New Partnership Aims to Accelerate Digital Twin Technology to Transform Cities

20 Apr 2022

Lisa Chamberlain, World Economic Forum,

  • The World Economic Forum is working with the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology (CAICT) to accelerate the development and adoption of digital twin applications in cities.
  • Digital twinning is moving from the concept stage to implementation as more than 500 cities are expected to deploy digital twins by 2025 to bolster city operations and resiliency planning, according to ABI research.
  • Initial research highlights the need for increased understanding and capacity building to enable the safe and effective use of this technology.
  • Read the first report of a three-part series in English and Chinese

New York, USA, 20 April 2022— Digital twin technologies are the key to improving urban life and enabling more resilient cities, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum and China Academy of Information and Communication Technology (CAICT). The partnership will also serve to address unexpected challenges of data quality and security, related to the digital model of the physical world.

The new report, Digital Twin Cities: Framework and Global Practices, is the first output in a multi-year collaboration that brings together public and private sector stakeholders to accelerate the development and use of digital twin technologies in cities. The report, which draws on case studies from around the world, will also be complemented by workshops to build capacity and expertise around this suite of new digital tools and applications.

“This initiative comes at a critical time as cities across the globe are grappling with social, political and economic instability and increased demands for public services,” said Jeff Merritt, Head of Urban Transformation, World Economic Forum. “The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of data-driven operations to enable more resilient and future-ready cities while also exposing the increased governance and security challenges that come with digitalization.”

“At present, the digital twin city is moving from the concept stage to the implementation stage,” said Xiaohui Yu, President, China Academy of Information and Communication Technology. “Combining previous research in the field with practical digital twin city examples worldwide, the report summarizes typical cases around the world, and has reference value for city managers as well as entrepreneurs and investors who actively embrace digital twin technology. The technology provides a feasible pathway for more inclusive and sustainable cities.”

“The core promise of digital twin cities is that they will help us to understand complex urban systems better and enable us to intervene more effectively,” said Mark Enzer, Chief Technical Officer, Mott MacDonald. “This is exactly what we need if we are to tackle the great systemic challenges of our age and enable people and nature to flourish together for generations.”

“The digital twin still faces significant challenges, and China is still in the early stages of exploration, said Hequan Wu, Academician, Chinese Academy of Engineering. “Existing challenges include the fact that technology is still in development, a lack of standardization of platform models, the need to readapt the city’s organizational structure and management system, and data security and privacy protection risks.”

“With several years of lessons learned and dozens of projects around the world, the time to experiment with "smart cities" is now behind us,” said Simon Huffeteau, Vice President, Infrastructure & Cities Strategy, Dassault System. “This joint report is timely and provides guidance and best practices for defining a virtual twin strategy and putting in place a plan. It will allow cities and businesses to invent and create this new public service: providing a purpose-driven virtual twin of a city or a region to all stakeholders.”

To help unlock the potential of digital twin technologies, the partnership between the World Economic Forum and CAICT have identified five areas of focus, which will be refined in the next two reports: 1. Guarantee date quality and security, 2. Lower the technical threshold for adoption, 3. Engage in innovation, 4. Refine industrial standards, 5. Develop business models.

Notes to editors
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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.

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