A City-level Digital Twin Experiment – Understanding the Future of Journeys to Work in the Cambridge Sub-region

Funded by the Centre for Digital Built Britain

In 2016 there are 38% more people in work in the UK but 20% fewer commuting journeys per person per week than back in the mid-1990. This trend has often been attributed to a wide range of transformations regarding the nature of employment such as more part-time work, more people working from multiple places, increasing self-employment (e.g. the “gig” economy), etc. Such behavioural changes are complex and will have profound implications on how we plan, use and manage our future infrastructure. Another acute policy challenge is the widening social inequality and regional/sectoral disparity across UK cities – the prosperity of high-growth areas/sectors is not necessarily beneficial to the surrounding areas/the economy as a whole.

The digital twin has great potential bridging the gap by incorporating data and insights from multiple disciplines, which may enable all-around assessment of policy interventions and foster stakeholder debates over complex trade-offs. The research proposal represents a small but timely effort of exploring the wider implications of digital transformation on journeys to work through the development of a digital twin prototype that integrates data and insights from multiple disciplines related to city and infrastructure planning. The work programme includes three linked tasks:

  1. Review and reach out to related disciplines, for understanding the past trends of journeys to work in the Cambridge sub-region. The first task involves an extensive literature review on modelling journeys to work as a complex system, incorporating interdisciplinary insights.
  2. Develop a digital twin prototype for investigating the wider implications of digitalization on journeys to work for the Cambridge sub-region. This task aims to build a digital platform for demonstrating the multi-faceted influences of digitalization upon journeys to work through advanced data analytic and system modelling. The experiment will particularly focus on how the digitally-disadvantaged locations/social groups/employment sectors may be affected by the digitally-enabled changes in transport and future employment patterns.
  3. Engage with local authority and the wider spectrum of stakeholders to collect feedback on the design and future development of the digital twin prototype. This exercise allows the design of the digital twin prototype to be tested through serving the ongoing policy discussions in the Cambridge sub-region (e.g. reducing car use in journeys to work). The policy use experiment will be conducted within the Digital Cities for Chang (DC2) programme at the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC). The insights and feedback collected would inform the future development of city-level digital twin.