Digital twin for city management, the experience of Bologna

This was discussed today at REbuild 2023, the meeting on the future of construction underway in Riva del Garda.

The Municipality of Bologna has invested 7 million euros to create a digital twin of the city, i.e. a virtual model for collecting and analyzing large volumes of data on the physical city, which will make it ready to adapt to crises and new needs, starting with decisions in urban planning, which can also be taken involving citizens. This was discussed today in the panel ‘The digital twin for city government and management’ at REbuild 2023, the meeting on the future of construction underway in Riva del Garda.

It is a large project that the Municipality has built together with the University of Bologna and the Bruno Kessler Foundation and which sees Bologna as a forerunner, in Italy, while abroad it has been developed in cities such as Zurich or Singapore.

The digital twin is the virtual representation of a physical element, already applied in industrial fields such as the automotive sector, but which in complex systems such as the city represents a gamble. The digital twin is not a copy of the physical object at a precise moment, but a virtual version that changes in real time and communicates with its physical twin thanks to the Internet of things and the data collected and entered into the model. The goal is to improve urban services, anticipate any crises and provide a large and precise database on the city’s activities with the constant involvement of citizens.

“Like the well-known commercial platforms on the web, cities also connect users, physically and by design, and enable them to perform certain operations – explains the councilor for urban planning of the Municipality of Bologna Raffaele Laudani – but while Google uses the public dimension to extract private value , with the digital twin we use private interaction to extract public value, it is a reversal of the capitalism of web platforms for the benefit of citizens”.

“The project differs from smart cities because that was above all a technological paradigm – explains Laudani – while this is above all a civic project, in which the civic and political soul of a city emerges which has always been avant-garde on these things, starting from ‘hyperbole’, which in 1995 was the first municipal civic network in Italy”.

Globally, according to Markets and Markets, the digitalization market for cities more than doubled between 2016 and 2021, in terms of the value of associated goods and services, including services and connectivity revenues, and will continue to grow in the coming years to exceed $1 trillion in 2027.