New South Wales deploys digital twins to design cities

  • March 4, 2020
  • imc
CSRIO Mats Henriksen & Bruce Thompson

The New South Wales government is using digital twins to plan, design and manage Australia’s cities. The technology was developed by Data 61, the digital specialist arm of CSiro, Australia’s national science agency.
Working with the NSW Department of Customer Service’s Spatial Services, Data 61 developed a 3D visualisation of western Sydney in a demonstration of what could become a step change in urban planning.
Launched by the minister for customer service Victor Dominello, the NSW Spatial Digital Twin is a virtual 4D (3D plus time) model of the western Sydney area’s built and natural environment.
Digital twin technology is an open platform that can visualise 3D and 4D data over time such as buildings, strata plans, terrain, property boundaries and utilities including power, water and sewer pipes.
Mats Henrikson (pictured left), geospatial web systems group leader at Data 61, said the technology would allow planners, developers and policymakers to make more informed decisions, saving costs and creating efficiencies.
“The digital twin represents a step change in how we visualise environments and processes taking place in them,” he said. “Till now, decision makers have referred to property boundaries in 2D. Having them available in 3D together with how they have changed over time, and being able to easily share this with other related data, makes it much easier to fully understand the context of the boundaries.”
He said that cities had never been so data rich as a result of connected sensors and many were growing vertically in addition to horizontally.
“This creates incredible opportunities to overlay 3D and 4D data from satellite and drone technologies which is spatially accurate, to show the bigger picture of what’s happening above and below the ground over time,” he said. “An infrastructure developer can now use the digital twin to identify the location of underground utilities before building works commence, or see the potential impact of planned future infrastructure.”
The digital twin also helps the government communicate plans for infrastructure development to citizens.
The secure-by-design, federated platform incorporates Data 61’s open source catalogue technology Magda to bring together data from public agencies and the private sector. It can be accessed by a web browser and, while most of the data are available to the public, the built-in security features ensure only authorised individuals have access to certain types of data.
The digital twin is built on Data 61’s Terria JS platform, which also powers National Map and the National Drought Map, an online tool that brings together information on Australian drought conditions and support measures.
This first phase of the digital twin includes visualisations of the local government areas that comprise the Western Sydney City Deal and Greater Parramatta to the Olympic Peninsula. Future phases of the digital twin in collaboration with NSW Spatial Services will include other areas of NSW.
Data-driven urban management is predicted to be a $5bn to $10bn export opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region by 2028.
Simon Barry, acting director of Data 61, said the new visualisation brought together world-leading expertise in spatial visualisation, analytics and privacy preserving technologies from across the national science agency.
“By partnering with government and industry across the country, we can harness these technologies into federal collaboration platform enhancing Australia’s smart cities and delivering significant benefit to Australia’s economy,” Barry said.