City Digital Twins: The Virtual Lab for Planners

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Learning Outcomes

  • Learn what a digital twin is and how it can be used in planning.
  • Understand the benefits as well as the risks of using digital twins.
  • Find out how to get started and how to integrate digital twin tools in daily planning work.

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Planners lack a space where they can experiment with new plans and prototype policy options. So-called urban labs are usually actual neighborhoods where real people live, work, play, and are vulnerable. However, the availability of big data, increased computing power, and artificial intelligence make the application of digital twins as virtual laboratories of entire cities possible.

Digital twins can take plan-making to the next level and help create more sustainable, resilient, and equitable outcomes, but there are also risks. Planners need to understand the source of the data that feeds the digital twin and how it was collected. Incomplete datasets and data gaps can result in the exclusion of individuals who are not connected to the systems that were used for data collection. Planners need to ensure that all community members are represented.