What Is a Digital Twin and How Can It Improve Urban Mobility?

What is a Digital Twin and How Can it Improve Urban Mobility?

November 3, 2020

A simple search on Google will bring you over 500 million results for “Digital Twin. ” The term is becoming a buzzword, and its use is increasingly common; however, what exactly is a Digital Twin? And how can Digital Twins impact and hopefully improve how we get around our cities?

In basic terms, a Digital Twin is a digital replica of a living or non-living physical entity. It can be thought of as a computer program that uses real-world data to create simulations to predict how a product, system, place, process, or even a person will perform. In the case of cities, the Digital Twin is as it sounds– a replica of the physical city in the digital world.

According to Forbes, the Digital Twin concept has been around since the beginning of the 2000s. However, it is only since the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) that the Digital Twin itself has become a cost-effective, and essential asset. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the uptake of Digital Twins is soaring. Research by MarketsandMarkets predicts that the market will grow from $3.8 billion to almost $36 billion by 2025.

In this article:

  1. What are the benefits of Digital Twins?
  2. How are cities using Digital Twins?
  3. How can Digital Twins improve urban mobility?
    • Changing conditions
    • Heading into the fourth dimension
    • Continual improvement with Machine Learning
  4. Digital Twinning Into the Future

1. What Are the Benefits of Digital Twins?

Digital Twins connect the physical and digital worlds. They can reduce maintenance costs, decrease production times, aid understanding into the physical asset, help predict events before they happen, and facilitate “what if” scenario analysis.

2. How Are Cities Using Digital Twins?

Cities are becoming digital. It’s estimated that by 2025, the number of smart cities worldwide will reach 500. To better serve citizens, cities with smart city-initiatives are investigating and investing in cloud access, IoT, Digital Twins, and more. 

In the case of cities, a Digital Twin is a virtual replica of that city taken from real-data obtained from IoT devices within the city. This digital version of the city can visualize various scenarios to help workers, city planners, and residents prepare for the future. 

Post-pandemic, this is arguably more important than ever. In a world where everything is changing, with patterns and habits shaken up, the Digital Twin allows for new measures, policies, and plans to be simulated and tested inside the virtual realm before they are implemented, making these new elements much more likely to be immediately effective. 

3. How Can Digital Twins Improve Urban Mobility?

  • Changing Conditions

With rapid urbanization, congestion and pollution are exponentially growing in our cities. At the same time, how people choose to get around is changing. Awareness over the need to reduce emissions and the rise of multimodal transport has seen the number of pedestrians, scooters, and cyclists on the roads surge. To help make cities more liveable, municipalities are seeking ways to identify, understand, and then support more of these road-users.

  • Heading Into the Fourth Dimension

Typically, the Digital Twin of a city is of the static place; the infrastructure, the buildings, parks, systems. Axilion’s deep-tech solutions (X Way) take the concept from the third dimension and into the fourth by adding an additional layer–the movement of the city.

X Way uses unique AI Mobile Edge Cameras to capture the city’s road network and from this data effectively creates a Mobility Digital Twin. These IoT Edge devices use proprietary AI video technology to capture traffic issues, safety hotspots, and their root causes, as well as different road-users, including their numbers, speed, and direction. The video data is streamed from the Edge device to the Microsoft Azure Cloud, and advanced encryption technology anonymizes all data collected, including the blurring of faces and number plates to ensure absolute security and GDPR compliance. The Edge devices continually capture and so constantly calibrate the Mobility Digital Twin.

The city’s movement is analyzed from this Mobility Digital Twin, and proposed changes can be simulated before being deployed. This is significant because by truly understanding travel patterns and the impact of modifications before they are made, new services and plans can be refined before being implemented. Additionally, with all road-users captured, including pedestrians, scooters, and cyclists, the Mobility Digital Twin helps cities understand, analyze, and encourage these greener modes of transport. 

  • Continual Improvement With Machine Learning

Deep Reinforcement Learning AI is a category of machine learning and artificial intelligence where intelligent machines learn from their actions comparable to the way humans learn from our own experiences. X Way’s proprietary machine learning algorithms combined with the power of the Digital Twin use such learned logic to make decisions improving city-wide mobility. For instance, in the case of issues on the road network X Way not only presents an initial solution but continues to learn and offer new suggestions based on the original solution’s impact.

For example with a blocked intersection X Way would capture and understand the issue, simulate the effects of traffic-plan changes on the blockage, recommend optimized plans to resolve the issue, recapture and understand the impact of the changes on the blockage,  until finally simulating and recommending solutions once again to make continual improvement. With this circular approach, X Way helps municipalities to continuously improve mobility city-wide.

4. Digital Twinning Into the Future

In the technological revolution, Digital Twins and advanced AI are leading the way across industries and mobility is no different. With congestion crippling cities, with the climate change crisis pressing and unrelenting, and with too many accidents on our roads– there is much at stake. However, technology is redefining how these issues can be mitigated, benefitting our cities and everyone within them.

At Axilion, we couldn’t be prouder that our technology is driving robust transformation, and as our technology evolves, so will the power with which we can overcome today’s mobility challenges.  

For too long city-wide mobility has been stalled; now is the time to accelerate. 

Discover how Axilion’s cutting-edge Mobility Digital Twin technology can revolutionize your city >