How will AI shape our future cities?

Article by Ying Zhang: “For city planners, a bird’s-eye view of a map showing buildings and streets is no longer enough. They need to simulate changes to bus routes or traffic light timings before implementation to know how they might affect the population. Now, they can do so with digital twins – often referred to as a “mirror world” – which allows them to simulate scenarios more safely and cost-effectively through a three-dimensional virtual replica.

Cities such as New York, Shanghai and Helsinki are already using digital twins. In 2022, the city of Zurich launched its own version. Anyone can use it to measure the height of buildings, determine the shadows they cast and take a look into the future to see how Switzerland’s largest city might develop. Traffic congestion, a housing shortage and higher energy demands are becoming pressing issues in Switzerland, where 74% of the population already lives in urban areas.

But updating and managing digital twins will become more complex as population densities and the levels of detail increase, according to architect and urban designer Aurel von Richthofen of the consultancy Arup.

The world’s current urban planning models are like “individual silos” where “data cannot be shared, which makes urban planning not as efficient as we expect it to be”, said von Richthofen at a recent event hosted by the Swiss innovation network Swissnex. …

The underlying data is key to whether a digital twin city is effective. But getting access to quality data from different organisations is extremely difficult. Sensors, drones and mobile devices may collect data in real-time. But they tend to be organised around different knowledge domains – such as land use, building control, transport or ecology – each with its own data collection culture and physical models…(More)”