Every day, large amounts of data is produced by government and industry which gives us insight into how people live and work in spaces. A digital twin takes this data and transforms it to be easily accessible in one place.
The state government backed Digital Twin Victoria program has promised its platform, “will be the first place that leaders go to plan our liveable, sustainable and resilient future using data-driven digital innovation and intelligence – and the first place people will go to plan how they engage with their communities .”
It is not only Victoria that is investing in data, New South Wales (NSW) launched its Spatial Digital Twin initiative in 2020 in conjunction with Local Government Areas (LGAs) and CSIRO’s Data61. It allows users to visualise 3D and 4D data over time such as buildings, strata plans, terrain, property boundaries, bus stops, footpaths and sewer pipes.
“It’s all about democratising data,” Sara Stace, WSP’s Director of Cities says. “For example, rideshare companies were collecting their own data about kerbside allocation (such as where free parking is available) to allow for their apps to better show where passengers could be picked up or the best places for drivers to wait – but only those companies have access to this data.”
“If the digital kerbside data is made available to the public on shared data platforms, we can see what already exists in the space and how people are using it, and respond accordingly to make better places that suit people’s needs” she says.
From planning to operations to end of life
The possibilities of what you can do with the data contained within a digital twin are endless – from developing user personas to testing designs of public assets like stations, precincts and interchanges; to receiving live monitoring data about construction, predicting when maintenance needs to be done, and even predicting the impact of climate future trends to allow for more robust infrastructure.
“You can track materials within infrastructure and instead of treating them as a static asset, if something needs to be modified or deconstructed, the materials could be reused in another space that need them,” Sara says. “This will be a big component of transitioning to net zero and a circular economy. An example is the use of temporary plastic kerbs for construction – they might be moved around to multiple sites and then eventually recycled.
“Digital twins bring together all sorts of different components that relate to place outcomes. For example, to track the shade canopy provided by trees to minimise urban heat and make a comfortable walking environment, or decluttering footpaths by minimising the need for poles. A digital twin system could help track the growth rate of those trees or provide information to bus drivers and customers about re-routing due to construction.”
A state-wide digital twin can also be used in case of disasters such as bushfires or floods. The NSW Spatial Digital Twin was developed after the state’s Independent Bushfire Inquiry found the need for telecommunications and utility data to inform risk and resilience decisions.
Damien Cutcliffe, Director of Business Development and Growth – Digital has been working with Telstra on the information provided for the NSW Spatial Digital Twin.
“We know that our climate is getting hotter and drier which means we are going to be seeing more of these extreme weather events like bushfires,” he says. Making sure emergency departments and governments have the most up to date data is critical to being Future Ready.
“Situational awareness in a major event such as a bushfire is important as you need to know exactly what is going on. For example, you have planes that need to fly low and get water then rise up rapidly. If you can shave a minute off the flight path that can mean the difference between controlling or not controlling a fire.
“It’s important that emergency services know what telecommunication services are available and if they can retain connectivity with impacted communities. People need to be informed in real-time on weather conditions, they need to be able to call for emergency services, while government agencies need to ensure communities can retain communication and connectivity – so people can be informed on conditions, and can call for emergency services while governments can provide emergency alerts. ”
Data sharing and quality
Getting governments and industry to share their data in a large-scale digital twin allows for better planning and management of communities, but making sure the data is kept up to date is an onerous task.
Brett Buhagiar, Digital Engineering Operations Lead, says data needs to be treated as an asset.
He says, “Organisations will be wary of using data that cannot be guaranteed to be reliable, but continual maintenance of the data that is uploaded to platforms has to be easy. You also need to make sure the right permissions are there as some data will be publicly available and others might need certain permissions.
“The sources of data are endless, from business cases to government reports to monitoring information, but it needs to be presented in an easy-to-use platform in multiple formats, which means it has work in the back end.
“For example, if you have a digital twin of a new piece of infrastructure that was designed by an engineering firm, but was then handed over to a local or state government on completion, you would want to integrate that information into the state-wide twin. Sharing needs to be seamless and easy, but also secure. It also helps to achieve seamlesss and collaborative engagement with those data owners.”
“The possibilities are endless with what you can do with the data. At the end of the day, it all contributes to developing better designed, more sustainable and resilient communities – from the smallest assets in the built environment through to the entire country.”
For more information contact Sara Stace, Damien Cutcliffe or Brett Buhagiar.