Virtual Bradford - Digital Twin

Why is this important?

Virtual Bradford is an ambitious project to virtually ‘clone’ Bradford city centre ‘brick for brick’ to create a 3D hi-resolution copy of the city centre, with the aim to expand the area in the future across the rest of the city. The project is a collaboration between the University of Bradford (UoB) and the Council and is part of the EU funded Smart Cities Open-data Re-use (SCORE) project, which aims to improve public service through smart open-data solutions.

The benefit of ‘Virtual Bradford’ will be to support various strategic priorities for the Council, including urban civic planning, improve traffic management, support the modelling of air quality, flood risk and noise pollution.

It will act as a catalyst to fulfil our clean growth agenda, and by being able to simulate the physical world of Bradford, the digital twin will help better utilise resources, reduce carbon emissions, optimise supply and transportation networks, understand and predict energy consumption and emissions.

It will also highlight the heritage of the city and its benefit to enhancing education, tourism and fostering civic pride. The virtual online model will be open source (or copyright free), meaning anyone can use it in their designs. For example, a games manufacturer could use it to create something interactive. The uses are limitless, from virtual heritage walks to ‘virtual’ shopping. There is no vendor lock in.

All the data will be provided through the Open Government Licence and the code for the open source platform that will be used to share the data will be made freely available on GitHub (open source development platform).

Unimpeded access to the digital twin will help to stimulate growth, regeneration and innovation in and for Bradford. Because the data is going to be made freely available to anyone, the uses are only limited by one’s imagination.

The digital twin makes it possible to design and test city operations virtually before changing the real city environment. This type of policy-supporting instrument helps to make complex urban issues more comprehensible. It is also a suitable instrument for co-creation and collaborative decision-making and contributes to improving citizen engagement.

Virtual Bradford will also transform how people interact with the city - businesses could open virtual shops, allowing customers to browse virtual aisles, artists could install virtual exhibitions.

The development and adoption of Virtual Bradford digital twin will be integral to our ability to confront grand challenges, such as delivering locally on net zero 2050 objectives, reducing social inequalities, and driving R&D-led clean growth.

Where are we now?

The online clone includes most of the city centre but the virtual landscape will be expanded in future across the rest of the city with the Southern Gateway a priority development area. Data from 100km of streets has already been captured to create the first digital twin of the city, capable of showing accurate levels of detail for the built environment in 3D.

The University have already secured additional funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council and Research England to complement and build upon the pump-priming from the EU-SCORE project.

This was followed by the recent announcement of the award of the Queen's Anniversary Prize presented at Buckingham Palace in February 2022.

What is our ambition?

Our ambition is to capture all of the district’s towns and villages into the Digital Twin application which is used by many stakeholders to stimulate clean growth, regeneration and innovation in and for Bradford District.

What are we going to do?

  1. The Council will contribute further investment to assist in expansion of the digital twin modelling across the district, procure technical infrastructure and link it into the emerging smart place development programme
  2. Organise workshops with key stakeholders, particularly University Immersive Technology Team to review Digital Twin work to date and define the vision and purpose of the Digital Twin application for Bradford
  3. Develop joint publicity with the University that draws upon the recent announcement of the award of the Queen's Anniversary Prize to be presented at Buckingham Palace in February 2022.
  4. Develop a business case for capital programme investment on a roadmap for the Digital Twin platform based on the Gemini principles and establish a 3-year investment programme.
  5. Identify options for embedding digital within the Local Plan and the Local Infrastructure Plan so that it becomes an effective planning tool for the development of Bradford including designated areas for test beds as well as wider policies across the district over and beyond permitted development.
  6. Establish the redevelopment of the Southern Gateway area as the city’s digital demonstrator and link into the Digital Twin
  7. Building on the Digital Twin initiative, develop 3D modelling process for brownfield sites, design and adopt an approach and framework for Digital Master - planning to encourage developers to adopt
  8. Extend access to Digital Twin application to businesses and citizens for them to create their own content and extract value from the application to promote the town centre and economic growth
  9. This includes: People, Heritage & Place - Using Heritage to enhance community and wellbeing in Saltaire, Bradford. This Collaborative Knowledge Exchange Project on the Theme of Place will expand Virtual Bradford to digitally document Saltaire World Heritage Site and will digitally connect the two via the Canal Road Greenway/ Leeds-Liverpool Canal to signpost active travel
  10. The Virtual Bradford initiative, together with the investment in IoT and 5G, provides a solid foundation of core capabilities for Smart City intelligent planning. It will provide a dynamic data connection between the physical twin and the digital twin. How this data is updated between the physical and the digital will vary. The complexity will relate to the requirements, the level of data access, the physical situation and the business case. In time, algorithms and ultimately Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be applied to make the digital twin more sophisticated, more automated and to provide further insights.
  11. Together with UoB, the Council will develop a clear plan and roadmap to foster the environment for the development of scalable, extensible, and interoperable digital twin

5 years on

What does ‘good’ look like?

The Digital Twin application provides a 3D model of the whole district, and is now having a profound impact on a number of fields, from local architecture and urban development

to healthcare, manufacturing and achieving sustainability goals. Its open source platform has allowed it to be picked up and embedded by third parties to support their product and commercial developments.