Digital Twin Technology Can Make Smart Cities Even Smarter

Imagine the potential benefits of having a nearly complete digital replica of a city — a virtual model of its roads, buildings and public spaces — combined with real-time information feeds from sensors and other data sources. Residents could visualize the impact of new construction before breaking ground. First responders could run computer simulations to prepare for potential emergency scenarios. And city planners could better analyze and respond to local energy and environmental changes.

The advancement of several technologies, including the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), has made it possible to create “digital twins,” or virtual replicas of objects, processes or places from the physical world. The concept of creating “twins” to serve as tools to improve decision-making has long been used in engineering. For example, NASA developed two identical space vehicles for its Apollo program to mirror the conditions in space on Earth

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Rotterdam is using smart city tech to solve pressing urban problems. Here’s what Canadian cities can learn from the Dutch model

During the past decade, thousands of Rotterdam building owners installed green roofs on their dwellings — about 330,000 square metres in total, almost two per cent of the city’s 18.5 square kilometres of flat roof space. But where some cities have promoted such projects to improve energy efficiency and absorb carbon dioxide, Rotterdam’s green roof infrastructure is all about water, and keeping as much rainwater run-off as possible out of aging, overtaxed sewers in order to prevent flooding.

About four-fifths of the Dutch port is below sea level. As Paul van Roosmalen, the city official overseeing sustainable public real estate, puts it: “The water comes from all sides” — the sea, the sky, the river and ground water. “It’s always been a threat.” But he also sees an opportunity to use a marriage of technology and green design to elevate the role of rooftops in managing Rotterdam’s water pressures.

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