Digital twin technology can save cities US$280 billion by 2030 – Report

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A new report by ABI Research says more efficient urban planning through digital twin technology can cut costs and help hit net zero targets.

The cost benefits alone, it says, could be worth US$280 billion by 2030.

“Digital twins will become the ultimate tool for city governments to design, plan and manage their connected infrastructure and assets in an efficient and cost-effective way,” says Dominique Bonte, vice president for end markets at ABI Research.

“Cost savings can be obtained in key areas, such as energy and utilities, transportation, safety and security and infrastructure. However, urban digital twins also offer many other advantages in terms of supporting and improving sustainability, circularity, decarbonisation and the overall quality of urban living,” Bonte says.

Other potential efficiencies outlined in the report include:

  • building designs that maximise solar capacity and deliver lifetime energy savings
  • more COVID-19-safe building designs to save on healthcare
  • first-time suitable designs of buildings and other physical infrastructure avoiding expensive modifications after completion
  • resilient infrastructure planning that reduces emergency response costs, and
  • better utility, streetlight and surveillance networks to achieve the same targets with less capital expenditure.

The research featured Siemens, Microsoft, Engie and Cityzenith.

“As an architect by trade, I know how inefficient and over budget the built environment has been over the last 30 years or more,” says Cityzenith founder and CEO Michael Jansen, “often causing delays in completion and inefficient use of materials due to the industry’s lack of data and technology.”

“It’s a huge global problem as we seek a more efficient and sustainable model for our urban planning, and construction must catch up with the pace of emissions reduction in other industries such as manufacturing,” Jansen says.

A digital twin is a digital replication of a physical asset, service or system. Twins can be used to test changes and tweaks in a low-risk way. Digital twin technology is tipped to be massively influential on the cities, design, manufacturing and buildings of the future. It regularly appears in lists like the World Nano Foundation’s top five growth sectors and Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends.

It will grow easier and more affordable for FMs to build and manage digital twins, with the rapid advancements of beacon technology, IoT and integrated building management systems.

Bonte believes they will quickly accelerate from an exciting new tool to a downright necessity. “The increasingly complex nature of connected and smart urban infrastructure, especially in view of future smart urban concepts, will simply mandate the deployment of digital twins as critical, holistic management tools, similar to the role they play in other industries like manufacturing.”

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

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