As urbanization continues to take hold and cities face challenges to become more sustainable and livable, urban planning and operations strategies must adapt. The current pandemic has changed the way we live, accelerating cities’ future vision as a necessity of the present and what it means to live in a connected and resilient urban environment. Now more than ever, public and private organizations are coming together to push transformative solutions and change the way we plan and operate infrastructure and urban environments for all.
Microsoft, along with its partner ecosystem, continues to be deeply engaged with cities and communities around the world by providing capabilities and solutions that span the intelligent cloud and edge, advancing of AI driven by ethical principles, and continuing commitment to trust and security. Earlier this year, IDC MarketScape recognized Microsoft as the leading worldwide IoT application platform for Smart Cities, highlighting its secure, mature, and capable Azure IoT, AI, and Digital Twins services. In addition to IDC, Guidehouse Insights also recognized Microsoft as the leader in its leaderboard for Smart Cities platform suppliers, highlighting Azure’s ability to support a broad portfolio of smart city solutions using common platform technologies. Last year we also shared our mission to democratize Smart City solutions with no-code and low-code offerings like Azure IoT Central.
As cities continue to invest in connected solutions, a study by ESI ThoughtLab on hyperconnected cities shows that as solutions become more interlinked their return on investment (ROI) grows. To unlock their full economic, social, environmental, and business value, cities need to use digital technologies to transform and interconnect key areas of their ecosystem—from roads to cars, buildings to energy grids, citizens to government, and cities to cities. Microsoft’s focus to deliver new technology innovations in IoT, AI and Digital Twins is enabling connected solution integration that drives breakthrough insights and experiences from planning to operations of urban environments and their infrastructure.
Towards connected urban environments
The concept of digital twins—a digital model and representation of real-world environment brought to life with real time data from sensors and other data sources—has entered the realm of smart cities and promises to enable city administrations and urban planners to make better decisions with the help of data integration and visualization from across the urban space. While urban planners have already been using 2D and 3D models and computer-aided design for years, the integration of real-time data from IoT devices, location, weather, traffic, people movement, and other sources has been a gamechanger for urban planning and operations.
Earlier this year, we announced an update to Azure Digital Twins platform which enables modeling and creating digital representations of connected environments like buildings, factories, farms, energy networks, railways, stadiums, and cities, then bring these entities to life with a live execution environment that integrates IoT and other data sources. To drive openness and interoperability, Azure Digital Twins comes with an open modeling language, Digital Twins Definition Language (DTDL), which provides flexibility, ease of use, and integration into the rest of the Azure platform. Furthermore, to enable urban experiences that are geospatially aware, Azure Maps provides several geospatial services including access to real-time traffic, public transit, and weather data.
City and infrastructure operations
Modeling the complex interactions and high-value intersections between people, places, and things is unlocking new opportunities, creating new efficiencies, and improving public and private spaces.
Siemens MindSphere City Graph is a solution that offers a new way to optimize city operations. It creates a digital twin of urban spaces allowing cities to model, monitor, and control physical infrastructure. Through the integration of IoT data, legacy systems, and other data sources, stakeholders of a city gain insights and understand changes as they happen. MindSphere City Graph provides the openness for solution providers to integrate and deliver sustainable value for a city while enabling open data for cities through an open standard approach.
MindSphere City Graph uses Azure Digital Twins to build digital models of entire environments within an urban space and bring these digital twins to life in a live execution environment with integration of real-time data. City Graph uses the open Digital Twins Definition Language (DTDL) to model the environment and enable interoperability leveraging Smart City standards. The first deployment has been successfully rolled out in Aspern with Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR) by Siemens Advanta and focused on the improved forecasting of the charging demand of eCars and the understanding of their impact on the energy infrastructure.
We are excited to share that MindSphere City Graph was honored with the World Smart City 2020 Award in the Urban Environment category during this year’s Smart City Live Expo, which recognizes the most innovative and successful projects being implemented and developed for urban environments. The award is a prestigious international competition to recognize groundbreaking projects, ideas, and strategies that make cities around the world more livable, sustainable, and economically viable.
Urban and infrastructure planning
Digital cities are embracing a data-driven approach from planning to performance, leveraging digital twins for operating city infrastructure, urban planning, visualization, and simulation, to support infrastructure resilience and enhance stakeholder collaboration and resident engagement.
Bentley Systems provides the architectural and engineering solutions used to design, build, and operate much of the world’s infrastructure. In the world of infrastructure development, complex computer-aided design (CAD) data is the backbone of planning, execution, and operation of major infrastructures, such as road and rail networks, public works, and utilities. Bentley’s iTwin platform captures geometry and metadata of a project and its environment as the source of truth that drives daily decisions throughout its lifecycle. Using Azure Digital Twins, Bentley can bring these infrastructure backbones to life through the integration of real-time IoT data, enabling iTwin users to visualize operational data, time-series data, and analytics in rich, contextual 3D and 4D models, reducing the time it takes to assemble a complete picture of the present and future.
