Back to Blog

Exploring the potential of the metaverse in urban planning

Jun 27, 2023

Martin Petkov

The metaverse has revolutionized urban planning by creating immersive digital environments that enable dynamic simulations, stakeholder collaboration, and visualization of city projects and infrastructure. This blog explores how the metaverse can be utilized in urban planning, showcasing examples from cities like Barcelona, Singapore, and Amsterdam. The blog also highlights the applications of smart urban planning tools like augmented reality, geographic information systems, and machine learning algorithms in shaping sustainable and resilient cities. The potential of the metaverse to transform urban experiences and redefine service delivery through digital twins is discussed, emphasizing its role in building intelligent, inclusive, and connected urban environments for the future.

How can the metaverse be used in urban planning?

The metaverse is a shared, immersive 3D virtual space where people experience life beyond physical limitations, with several use cases for gaming, entertainment, and e-commerce. This virtual world is now opening opportunities to enhance operations in a new sector - urban development and planning. Urban planning in a modern city involves designing land usage to create infrastructure for smooth transportation, communication, and distribution networks while making continuous improvement adjustments. The metaverse can enhance urban planning by creating digital twins or replicas of real cities to facilitate virtual collaboration for designing and evaluating city development scenarios to ensure effectiveness, sustainability, and durability.

Seoul, South Korea, is a prime example of utilizing the metaverse to enhance city services, administration, and digital integration for a smart city. The city invested $3.3 million in a five-year plan, establishing the "Metaverse 120 Center," where residents can interact with virtual public officials and access services within the city. Seoul also introduces a virtual tourist zone, offering virtual versions of prime attractions and hosting popular festivals in the metaverse, such as the traditional Bosingak bell-ringing ceremony on New Year's Eve.

Metaverse for smart cities

Urban planners can use the metaverse to build smart cities by providing the following:

  • Virtual access to government services: Citizens can utilize virtual offices within the metaverse to obtain government services and interact with public officials, eliminating physical visits and enhancing convenience and accessibility. This digital interface also improves service delivery's usability, scalability, and cost-effectiveness.

  • Digital twins for simulating urban events: Digital twin technology enables the creation of virtual representations of smart cities and landscapes. Within the metaverse, digital twins provide unparalleled simulation and modeling capabilities for various urban events. Factors such as floods, energy demands, traffic patterns, and climate change can be simulated and predicted in advance, aiding in effective urban planning and decision-making to mitigate potential risks and optimize resource allocation.

  • Virtual replicas for infrastructure visualization: Cities like Orlando, Las Vegas, and Boston have developed virtual models of their cities within the metaverse. These digital replicas empower local governments to visualize proposed infrastructure changes like potential impacts of new streets, land use alterations, and other factors to facilitate proactive planning and address urban development challenges.

Smart urban planning tools

  • Augmented reality (AR): In smart urban planning, AR can visualize proposed infrastructure projects, urban designs, and architectural plans, which can improve urban mobility, public health, and safety. Enhanced AR head-up displays, like Audi's Q4 E-Tron, enable efficient street navigation for motorists. Overlaying AR graphics on the windshield allows drivers to receive helpful navigation information. This technology dramatically benefits emergency services, allowing faster response times as firefighters, police, and first responders can quickly find optimal routes to emergencies.

  • Virtual reality (VR): City planners can use VR and other visualization tools to create 3D drawings and flawless architectural models to conduct virtual walkthroughs, assess the visual aesthetics of proposed developments, and identify potential issues. VR can also help city planners check whether a built model fits the infrastructural constraints and space. City residents can also be allowed to share their suggestions on infrastructural improvements.

  • Geographic information systems (GIS): GIS plays a vital role in smart urban planning by collecting, organizing, and analyzing diverse spatial data, such as land use, transportation networks, demographics, and environmental information. Access to this data helps planners make quicker assessments of critical geographic information that will facilitate building better cities through well-thought-out strategies.

  • Machine learning (ML) algorithms: ML algorithms can identify patterns, predict trends, and model complex urban phenomena. In smart urban planning, developers can use ML algorithms for various purposes, including predicting traffic flows, optimizing energy consumption, identifying areas prone to crime, and recommending efficient transportation routes.

  • Mobile applications: Mobile applications have become powerful tools for citizen engagement, data collection, and real-time information dissemination. In smart urban planning, mobile applications enable residents to report issues, provide feedback, and participate in urban development initiatives.

Benefits of creating digital twins of cities

  • Real-time data for city planning and management: Digital twins collect real-time data from sensors, drones, and mobile devices that planners can interpret and analyze using mathematical models, AI, and pattern recognition to manage and plan cities better. Public organizations and industry experts endorse using digital twins for urban development. Gartner's top 12 strategic technology trends for 2021 included digital twins, highlighting their significance.

  • Enhanced operational efficiency: Digital twins assist in the proactive maintenance of physical assets and city networks by predicting and preventing potential issues. This early detection of problems reduces operational downtime, improving overall efficiency and leading to cost savings and better resource management. For instance, city developers can calculate and simulate the stormwater capacity of road networks to minimize loss by using digital twin data to design a water-sensitive plan.

  • Promotes sustainable design: Digital twins facilitate the simulation of various scenarios to assess risks and challenges in urban plans. They promote resilient and sustainable design practices in buildings and neighborhoods by considering factors like high temperatures, dust storms, or natural disasters. This practice leads to environmental conservation and the long-term viability of urban networks and structures.

