow and mobility pattern analysis 

• Policy evaluation and research through the analysis of city data

• Scenario planning and simulation modelling of physical spaces, processes and socio-economic impacts using digital twin and artificial intelligence

2. Operations 

• Real time monitoring and alerts for buildings, facilities, and essential services 

• Remote operations, automation and control of buildings, facilities, parking and essential services

• AI Predictive maintenance modelling and insights to improve uptime, extend asset useful life and improve maintenance planning of infrastructure

• Immersive training – 3D or VR training for remote operations staff or scenario training

3. Public Engagement 

• Visualisation of new developments

• Tourism with 3D real-time experiences

• Personalised information systems, such as mobility, health and safety alerts and information

4. Sustainability 

• Energy consumption monitoring, analytics, and forecasting

• Air and water quality monitoring and analysis

• Energy conservation through the identification of high consumption and insights for optimisation and performance improvement

• Climate change effects modelling and simulation using artificial intelligence

5. Data Management 

• Data Integration, management, and processing from a vast network of data sources

• Data governance, privacy, control and data democratisation for business insights


As you may be able to see, the more data inputs and systems connected into a digital twin, the wider the cross-section of the benefits within a city. Often the same data can benefit different departments, such as mobility data which may benefit urban planning, public engagement and the environment.  

Data can be incorporated from current smart city projects (such as smart parking initiatives or smart building initiatives) as well as future projects, which arise based on the needs of the city and its citizens.  This progressive build makes a project such as a city digital twin more achievable to deliver, both in cost and time.

So, what is next? What’s around the corner?

As data is centralised and cities uncover valuable insights using historical trending and advanced analytics, the next frontier is no-code artificial intelligence and machine learning, which allows cities to more accurately predict future trends, forecast future values and outcomes.  This technology is a powerful tool which can further improve decision making by city officials.  


The potential to harness city data and use digital twin and AI technologies to improve it’s management is exciting.  If you are interested in a demonstration of VROC’s Smart City and Digital Twin solution, please contact us


Useful resources

You might be interested in

A Brighter City of Bunbury

VROC's AI Platform has been used by The City of Bunbury for it's Decorative Lighting Project

Read Article

AI for Energy Management Systems

Discover how AI can support Energy Management Systems with automated analysis for continual energy performance improvement

Read Article