The use of drones for 3D mapping in various fields is booming, and 3D mapping technology can be applied to digital twins to create a smart city in the digital age!
At the beginning of this year, the Singapore government announced the completion of the world's first "nationwide" digital twin. Raw information from GIS, lidar, and geographic imagery is transformed into a reality mesh covering the whole of Singapore, as well as building and transportation models, using key technologies provided by Bentley Systems.
“We envisaged that these building blocks will be part and parcel towards the building of the metaverse starting with 3D mapping and digital twins,” Hui Ying Teo, senior principal surveyor at the Singapore Land Authority, said in an interview with technology media VentureBeat. She believes that digital twins are critical to sustainable, resilient smart city development, and her team has been developing a framework that enables a single source of truth across multiple digital twins that reflect different aspects of the world and use cases.
What is a digital twin?
A digital twin is, to put it simply, a digital model of a physical asset. It collects information via sensors, drones, or other IoT and Industrial IoT tools, and applies advanced analytics, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) to churn real-time insights about the physical asset’s overall performance. Technology is booming, and one of the most popular applications right now is the creation of smart cities.
How Singapore is developing into a smart city?
As an island nation, Singapore is facing rising sea levels. Through the integrated digital twin infrastructure, it can help Singapore cope with the challenges posed by climate change, such as the use of terrain models to assist in water resource management and coastal protection.
In addition, it can be applied to the development of renewable energy, such as planning the deployment of solar energy resources through building models, to meet the government’s commitment to deploy two gigawatts of peak (GWp) solar energy by 2030.
Inspired by the Flood
Singapore is the world’s second-most densely populated nation, leading to significant development of vertical buildings and infrastructure. After a major flood devastated the country in 2011, the Singapore government found that 2D maps were of limited help and decided to launch an ambitious 3D mapping program to map the entire country using rapid capture technologies which were released in 2014.
In the same year, "Virtual Singapore" was launched to help collaboration between government units, testing new technologies through digital models, and the test results can be used to evaluate the feasibility of public policies; from policy shaping, planning, and implementation, to risk control.
3D map to the digital twin, creating a smart country
The biggest difference from the map is that the digital twin can be continuously updated in response to new data input. Therefore, a sophisticated information management platform is required to be backed up to connect all the independent but interconnected digital models to synchronize data updates with each other.
The Singapore government is further developing new directions, expecting to integrate different types of data such as personal geographic information, infrastructure, and ownership records into a unified digital twin. “To achieve the full potential, a digital twin should represent not only the physical space but also the legal space (cadaster maps of property rights) and design space (planning models like BIM),” Teo said.
In 2019, SLA launched a second effort to detect changes over time and update the original map with improved accuracy to reflect the country’s dynamic urban development. The project combined aerial mapping of the entire country and mobile street mapping of all public roads in Singapore.
This time, Singapore plans to create an integrated, highly accurate, reliable, and durable digital model of land, which can not only help the National Water Agency to deploy resources and effectively prevent floods but also serve as a right-hand man for urban planning.
Can Taiwan follow suit?
On the other hand, Taiwan, which is also an island country, also has to face more severe challenges brought by climate change, such as the water shortage crisis caused by the long-term lack of rain last year, and the typhoon disasters that have to be faced for many years. The application is bound to give us a valuable reference. In the future, it will be an important development in planning, developing, and managing the city and the country.