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Developing a digital twin for Sheffield

Digital twins – dynamic virtual representations of physical assets and systems – have existed to varying degrees of complexity in other industries for several decades. Now, with improved adoption of technology in the infrastructure sector and the evolution of smart cities, city authorities and asset owners are well-positioned to benefit. Digital twins are key to delivering enhanced outcomes for citizens at best through-life value, and their potential was recognised in Sheffield at an early stage. We combined our digital and infrastructure expertise to develop a foundational digital twin with the Urban Flows Observatory as part of the University of Sheffield’s plan to use technology to monitor the metabolism of the city and boost health outcomes for residents.

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The Urban Flows Observatory wanted to better understand the environmental factors affecting those who live and work within Sheffield. Through the digitisation of city infrastructure into a 3D model and the integration of live data including air quality and weather, we can use this platform to have a clearer insight into the health of the city. By replicating city conditions and responses, we can improve our understanding of health outcomes and achieve better decision making.

We worked with the Urban Flows Observatory and other teams at the University of Sheffield to develop the foundations for a city-wide digital twin, demonstrating the potential value for city stakeholders. Integrating live sensor data with a digitised model empowers the Urban Flows Observatory with greater insight and is a key first step towards creating a comprehensive visualisation, analytics and prediction platform and ultimately a city-wide digital twin for Sheffield.

This platform has now been introduced, combined with an implementation strategy, and is about to enter a second phase of development. As the framework we developed is technology agnostic , it creates the template for further digital twins in other cities and is in line with the Gemini Principles, outlined by Centre for Digital Built Britain to guide development of a national digital twin. City-scale twins on an open framework are core to enabling smarter, more sustainable infrastructure solutions, and our work in Sheffield lays the crucial groundwork for further development in this exciting field.

To find out more about the Urban Flows Observatory at Sheffield University, visit https://urbanflows.ac.uk/

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