The Digital Twin of the city of Helsinki combines tools and data e.g. for visualising and analysing city infrastructure and functions for decision making. In Helsinki, the focus of the URBANAGE project has been on understanding accessibility issues and exploring opportunities to utilize citizengenerated data and open data from the city of Helsinki. This has meant e.g., focusing on exploring how to combine datasets to extend the Digital Twin and move beyond only visualisation but providing easy to use and valuable tools for data-analytics and quick assessment.
Participatory data collection
One objective of the project was to develop a tool for collecting place-based feedback and people’s perceptions on the urban environment and specifically in the URBANAGE context on accessibility issues. With the help from a local product developer, we came up with a few different design models for a physical device and through an agile design approach we started shaping the desired device model and functionalities. For any replication purposes, the device is modifiable. The devices were 3D printed and assembled by using easy access electronics. Further description of the process, required materials and labour will be provided later.
The outcome of the design process was a set of participatory data collection devices which are handled as a proof of concept for future efforts to collect citizen generated data and enable wider public participation in urban planning, urban regeneration and maintenance processes. One of the requirements for the device was to produce data that wouldn’t contain any personal data, and thus, the device only stores the button presses alongside with a device id, a time stamp and coordinates for the location. This data is automatically directed via LoRaWan to an open API for utilisation purposes.
Also, a browser-based application has been implemented alongside the physical device to enable wider participation and to compare the user experiences and preferences. This tool has been integrated to the URBANAGE platform and all collected data flows to the same API as from the physical devices.
Data visualizations and analytics
The collected data is visualized in the URBANAGE Digital Twin user interface. This user interface enables citizens and civil servants to explore the collected data in relation to e.g. urban infrastructure, condition data and existing city plans.
Additionally, to the data collected through the developed tools, project partners have identified methodologies to categorize and identify accessibility related information from the Issue Reporting API of the city of Helsinki. This API is connected to the URBANAGE platform where named entity recognition has been applied to identify specific feedback by utilizing a pre-existing language model. The data is categorized and visualized in a map viewer which enables users to adjust the view and explore the data specificities.
The Big Data Analytics dashboard of the URBANAGE platform allows users to categorize the data based on area division, type of analytics, status of issues and time range. Recently, a heatmap view was added to provide quick assessment of the distribution of reported issues. Additionally, the user interface allows downloading the data based on selected attributes. The data is delivered in xlsx format that can then be further analyzed by the user with other desktop programs.
Expanding the definition of Urban Digital Twin
The city of Helsinki’s Digital Twin consists of tools, data and 3D models. In URBANAGE, the main priorities have been in developing methodologies and tools to push the Digital Twin beyond 3D visualization of the city and explore opportunities to expand the variety of information that Digital Twin usually represents. Thus, we are testing collecting citizen generated feedback data and expanding the Urban Digital Twin to take into account also human perceptions and the participatory aspects of the city. Enabling citizens participation in and through Digital Twin can provide cities some valuable insights on accessibility issues and condition of urban environments which can then be taken into account in urban planning and decision making.