With Bentley’s OpenCities Planner digital cities can use reality modeling to rapidly build a highly precise 3D geometric model of existing infrastructure and combine with engineering data to perform 3D spatial analysis and visualization during all the stages of infrastructure lifecycle at a city level. Bentley Systems and Microsoft recently announced an alliance to accelerate infrastructure digital twin innovations and scale advancements for urban planning and smart cities.
Watch the video below how Bentley’s OpenCities Planner improves city planning decisions with shared information and enhanced city-scale visualizations.
Smart streetlights: core infrastructure for smart city solutions
Streetlights are uniquely positioned in the transformation of the urban environment. Combined with LED conversion, smart lighting has been recognized as one of the most actionable and ready-to-implement technologies for cities to transition to a low-carbon economy in the next decade. Smart streetlights have widely demonstrated ROI for reduced energy consumption and maintenance spending. Streetlights, once networked, are also increasingly being used as a platform for other smart city applications including public safety, air quality and environmental monitoring, connectivity, EV charging, and parking.
Schréder, a worldwide leader in outdoor lighting present in over 70 countries across the globe, sees lighting as a backbone to building a truly smart city. It has built a cloud-native smart Lighting Management platform, Schréder EXEDRA, that can remotely monitor and analyze streetlights leveraging Azure and Azure IoT as a core platform for its highest levels of trust, transparency, standards conformance, and regulatory compliance. With this new platform, city managers can gain flexibility, energy savings, and the ability to manage their assets. They are able to dim the streetlight brightness according to specific needs, generate and manage tickets, easily create reports, and interact with other sensors and devices installed in public spaces.
ENE.HUB, a subsidiary of Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, is a fully integrated smart city infrastructure as a service provider. ENE.HUB’s flagship product, SMART.NODE™ is a comprehensive and self-contained smart pole solution that discretely integrates a range of smart city services including smart LED lighting, communication services, energy services, environment services, transport services, safety, and media services. The data gathered is integrated through a central management system and analytics platform built on Azure allowing users to control, interact and analyze real-time data to enable responsive action and keep cities and public spaces efficient, safe, and vibrant.
Dimonoff, which has 14 years of expertise in controlling and remote management of connected assets like streetlights, works closely with infrastructure managers of cities, university campuses, as well as real estate development companies and lighting manufacturers, to guarantee the full implementation of largely scalable smart solutions. Dimonoff has worked on multiple citywide deployments of streetlight controls. Dimonoff SCMS runs on Microsoft Azure and enables facility and site managers to automate the control, monitoring, and maintenance management of streetlights and other assets, increasing the sustainability of their infrastructure.
Interoperability with DTDL
Common representation of places, infrastructure, and assets will be paramount for interoperability and enabling data sharing between multiple domains. The Digital Twins Definition Language (DTDL) is an open modeling language to describe models and interfaces for digital twins: the telemetry they emit, the properties they report or synchronize, the commands they respond to, and the relationship between them.
Starting with Smart Building solutions we partnered with RealEstateCore to release the DTDL-based RealEstateCore ontology which provides common ground for modeling smart buildings leveraging well-established industry standards, accelerates developers time to results, and enables interoperability between DTDL-based solutions from different solution providers. Similarly, we are working with our partners for DTDL based smart cities ontologies starting with ETSI CIM NGSI-LD models which have been adopted by organizations like OASC.
As part of our commitment to openness and interoperability, we will continue to promote best practices and shared digital twin models and use cases through the Digital Twins Consortium.
Smart buildings, energy, and sustainability
From cities to campuses, now more than ever, buildings of all kinds, from commercial offices to public buildings and more, remain in need of transformative solutions that will enable people and communities to work and live safely. At Microsoft, we continue to push innovation forward to unlock the full potential of smart buildings that will not only allow the reopening of buildings, but provide lasting value for property owners, managers, tenants, and occupants which in turn enables cities to build back resilient with thriving communities. We also continue to demonstrate the next level of energy efficiency by delivering innovative projects. For example, enabling buildings to be distributed energy resources to power them with green energy generated from their own rooftops that reduces carbon footprint and utility bills, using cutting-edge AI with project Bonsai to optimize the energy usage to new heights.
Smart City Live Expo
Microsoft will be at the Smart City Live Expo, an annual gathering for urbanization, to connect smart city technologies and partners with cities on a digital transformation journey. One of the key themes for this year will be on how technology can help cities continue to meet new challenges, both today and in the future.
Join us for the panel discussion: Cities Reboot: Data Driven Solutions for the new Sustainable & Inclusive Cities to hear firsthand how IoT, digital twins, and data platforms are enabling cities to deliver against environmental and social sustainability challenges.