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Insights & Trends 7 min read

These cities' digital twins can give us double the insights

These cities' digital twins can give us double the insights

IoT, big data and 5G have made it possible to create “digital twins," detailed virtual replicas of objects, processes and even cities in the real world.

What if every city had an identical twin? Well, not absolutely identical but more a virtual model of all of its streets, buildings, road furniture, terrain, and public spaces.

Digital twins, created through geodata modeling, can be connected to data-collecting IoT sensors to help urban designers, governments and citizens visualize plans and processes before they occur. For example, a “twin" can help plan the details of construction before breaking ground or installing a new façade, prepare for potential emergency situations like natural disasters, respond to urban environmental changes and more.

Let's review some of the use cases being employed today, the future of digital twinning and how it can make cities safer and more efficient overall.

A tale of twin cities

Here are just a few recent examples of how digital twin technology is being used in cities around the world:
  • In Los Angeles researchers are creating a way, via digital twins, to view car crashes seconds after they happen, locate and recommend an optimal route for ambulances, alert all connected self-driving cars to clear a path and, as a result, prevent further accident-related pile-ups and traffic jams.


As these cities are proving, digital twins are capable of increasing the collection of big data and transforming that into improved traffic and transportation, smart city planning and increased safety and preparedness. But did you know that Geodata Models can be beneficial in other ways?

Simulations in real-time

When digital twins, like HERE Geodata Models, are connected to IoT sensors that collect data, they can create a simulation of a person, place or thing. For cities, digital twin models can visualize variety of scenarios to help planners, workers and citizens prepare for the future:
  • “Road Furniture": map geo-locations and 3D geometries of objects on or near roads and streets. 3D geometry is the mathematical location of shapes in three-dimensional space and consists of an x-coordinate, y-coordinate and z-coordinate. Objects can include trees, fire hydrants, signage, traffic lights, and street lamps.
  • “First Response": assist in locating and learning about building assets for emergency response teams including placement of windows, balconies and fire escapes, architectural materials, location of parapet walls, chimneys, HVAC units, head houses, and solar panels on rooftops.
  • “3D Canvas": visualize a city's changing demographics and the policies that affect them, or zoning such as crime statistics and public health issues.


The examples above illustrate how individual cities can use Geodata Models to improve urban infrastructure and public policy creation. But what would happen if digital models of cities were networked together to create a digital country, continent or even an entire planet?

"While most of these digital twins are designed to serve the local population, some are already thinking about how to create a network of these cities. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has established a pilot project to build a network of digitally twinned smart cities, which, in addition to Singapore, will include Jakarta, Indonesia, and Cauayan City, Philippines. The goal is for participating cities to use their shared resources and capabilities to collaborate on solutions to key urban challenges." — Daniel Castro for, October/November 2019.

Digital twins are enabling us and our partners to mature Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) technologies by enhancing operations through an understanding of the locations these vehicles operate in - allowing players in this ecosystem to develop safer solutions in a cost-efficient manner. — Antina Lee, HERE Product Innovation Manager


A powerful couple: 5G and digital twins

The deployment of new 5G networks could play a major role in justifying the creation of large-scale digital twins throughout the world. These digitized smart city environments could then be used to help cities work together through virtually-connected alliances. Digital twins can also help cities share best practices to collaborate on developing solutions to key urban challenges.

As it is right now, 5G companies select a candidate cell site location in a labor-intensive and typically manual process involving a dispatch of technicians for physical on-site surveys. These candidate locations can be on cell towers, high-rise building rooftops and increasingly in locations containing utility poles and street lamps. Without accurate information — site dimensions, site details and environmental context — the process of fully vetting individual candidate cell locations could result in potential delays and increased costs.

What if every city had an identical twin?


A digital twin can help solve these challenges by allowing operators to perform this real estate vetting from a remote, centralized location. An additional benefit of performing these site surveys virtually is the ability to conduct this work for many different candidate locations at the same time, resulting in large cost savings and faster service.

Once the tower, rooftop and pole locations have been selected, the digital twin can be further used together with network design and GIS application software programs to determine the best location within the site to deploy the 5G network equipment for maximum performance and coverage.

Creating a digital representation, a geodata model, of the site means that engineers, planners and technicians can access the replica using an app and guarantee that their plans match the details of the site in real life. This digital survey will cut down on the number of site visits needed, keeping the installation moving quickly. Guidance from data-rich digital twins has the potential to reduce deployment lead time, cost of labor, and the overall 5G project budget.

Although we anticipate 5G network planning and network design use cases will drive initial widespread adoption of HERE Geodata Models, there are a wide array of additional applications for this dataset including SimViz (virtual simulations in cyberspace), AR/VR/spatial computing and ground obstruction maps for ground-based robots and aerial drones. — Mark Yao, HERE, Director of Product Management


See the future with HERE Geodata Models.

Jasmine Reimer

Jasmine Reimer

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