Digital Twins for Cities: A State of the Art Review
Journal article, 2020

During the last decades, a variety of digital tools have been developed to support both the planning and management of cities, as well as the inclusion of civic society. Here, the concept of a Digital Twin – which is rapidly emerging throughout many disciplines due to advances in technology, computational capacities and availability of large amounts of data – plays an important role. In short, a digital twin is a living virtual model, a connected digital representation of a physical system and has been a central concept in the manufacturing industry for the past decades. In this article, we review the terminology of digital twins for cities and identify commonalities and relations to the more established term 3D city models. Our fi ndings indicate an increasing use of the term digital twin in academic literature, both in general and in the context of cities and the built environment. We fi nd that while there is as yet no consensus on the exact defi nition of what constitutes a digital twin, it is increasingly being used to describe something that is more than a 3D city model (including, e.g. semantic data, real-time sensor data, physical models, and simulations). At the same time, the term has not yet replaced the term 3D city model as the most dominant term in the 3D GIS domain. By looking at grey literature we discuss how digital twins for cities are implemented in practice and present examples of digital twins in a global perspective. Further, we discuss some of the application areas and potential challenges for future development and implementation of digital twins for cities. We conclude that there are signifi cant opportunities for up-scaling digital twins, with the potential to bring benefi ts to the city and its citizens and clients.

Urban management

urban planning

Built environment


Urban development

Smart city

Digital twin

Citizen engagement

3D city model

Virtual city




Bernd Ketzler

Stiftelsen Chalmers Industriteknik

Vasilis Naserentin

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

Fabio Latino

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Urban Design and Planning

Christoforos Zangelidis

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Architectural theory and methods

Liane Thuvander

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Architectural theory and methods

Anders Logg

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

Built Environment

0263-7960 (ISSN)

Vol. 46 4 547-573

Digital Twin Cities Centre

VINNOVA (2019-00041), 2020-02-29 -- 2024-12-31.

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Civil Engineering

Other Social Sciences



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