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Digital twins for disaster prevention

Jun 6, 2024

Callum Moates

Digital twins are advanced virtual models that mirror physical objects, systems, or processes, enabling real-time simulation, analysis, and control. By integrating data from sensors, historical records, and predictive analytics, digital twins provide a dynamic, data-driven representation of their real-world counterparts, allowing for enhanced monitoring, diagnostics, and optimization of performance and behavior. For instance, GE creates digital twins that enable predictive maintenance, anomaly detection, and optimization of complex systems by creating virtual replicas of physical infrastructure.

Digital twins are invaluable in disaster prevention, predicting, preparing for, and mitigating the impacts of natural and man-made disasters. They allow for early warning and risk assessment by simulating various disaster scenarios, helping authorities deploy resources efficiently, and enhancing infrastructure resilience. Additionally, digital twins facilitate effective recovery and reconstruction by providing detailed damage assessments and planning insights, ultimately making communities more resilient to future crises.

Understanding digital twins in the context of disaster prevention

Digital twins can forecast potential disaster impacts by simulating various scenarios, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or industrial accidents. These 3D virtual replicas can also track weather patterns to create a comprehensive view of the likely impact of impending disasters. This capability allows authorities to anticipate the effects on infrastructure, plan effective responses, and implement mitigation strategies, ultimately reducing the risk of damage and enhancing preparedness. 

For instance, scientists funded by the European Space Agency are working on a digital twin of the Mediterranean Basin to simulate the terrestrial water cycle in the area. This high-resolution virtual replica will help various stakeholders, from citizens to decision-makers, run interactive simulations that will help prevent water-related disasters and manage water resources. 

The role of the metaverse 

The metaverse or 3D internet, with its immersive 3D environment, can significantly enhance the capabilities of digital twins in simulating and preparing for disaster scenarios. Here's how:

  • Realistic simulations: The 3D internet provides a highly realistic and interactive virtual environment where digital twins can accurately replicate physical infrastructure, systems, and processes. This realism allows for creating detailed simulations of disaster scenarios like earthquakes, floods, or fires, enabling organizations to identify vulnerabilities and test response plans in a safe, controlled setting.

  • Collaborative planning: The metaverse enables remote collaboration, allowing stakeholders from different locations to come together in a shared virtual space to plan and coordinate disaster response strategies. This facilitates real-time communication, data sharing, and decision-making, ensuring that all parties are aligned and prepared for potential emergencies.

  • Employee training: Digital twins in the 3D internet provide an immersive training platform for disaster response and recovery personnel. By simulating high-stress situations, employees can practice their skills and decision-making in a realistic environment without the risks associated with real-world disasters. This training approach helps build confidence, improve response times, and minimize errors during emergencies.

  • Predictive analytics: Metaverse-powered digital twins enable the collection and analysis of real-time data from sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Governments and city planners can use this data to develop predictive models that anticipate the impact of disasters on physical infrastructure and systems. By leveraging these insights, organizations can proactively implement mitigation measures and allocate resources more effectively.

Predictive analysis and early warning systems

Earthquake prediction

By continuously monitoring real-time data, digital twins can detect subtle changes in seismic activity, such as minor tremors or shifts in tectonic plates, that might indicate the likelihood of an impending earthquake. Advanced algorithms and predictive analytics within the digital twin can analyze these data patterns to forecast potential earthquake events. These predictions include estimating an earthquake's possible magnitude, location, and timing. Such predictive capabilities allow for early warning systems to be activated, giving communities and authorities precious time to implement emergency measures, evacuate vulnerable areas, and mobilize resources.

For instance, Japan utilizes digital twin technology to enhance disaster resilience against frequent earthquakes, typhoons, and heavy rainfall. One Concern, a resilience analytics technology company, uses digital twin technology in Japan to anticipate extreme disasters and climate risks and how they will impact infrastructure like power grids, transportation networks, and local communities. The technology helps businesses in the country measure and reduce potential risks of disasters.

Flood forecasting

Digital twins can simulate the region's water bodies, rainfall, and groundwater by integrating real-time data from ground sensors and satellites. Digital replicas of river catchment areas are also crucial in predicting flooding hazards. These models incorporate detailed geospatial and environmental data to represent the entire ecosystem, river geometry, and floodplain characteristics. By simulating river behavior under various conditions, digital twins provide insights into how river systems may respond to changing weather patterns. 

Real-time weather condition data, such as precipitation forecasts, temperature variations, and atmospheric conditions, are integrated into the simulations. By combining river data with weather information, digital twins can predict how weather events like heavy rainfall or storms may trigger potential flooding. Using historical data and predictive analytics algorithms, digital twins forecast potential flooding events, helping authorities prepare and respond effectively. 

Land managers, urban planners, and ecologists can test various scenarios by adjusting variables like rainfall intensity, river flow rates, and soil saturation levels to simulate different flood scenarios. These tests allow them to assess the impact of various factors on flooding events and identify critical areas at risk. These visualizations help stakeholders understand complex data, trends, and patterns, facilitating decision-making and response planning.

In the Netherlands, climate change makes it crucial to reinforce the region's dikes or embankments, such as the Lekdijk. Sogelink's innovative digital twin technology provides a precise virtual model of the dike, allowing targeted strengthening based on detailed soil knowledge. This approach saves time and costs by focusing on specific areas rather than the entire dike. Sogelink's technology ensures efficient and effective flood protection for the future.

