LA gets its own digital twin city

In one paragraph, writer José Luis Borges imagined an empire where the science of cartography had become so precise that a map of one province occupied the entire city. In 1981, nearly 40 years after Borges wrote “In accuracy in scienceFrench sociologist Jean Baudrillard referred to Borges’ story as “the best allegory of imitation”, which he said no longer applies to “a region, reference object or substance”.

Baudrillard prophetically claimed: “It is a generation by archetypes with no origin or reality: hyperrealism.” Super realistic.


This is the basis for the current phase of super-real world construction: the digital twin phase of the city, a virtual, real-time representation of an actual physical system, place, or process. according to Louise WrightHead of Science for Data Science and Head of Digital Measurement at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, the Urban Digital Twin acts as an indistinguishable digital counterpart to a real-world physical system by unifying several existing technologies.

What distinguishes the digital twin from the “normal” models is that the virtual version can change with its source. The model ceases to be an accurate representation of a physical object once it becomes real, but the digital twin uses artificial intelligence to constantly update the copy making it a perfect imitation of its source. Think about the difference between Waze’s ability to identify real-time traffic versus a standard GPS. The digital twin is perhaps the earliest current example of software that simulates physical space.

Mark Strassman tried to convince city officials of the importance of creating a digital twin in Los Angeles. The former reporter has been giving his show over the past few months, creating two different Facebook groups to get the word out. One Intended to “Create and operate a unit-based digital replica of the City of Los Angeles.” The other is campaigning for his participation in the formulation and passing of what he calls ‘The Digital Twin and Metaverse Act of 2023,“Congressional legislation designed to accelerate the transition to the Metaverse while ensuring the human and civil rights of everyone in it. “

Strassmann reached out to city representatives, and they showed interest. “I’m expecting a call sometime this month,” he says. Meanwhile, another project to digitize Los Angeles is already underway.

In June, a community of building owners in Los Angeles founded a group called Better Buildings Challenge, Partnership with Urban Digital Twin Pioneer Citizenith To create a virtual, real-time representation of the city of Los Angeles.

Initially, the Cityzenith project will focus on automating the green building retrofit process in the Bunker Hill neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles. According to Michael Jansen, CEO of Cityzenith, the project data will come from privately owned energy or building management systems, occupancy readings, and architectural information.

“Our focus today is specifically on decarbonizing buildings and structures,” Jansen says. “In the future, additional modules will address relocation, economic development, public safety, and other important functions. The master urban digital twin will feature a range of applications, some free and some paid.” He expects to have a digital twin of the Bunker Hill area to be shown by the end of the year.

The difference between Strassmann’s concept of Digital Los Angeles and Cityzenith’s – as is often the case with anything around Web3 – is a matter of ownership. Cityzenith approached private building owners and urged them on ways in which they could benefit from technology; They, in turn, got the plan in front of the city. Strassman envisions Los Angeles’ Digital Twin as a public-private partnership between the city, private companies, civic organizations, and individuals.

It’s more complicated than Strassmann’s utopian version, explains Louise Wright. It says, “If you own the twin but don’t have access to the software to run it, it won’t be of any use. It’s a bit like any other kind of software; I’m using Microsoft Outlook under license but I literally don’t own it.”

Jansen tells dot.LA that over the course of its multi-city pilot program — which also includes building digital twins New York City, Las Vegas and Phoenix — Cityzenith will invest up to $250,000 to implement what they say is a public service. “The twin master is then used by the city for free,” says Jansen, although he admits that the company also sells units to be invested by private building owners.

Using sensors that measure everything from humidity, temperature, fan speeds, energy use, and air quality, says Wright, Cityzenith can create an urban digital twin with the ability to help people manage operations, whether it’s private facilities or public infrastructure projects. “This kind of digital twin … is more about being able to understand the effects of rapidly changing factors that may be interconnected and difficult to predict on the urban system as a whole,” she says.

Jansen argues that Cityzenith’s digital twin also serves as a measure of public safety even when it is owned by private operators; For example, automating the process of issuing permits for a building. “Two different fire departments approached us to get a digital twin they could give to the firefighters,” Jansen says. “So when something happens, they can point and click on the building and see what building information they’ll need before entering.”

If the Cityzenith project succeeds, Jansen envisions Los Angeles as a “modular process” to the extent that “individual components – building owners, campus operators, infrastructure operators – will have their own single-twin that will connect to the master.” The master will be owned by the city, although a branch of the governing agency will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining this massive virtual infrastructure project, TBD.

Meanwhile, Strassmann realizes the Cityzenith project. “A lot of people will be thinking about creating a digital twin soon,” he says. “So, I am trying to surround the project with a campaign to educate the public as well as the political and economic decision-makers involved in it.”

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