Bridging the gap between vision and reality in Digital Twins for Cities

Digital Twin Cities Conference:
Bridging the gap between vision and reality

What is a digital twin and are we turning the vision into a reality? What are the practical values and what is the role of information and data and how do these relate to applications today?  

These are some of the questions that have been addressed during the latest conference on digital twins held by the Digital Twins Cities Centre (DTCC) and InfraVis on November 28th, at Lindholmen Conference Centre, in Gothenburg. 

If you missed it, here is a short summary of the event and link to the recording of the sessions. 

Panel discussion with Anders Logg, Jantien Stouter, Bart Vuijik, Alexandra Bolton

Participants from academia, public private and sector attended the day to share cutting-edge advancements in urban digital twins and to take part in a discussion under the theme “bridging the gap, from vision to reality”.  Anders Logg, director of DTCC, introduced the event and walked us through defining and describing what a digital twin is in this context and, with six keynote speakers shared input and participated to insightful Q&As for an audience of more than 250 people. To give space to multiple complexities, the day also offered parallel sessions that focused on exploring the tangible benefits of urban digital twins, and on how can we address interoperability challenges.  

Are digital twins a comprehensive solution or a hopeful vision? To this day, a gap exists between data and applications, yet data engineering can narrow this distance according to Professor Dr. Jantien Stoter, who leads the group 3D GeoInformation, Section Urban Data Science of the Department of Urbanism at TU Delft. Bart Vuijk, from the research organisation TNO, illustrated a successful example of cooperation where Amsterdam’s digital twin successfully simulates important aspect of urban dynamics, providing valuable information for efficient and informed decision-making.  

table projections (DTCC)

We learned how information connects technology and were reminded of the importance of the information value chain and all the stages involved, from collecting data, utilising it to make better decisions, to acting for better outcomes. Generally, sharing data carries responsibility connected to its reliability and this can hinder public institutions to move towards this direction. It is still not obvious how to include private companies due to copyright requirements and one of the challenges is the risk to share data without having license agreements. There is although a direct link between information and outcomes and there seemed to be a consensus on the fact that the focus should be on information rather than picking one technology. It will be very unlikely that we will end up utilising one digital twin for all our needs according to Professor Kolbe, who talked about interoperability of digital 3D/4D models in the urban environment. On the other hand, Amit Bhave from CMCL, talked about the value of connecting digital twins for a shared understanding and Steve Brown from Sweco, showcased how to drive out costs and creating value with Federated Digital Twins.  

Finally, there are also moral issues to be considered as access to processes could be abused. An open-source community can help mitigate this scenario, and it requires open standards and cannot be tied to big private companies. Overall although, safety is not much of a concern at this point as we are far off from something that can be utilised out of the box for malevolent purposes. Mark Ezner raised important ethical considerations, and talked about how infrastructure is intended to serve people and it should be all about the outcome for them; technology is there to help support information value chain and a better outcome for citizens. The overarching goal of digital twins is to improve people’s quality of life through supporting better social, economic and environmental outcomes. 

Anders Logg
Anders Logg, director of DTCC talking about their definition of Digital Twin
Dr. Amit Bhave
Professor Thomas Kolbe


Jantien Stoter
Bart Vuijk
Amit Bhave
Thomas Kolbe
Steve Brown
Mark Enzer

The day was organised by Bernd Ketzler, scientific coordinator at DTCC; moderated by Alexandra Bolton, and made possible thanks to Vinnova, InfraVis and Chalmers Area of Advance ICT that sponsored the event. 

All recordings will be made available on the DTCC YouTube channel in the next couple of weeks, accessible here