Bruges’ digital twin city will show effects of changes before they are made

Summary

A digital copy of the city of Bruges will allow authorities to test urban projects before they are implemented

Seeing double

Town twinning usually means two towns in different countries building a bond of friendship. Bruges has other ideas. It has commissioned a copy of itself – a digital urban twin – from high-tech research centre imec, so that it can get to know itself even better than before.

Cities are complex systems, and it is often hard to predict the effect a change in one place will have on the whole. For example, making a certain street car-free can improve air quality in surrounding neighbourhoods, but worsen the traffic situation elsewhere in the city.

Having a digital twin will help Bruges assess the impact of different initiatives before putting them in to practice. “With this digital copy of the city, which will be fed with real-time data, we can simulate the effect of making certain decisions, and undo less successful proposals at the touch of a button,” explained Minou Esquenet, city councillor responsible for smart city initiatives.

We can undo less successful proposals at the touch of a button

- City councillor Minou Esquenet

The first step will be to gather data that is already available. By the end of the year, the city should have a single dashboard that displays information on issues such as air quality and traffic flows.

The second phase will be to add predictive algorithms for specific domains. This will make it possible, for example, to compare the traffic situation before and after a certain project has been implemented.

Finally, connections will be made between the specific domains, so that the broad impact of a project can be assessed from a kind of digital control room. Both imec and the City of Bruges are hoping to involve companies and experts from different disciplines in the project, and to interest other cities.

“We will make our data and our code available to develop an open source framework,” said Jan Adriaenssens of imec. “This approach will help other cities that want to set up a digital twin.”