  • Facilitates communication of urban projects: Planners can communicate urban plans and projects with multiple stakeholders, including city councils or governments, investors, and residents, through well-designed and visually aesthetic digital twins. Digital twins of projects create an interactive way for city planners to promote and share their projects to gain feedback from residents or attract potential investors.

  • Deeper understanding of urban issues and better policymaking: Digital twins allow policymakers to comprehensively understand complex urban issues and challenges by synthesizing static, real-time, and historical data. Policymakers can leverage digital twins to make data-driven decisions and formulate effective policies. Service improvements and responsive governance are achievable through better insights and analysis provided by digital twins.

Examples of digital city projects

Barcelona

Barcelona launched an innovative IT strategy in 2011 to leverage technology to improve city operations, economic growth, and citizens' well-being. The city's approach included open data initiatives like the City Operating System (City OS) and the Smart Citizen platform providing accessible and transparent data and encouraging citizen engagement and safety.

Barcelona's smart city strategy also focused on sustainability, promoting initiatives like smart lighting, e-mobility, and energy efficiency. The city fostered collaborations with private and public partners, including companies like CISCO, IBM, and Philips, as well as research centers and international organizations. The strength of Barcelona's strategy lies in engaging all stakeholders and promoting continuous innovation.

Singapore

According to International Institute for Management Development's inaugural Smart City Index, Singapore is the most innovative city in the world. Singapore strives to achieve zero traffic congestion by implementing intelligent transportation systems. The city-state is focusing on digitalization and developing an efficient public transport network through the "Vehicle-to-Everything" (V2X) project, which aims to have all cars on its streets self-driving by 2025. As of today, students at the National University of Singapore are also ferried by self-driving shuttles. Experiments are also underway to enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, enhancing traffic management and road safety. By leveraging artificial intelligence and investing in sustainable infrastructure, Singapore aims to significantly reduce the number of road vehicles and create a more efficient urban mobility experience.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam City Hall is widely recognized as a leader in public-sector innovation, with cutting-edge initiatives on smart mobility, waste reduction, artificial intelligence, and more, as reported by Bloomberg Cities Network. The city has dedicated staff members responsible for identifying emerging technologies that can impact the city and create opportunities to serve residents better. The focus is leveraging technology for citizen participation and decision-making, safeguarding digital rights, and protecting vulnerable residents. For example, Amsterdam collaborates with ‘World Enabled’ to use AI and Google Street View images to identify accessibility barriers and improve the city's infrastructure.

The city is exploring the concept of a digital twin for Zuidoost, one of its largest neighborhoods dealing with high poverty and low economic welfare, to enhance its development and decision-making processes in urban planning. This technology allows Amsterdam to leverage data and digital tools to improve urban planning, housing development and engage residents to create a more sustainable and livable city.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro's Smart City Plan leverages information and communication technology, transforming the city through initiatives like the City Operations Center (COR) and the Integrated Center for Command and Control (CICC) for effective monitoring, emergency response, and coordination with various agencies like the Military Police, SAMU, fire emergencies, and state civil defense.

The plan also focuses on environmental preservation through the MonitorArRio Program, improving air quality, and the Program for Modernization of the Street Lighting Network, promoting energy efficiency with LED lights and solar energy solutions. The city also facilitates the seamless coordination between transportation systems by integrating data from multiple agencies, including BRT, MetrôRio utilities, and Supervia Urban Trains.

Helsinki

The Helsinki Innovation Districts Program was launched to test smart green solutions in the city’s neighborhoods. In one particular innovation district, Kalasatama, residents were involved in a co-development program to test and build green infrastructure using augmented reality (AR) available on the project’s mobile application, Green Kalasatama. Residents can place trees and shrubs in the neighborhood’s virtual environment to help visualize landscape designs before implementation.

The Helsinki Smart Region, an innovation hub in Finland, also encourages residents to collaboratively develop their city by providing open access to data like health statistics to 3D renderings or buildings.

Dubai and UAE

In recent years, urban planning in Dubai and across the UAE has faced a paradigm shift due to integrating the metaverse. This innovative blend of reality and virtuality is revolutionising urban infrastructure and transforming how people perceive public spaces. Through state-of-the-art digital technology, Dubai authorities strive to develop a sustainable and inclusive metaverse. However, while the futuristic allure is undeniable, there remain significant challenges. This dynamic interplay between physical and virtual spaces necessitates a new, critically informed approach to urban planning, promoting adaptability and inclusivity within the rapidly evolving urban fabric of the UAE.

Conclusion

The metaverse presents an extraordinary opportunity for smart cities to reimagine urban experiences, redefine service delivery, and engage residents in unprecedented ways. By harnessing virtual worlds, digital integration, and community collaboration, cities can embrace the metaverse to build more sustainable, inclusive, and connected urban environments. As cities evolve and adapt, the metaverse can shape the future of smart cities, revolutionizing how we interact with our urban surroundings and redefining the concept of urban living.

Are you looking to facilitate the implementation of smart city solutions? We can help build digital twins in the metaverse to help simulate, design and collaborate on city projects. Get in touch with us!

Jun 27, 2023

Martin Petkov

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter

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 ©️ 2023

Landvault · Wam Group

All rights reserved

Company

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

Copyright ©️ 2023 · Landvault · Wam Group · All rights reserved

Company

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

Copyright ©️ 2023 · Landvault · Wam Group · All rights reserved

Company