The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 237

Digital Twins in City Planning

CASA Working Paper 237

13 December 2023


Although digital twins first originated as models of physical systems, they are rapidly being applied to social systems whose components are conceptual and behavioural rather than material and physical. Here we provide a perspective on digital twins of cities which cover a wide array of different types which incorporate aggregate economic and behavioural processes to more disaggregate agent-based, cellular and micro-simulation. A key element in these applications is the way we as scientists, policymakers and planners interact with real cities with respect to their understanding, prediction and design. We begin with definitional issues that characterise the debate and then illustrate how cities as maps and 3D models provide a starting point for urban simulation. We note a range of spatial models from analytical simulations of local neighbourhoods to large-scale systems of cities and city systems and conclude with a brief note on computational challenges that geospatial applications in cities pose.

Author: Michael Batty

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