The City of Gothenburg is about to launch a digital twin: Virtual Gothenburg. This digital city will make it easier to visualise and simulate various urban development projects. The project is being led by the City Planning Authority, but it also includes all the administration units that work with urban planning. The digital twin city should be fully completed by 2021, when the real Gothenburg will celebrate its 400-year anniversary.
Gothenburg is developing so rapidly that the challenges to coordination, consensus and communications are becoming increasingly important, not only in terms of making informed decisions but also in terms of understanding and analysing developments. These are some of the reasons why a digital twin of Gothenburg is being created. The twin will be a virtual 3D model of the whole municipality of Gothenburg, equivalent to 700 km2, based on the city’s own geographical information.
“We realise that the challenges faced by the city are constantly increasing with climate change, segregation and the overall complexity of society and we need better methods of describing, understanding, planning and governing the city – which is where the digital twin comes into the picture,” explains Eric Jeansson, geodata strategist at the City Planning Authority.
“We realise that the challenges faced by the city are constantly increasing with climate change, segregation and the overall complexity of society and we need better methods of describing, understanding, planning and governing the city"
What is a digital twin?
A digital twin is a 3-dimensional scaled-down copy of the real city. Buildings and streets, lampposts and trees, planted vegetation and woods – everything seen in reality has its digital counterpart. To be a complete digital twin, information describing the city and its objects must also be added.
Virtual Gothenburg is mainly being developed so that urban planning can be carried out in a smarter and more efficient way, helping us to build a better city for its inhabitants. The Digital twin will enable detailed studies of the city from three perspectives:
- We can understand what the existing city looks like and how it works at the moment
- We can control different functions in the city on the basis of what is happening now in real time
- We can predict and plan simulated future functions or events in the city.
“Today’s society is so complex and has so many interacting factors that we need to develop new tools for urban planning. In a digital twin, we can create scenarios for new planned areas complete with traffic simulations for those areas. For example, how are autonomous vehicles perceived and how do they work? It is easy to carry out sun and shadow studies as well as noise/sound and air quality analyses. We also need to address the challenges of downpours and segregation,” says Eric Jeansson.
“With a digital version of Gothenburg, not only will we be able to work with urban and regional planning and transport issues in a smarter and more efficient way, but we can also have a better dialogue with the city's inhabitants about future changes to the city."
“With a digital version of Gothenburg, not only will we be able to work with urban and regional planning and transport issues in a smarter and more efficient way, but we can also have a better dialogue with the city's inhabitants about future changes to the city. Using virtual reality (VR) among other methods, we can trace the future development of Gothenburg.”
“Virtual Gothenburg has many possible areas of use and means that many of our current methods of work will change, but at the same time these new methods in themselves will help to create innovation. We will be able to carry out more detailed analyses, better, clearer decisions and transform processes in the city to make them smarter and more efficient,” Eric Jeansson concludes.
Leading edge of technology – inspired by the computer games industry
Virtual Gothenburg will be constructed using parametric modelling, meaning that information describing buildings, roads and other objects is based on specific parameters.
These parameters can then be controlled and varied to obtain a model as close to reality as possible. Materials and textures are added in the same way to bring the model to life.
The technology is already used in the computer gaming and film industry, where large complex urban and 3D environments often need to be created and conventional modelling would be far too time consuming. Parametric modelling has been used by the City Planning Authority for several years in its detailed planning for modelling and visualisation.
The 3D model of the city will be visualised in a game engine, in this case Unreal Engine, developed by Epic Games, which is used in the popular computer game Fortnite, among others.
Göteborgs Stad ska få en digital tvilling, Virtuella Göteborg. Med en digital stad blir det lättare att visualisera och simulera olika stadsutvecklingsprojekt. Arbetet leds av stadsbyggnadskontoret men involverar samtliga förvaltningar som arbetar med stadsplanering. Tanken är att tvillingen ska vara helt färdig 2021, då staden firar 400 år.