One Concern has also collaborated with Kumamoto City in Japan over the past three years to develop a digital twin that models various flood scenarios, including river overflows and coastal storm surges. This system accurately predicts flood risks by integrating weather forecasts and local data, allowing for proactive measures. In August 2021, it successfully forecasted river levels during heavy rainfall, demonstrating its precision. This technology enables Japan to manage climate risks better and improve community preparedness.

Urban planning and infrastructure resilience

Simulation of urban environments

Resilient urban structures are essential in the face of earthquakes, tsunamis, or other catastrophes. Digital twins of city areas and developments play a crucial role in this. By creating detailed virtual models of urban plans, authorities can simulate various disaster scenarios and assess the impact on buildings and infrastructure. This integrated information allows for precise analysis and proactive measures to reinforce weak points.

Urban planners and engineers can use digital twins to ensure structures are designed and built to withstand disasters. This technology enables the identification of vulnerabilities and the implementation of targeted strengthening efforts, making the entire city more resilient. As a result, when disaster strikes, the city's infrastructure is better prepared, minimizing damage and enhancing the safety and well-being of its residents.

Digital twins also aid in scenario planning before crises occur, making cities better prepared for large-scale emergencies. A notable example is Virtual Singapore, a 3D platform that integrates data about physical infrastructure with demographics, population movement, climate, and other factors. Real-time data helps city administration analyze how different structures and areas respond to earthquakes or floods. Planners can identify potential weaknesses and reinforce them proactively. This ensures that new developments are resilient and capable of withstanding disasters, ultimately safeguarding the city's infrastructure and its residents.

Infrastructure monitoring

The digital twin continuously collects data from sensors embedded within physical structures in an urban area, providing detailed information on its performance and condition. This real-time monitoring capability allows engineers and maintenance personnel to quickly and accurately assess the structure's health. By analyzing data from the digital twin, potential structural issues such as fractures, deformation, or vibrations can be identified early, enabling proactive maintenance and interventions. One of the key benefits of using digital twin technology for structural health monitoring is its ability to gather real-time data. Traditionally, structural assessments were often conducted through periodic inspections or manual measurements, which were time-consuming and limited in scope. However, digital twins offer a comprehensive view of the structure's condition by instantly analyzing continuous sensor data streams. 

Additionally, integrating various data sources and computational models enhances the digital twin's understanding of structural behavior. This capability enables predictive analysis, forecasting potential faults or performance deterioration based on the collected data. As a result, preventive maintenance measures can be implemented to minimize downtime, optimize resource use, and ensure the structure's and its occupants' safety.

The City of Helsinki has developed a digital twin for infrastructure monitoring as part of the Helsinki 3D+ project, a comprehensive digital model of the city. This city-scale digital twin integrates data from laser scanning, photogrammetry, and other sensors to provide a detailed and accurate representation of all infrastructure, buildings, and public spaces. It enables real-time monitoring and predictive analytics to address potential issues and optimize city systems proactively.

Environmental monitoring

Climate change impact assessment

Digital twins offer a sophisticated climate modeling and simulation platform by replicating Earth's ecosystems, oceans, and atmosphere in a virtual environment. This digital replication allows scientists to simulate various climate scenarios, predict changes, and understand the potential impacts of specific interventions. Such capabilities are invaluable for assessing the effectiveness of climate policies, land-use planning, and deploying renewable energy solutions.

Digital twins also have significant potential for marine spatial planning to manage seas and oceans better and sustainably. The European Digital Twin of the Ocean, announced by President von der Leyen in 2022, aims to provide accessible ocean knowledge through interactive visualization tools. These tools support marine habitat restoration, a sustainable blue economy, and climate adaptation.

In Grenada, a country in the Caribbean, the government uses digital twin technology to create a replica of the country equipped with environmental data to help draft sustainability plans against heat, rainfall, and saltwater intrusion. Similarly, in Spain, authorities are working with Hexagon to create a digital twin of the Campo de Cartagena region, running simulations to predict and prevent environmental issues. This initiative helps mitigate climate change effects by visually comparing ecological changes and potential solutions.

Hazardous material tracking

In industrial settings, digital twin technology can monitor and predict equipment maintenance needs, reducing downtime and improving reliability. By monitoring equipment performance in real-time, operators can detect potential issues before they escalate and take corrective action to prevent long wait times and other disruptions.

Digital twins help refine response plans by simulating emergency scenarios and ensuring safety protocols are regularly tested and optimized. Additionally, integrating real-time sensor data enables predictive maintenance and prevents equipment failures and associated safety incidents.

For instance, a virtual replica of a chemical production plant can reduce industrial accidents. Chemical production processes can be dangerous as they involve handling hazardous materials and require proper management. Digital virtual models can monitor, simulate, and optimize real-time operations and production processes to identify potential hazards and risks in multiple scenarios. For instance, a digital twin can identify potential hazards like leaks or spills and alert engineers to take the necessary steps to mitigate the impact.

Jun 6, 2024

Callum Moates

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About Landvault

Landvault is building infrastructure to accelerate the metaverse economy, by building tools to create, deploy and monetize content. The company has helped over 200 clients enter the metaverse, including both Fortune 500 companies and government organizations like the Abu Dhabi government, Mastercard, L’Oreal, Red Bull, and Heineken. The company has raised a total of $40m over the past three years and continues to pioneer technological advancements.

We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2024

Landvault · Wam Group

All rights reserved


We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2024 · Landvault · Wam Group · All rights reserved


We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2024 · Landvault · Wam Group · All rights reserved