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Work On NSW’s Digital Twin Surges Ahead

Image Credits: NSW Digital Twin, Website

A consortium headed up by an Australian telecommunications company will build out the NSW government’s spatial digital twin proof-of-concept in preparation for its planned state-wide expansion. The telecom has been tasked with developing the beta spatial digital twin (SDT) over the next year after scoring a $1.86 million contract with the spatial services arm of the Department of Customer Service (DCS). It will work with five partners, including an engineering consultancy, two geospatial services companies, a digital twin maker and a geospatial platform developer.

The SDT – a 4D model of buildings and utilities, strata plans, terrain and property boundaries that can be overlaid with real-time data – has existed as a proof-of-concept since debuting in February 2020. It currently covers eight local government areas comprising the Western Parkland City, Greater Parramatta and the Olympic Peninsula. NSW Spatial Services went looking for a provider – or consortia – in April to deliver the “technical components…. required to prove critical technical capabilities to [a] beta implementation”.

A DCS spokesperson stated that new capabilities to be developed include “self-service APIs, automated infrastructure data feeds and near real-time imagery and elevation data processing”. The capabilities will be developed for beta implementation to support the SDT business case currently under consideration, the spokesperson said.

Spatial Services began developing the business case in partnership with Ernst & Young earlier this year to enable the planned state-wide implementation. It followed a recommendation in the independent inquiry into the Black Summer bushfires that the government “accelerate” the build to support firefighting efforts in the future.

The report found the SDT could help the NSW Rural Fire Service to locate and protect critical assets like telecommunications towers and other utilities in remote areas. The telecom was one of the worst impacted infrastructure providers in the fires, with 329 facilitates – 70% of which were in NSW – suffering outages of four hours or more during the 2019-20 summer.

Spatial Services has also signed a $362,773 contract with CSIRO’s digital arm, Data61, to provide enhancements to the SDT, which is currently powered by Data61’s TerriaJS platform. Enhancements include increasing the range of supported data formats and “introducing user-controlled symbology and features for interacting with 3D data”.

The spokesperson added that future hosting, maintenance and development work on the [digital twin] by Data61 beyond June 2022 is yet to be considered. Earlier this year, Victoria also announced plans to build a state-wide digital twin, making it only the second state or territory to do so.

OpenGov Asia recently reported that the Victorian government has set aside A$ 35 million to build a state-wide spatial digital twin to inform planning decisions and investment. The region’s Planning Minister announced $35.2 million in funding for the digital replica of the southern state recently, with the platform to become widely accessible from late 2021.

Digital Twin Victoria, the three-dimensional data over time (aka 4D) model, will centralise spatial data to visualise the built and natural environments, including utilities and farmland. The platform will be used to “transform planning and unlock efficiencies from the start to finish of infrastructure projects”, as well as to monitor real-time feed data such as renewable energy capacity.

In doing so, the government and the industry will be able to “model different project scenarios, test the feasibility of proposals, troubleshoot potential issues and share complex information across sectors”.

Digital Twin Victoria will build on the digital twin created by Land Use Victoria and the University of Melbourne for the Fishermans Bend renewal project in 2019. The government has partnered with the CSIRO to develop the online platform that will host the digital twin using TerriaJS technology developed by Data61.

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