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How can Smart City Digital Twins be applied as testbeds for Urban Futures ?


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This content is part of my finished thesis research titled: 

Innovation Policy Roadmapping 
for the Future Finnish Smart City Digital Twins

Towards Finland National Digital Twin Programme

* Please share your comments and contact with me if you have any enablers to test this concept! 

A remarkable relationship is emerging in the ever-changing realm of urban development: Smart City Digital Twin applications and futures studies tools/methods. These fields, each with its own set of capabilities, are coming together to form a tremendous synergy that promises to transform the way we conceive, design, and create future of resilient cities. The data-driven innovation of SCDTs is at the core of this correlation. DTs, technical marvels, work ceaselessly to collect and analyse real-time data from sensors and IoT devices to present a vibrant and accurate perspective on the urban scene. Their ability to provide forecasting, predictive assessments, and scenario simulations opens the door to a universe of possibilities, one in which the future is scientifically built rather than speculated on.

Futures studies methods and approaches, a multidisciplinary field committed to exploring the mysteries of the unpredictable nature of alternative futures. Futures studies give an organised way to anticipate alternative future paths, with a strong emphasis on foresight, scenario development, and participatory future planning. Consider these technologies packed with dynamic data from DTs - a treasure mine of information that may bring life to future studies driven prospective strategies and roadmaps and give a tangible touch to strategic foresight research. The combination of these two can open an abundance of fascinating possibilities. To begin, the careful forecasting scenarios or what-if analysis generated by DTs may be validated and enhanced via the lens of futures studies. By including cultural, economic, and environmental aspects, the accuracy of these anticipates improves dramatically, providing decision-makers with unprecedented foresight.

With its capacity to simulate many scenarios and do what-if analyses, SCDTs open the way to inclusive and participatory future planning. Futures studies tools find a cyber ally here. As stakeholders and individuals interact with realistic digital visualisations, participatory scenario development, a cornerstone of futures studies, takes on new dimensions. A collective of voices helps to shape desired futures, cultivating a feeling of shared ownership in urban planning endeavours.

This cohesive partnership also benefits risk assessment and mitigation. Risks quantified by DTs, providing foresight practitioners with important insights into potential future uncertainties. Equipped with this knowledge, strategies for navigating uncertainty may be designed, giving future scenarios a solid advantage. Furthermore, this synergy results in a dynamic feedback loop. Futures insights strengthen DT models by providing a better knowledge of forthcoming trends and opportunities. The data-rich environment of DTs, on the other hand, informs and fine-tunes futures studies, enabling a continuous foresight refining process.

Wide range opportunities of DTs would also add value to the development of digitalization of Futures Studies discipline such as real-time foresight and participatory scenario-building approaches. This might be conceptualized based White et al.’s (2021, 5) online DT interaction diagram.


Based on Real-time ciziten-centric strategic foresight concept (See figure), the City Council able to analyse the big data obtained from the Digital Layer Smart City applications for the future policy designs, integrate it into the Virtual Layer - DT application and get feedback from the citizens. Simultaneously, big data-based analytics, with the help of 3D model experts, allows futures researchers to integrate alternative scenarios based on trends, weak signals, and even wild cards (specifically related to the local or national context) into digital models and display them in online DTs. Citizens can determine their desired future with VR glasses, whether through DT feedback stations deployed in the urban pilot area or by sitting on the couch and examine alternative scenarios and providing simultaneous feedback with the rating system. The feedback from this can help the city council make informed decisions in a common vision based on desired futures and future policy designs, while future-researchers can both determine informed foresight strategies with real-time scenario updates and save their work from being a project-based product that specific stakeholders can make sense of. 



Edited by tolga
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