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What makes a city work? Our communities are made up of roads, bridges, buildings, stoplights, schools, broadband lines and all the other infrastructure that make them livable and prosperous.
And digital twins can help us gain a greater understanding of the infrastructure in every city. They can also help agencies understand what needs to be done to maintain it, and what might be possible in the future.
At a recent webinar, Digital Twins as Part of a Transportation Strategy, HERE experts joined forces with Bentley Systems and Microsoft to look at how they can benefit transportation agencies. Bentley Systems has formed a partnership with HERE, using HERE data sets including mobile lidar data and geospatial map data to create a location-indexed, continuously updated replica of reality.
“What is needed to bring that data to life is a robust visualization and analytics platform," said Pratik Desai, Senior Product Marketing Lead at HERE. Bentley Systems' Orbit 3DM software, powered by Microsoft Azure, is the platform that can do all this.
The resulting digital twins can be used for federal reporting requirements, asset management — to identify and locate assets — maintenance such as mowing calculations, and cost reduction, compliance and safety reasons.
Agencies can add their own data layers to digital twins along with HERE data.
A digital twin is a digital replica of reality, whether that reality is a city, a building or a single physical asset. They can be made up of various data sets.
“It is a combination of different sets of data, including reality data such as aerial and mobile captured lidar images, images taken by drones, images taken by mobile devices during an inspection etc," explained Lomme Devriendt, Senior Manager at the Acceleration Initiatives at Bentley Systems.
“You want to combine all this with databases that you have available to make decisions and do your job." Anyone involved in the project should have access to this data.
HERE Mobile Lidar is available off-the-shelf rather than being commissioned and gathered over months, often at prohibitive cost.
HERE Lidar Data is collected by hundreds of roaming HERE-owned True Vehicles. This raw lidar data is then converted to industry-standard formats and colorized using imagery captured by various cameras to create highly accurate 3D depictions of streets and city areas. The product includes tens of millions of kilometers globally. It can be ordered on the HERE platform.
Bentley Systems Orbit 3DM allows people to visualize it on their own software and integrates with applications that companies and agencies are already using every day.
The challenge with captured reality data on this scale is processing, visualizing and analyzing it. Digital twins may contain terabytes of data and millions of images. They need to be up-to-date, and organizations need to be able to combine different data sources to create the truest picture possible, including underground, overground, indoor and outdoor data.
“At Bentley, we can give access to these large-scale, captured reality databases," said Lomme. “At any location, at any device, at any time."
Eve Machol, Director, Transportation Industry Transformation for the US State and Local Government, Microsoft, said: “Real-time, live data is critical, and we know how beneficial it is to have it visualized through an elegant digital twin solution from Bentley. Microsoft's role is to really encompass all of that, from a platform perspective as well as implementing services.
“Microsoft Azure can be used to add other sources such as weather data. We can aggregate all this data into a data lake, provide machine learning models to recognize patterns and apply AI, and provide better visualization tools through business intelligence applied to different types of stakeholders."
Transportation agencies can use the digital twin to monitor infrastructure without the need for field visits. They can also use digital twins to test out new proposed infrastructure, to see what works and what impact it will have on other systems, such as traffic.
It can then be used to communicate and collaborate with other departments. Ultimately even the public will be able to view scenarios such as proposed new bus stations in an immersive digital twin format. More ambitious projects such as electrifying fleets can also be tested out first.
But digital twins must be kept up-to-date to bring useful, meaningful insights. “We need to keep our digital twin evergreen, which means we must avoid manual processes in updating that information," Lomme said. “If you want to know how your vegetation is growing, you need to compare a collection from 2020 with a collection from 2021. You need to do this kind of analysis at the speed of data collection." Automated processes are key to making this happen — and high-quality, real-time data such as HERE Lidar Data.
Done right, digital twins can bring about a new way of working that saves time and money and is much safer for employees as it can be done remotely.
“This has huge implications for being more cost-effective in resource-constrained environments," said Pratik.
And new use cases are being developed all the time. In the future, transport agencies and others will be able to use it to predict what maintenance will be needed next, among other things. Watch this space.
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