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Liveable city digital twin pilot: Analytics for agile decision making

Submitted by Adam Beck on November 4, 2020

This article is provided thanks to SCCANZ partner FrontierSI and first appeared at

The Challenge

A robust city modelling framework is essential if local, state and national governments and communities are to work together across complex multi-sectoral problems to improve urban liveability and climate adaptability. Currently there is a lack of a publicly available, broadscale 3D digital representation of the impact of the urban landscape and building design on urban heat islands, street shading and walkability. This project aims to develop a demonstration digital twin which will embed the required analytics within a 3D city modelling framework to address these critical challenges within the built environment.


The collaboration comprises FrontierSI with partners UNSWNSW Spatial Services, and QLD Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, along with stakeholders AURINData61, and Astrolabe.

The Solution

Digital twins have the potential to transform the design, management and performance of the built and natural environment. While a variety of digital twins support exploration, visualization and analysis of multi-dimensional data, use cases which demonstrate the analytical power of digital twins – and specifically 3D and real-time data streams within an integrated analytical treatment for situational awareness – are still lacking. FrontierSI is determined to build the spatial capabilities across government, industry and universities to enable the delivery of an ecosystem of integrated digital twins. Purpose-built use cases which are developed on common frameworks and are open standards-driven, will contribute to the wider use of digital twins.

This project will pilot a digital twin illustrating how behaviour (i.e.: movements) change as a function of a complex interaction of environmental and physical conditions. Such conditions include the impact of 3D urban landscape and building design on urban heat islands, street shading and walkability, understanding walking behaviour as a function of heat, time of day, 3D structure, and how, for example, this may allow mitigation and adaption to be designed in relation to social distancing.

This collaboration aims to develop the following outcomes:

  • Algorithms for real-time monitoring and propagation of temperature (i.e.: 3D contour maps), computation of shadows, and analysis of pedestrian movement
  • A spatial schema and generic workflows for creating a digital twin from data portals, BIM data and sensor data
  • A mechanism and interfaces for maintaining up-to-date digital twin data
  • Recommendations for follow-on Developing strategic overview, industry stakeholder review and recommendations.

The pilot will concentrate on 3D analytics to urban micro-climate, including urban heat islands, temperature propagation, shadowing and its effect on pedestrian thermal comfort, mobility and walkability across selected urban scenarios in Western Sydney, a fast-developing area posing many challenges to urban planners and stakeholders. Once digital twin frameworks are further developed through use cases such as this Pilot, there will be other application areas that will benefit, including construction, asset management and planning/design. This Pilot will make progress towards a digital twin framework for data ingestion protocols, data management, workflows and real-time data analytics for situational awareness. It is designed to be scalable and transferable to other application domains, for example melding 3D city-models and real-time data streams to other problems.