7. Dezember 2023

International Forum on Urban Digital Twins

A review of the International Forum on Urban Digital Twins at the Munich Urban Colab in September 2023: Everything concerning the topic of Urban Digital Twins.

One keynote, seven presentations, a Barcamp and more

That was the International Forum on Urban Digital Twins held on September 12, 2023 at the Munich Urban Colab. It was part of the 3DGeoInfo conference from September 12 to 14. The event was organized by the City of Munich in cooperation with the Technical University of Munich.


Beitrag auf YouTube ansehen

Event at the Munich Urban Colab

Foto: Chair of Geoinformatics, Technical University of Munich

“Lots of people talk about the potential of Digital Twins, but not many talk about the challenges.” (Filip Biljecki, National University of Singapore und Teilnehmender der Veranstaltung). In line with this motto, over 200 international participants gathered in Munich at the invitation of the GeodataService Munich in cooperation with the Technical University of Munich. The event was fully booked and enabled an interactive exchange on the topic of Urban Digital Twins between experts and interested guests from cities and municipalities, research and business from around the world.

„Before the conference, the International Forum on Urban Digital Twins was organised. A presentation by Jens Bartholmes from the European Commission was the keynote, next to many others from local governments (Barcelona, Helsinki, Munich, Utrecht, etc.), which were really cool. European tax payers - rest assured that your money is going into good stuff, at least when it comes to digital twins and 3D.“
(Filip Biljecki, National University of Singapore)

The International Forum was opened by Edwin Grodeke, Deputy Head of the Department of Communal Services, and Professor Thomas Kolbe from the Chair of Geoinformatics at the Technical University of Munich. In his welcoming speech, Grodeke emphasized the importance of the cooperation between the City of Munich and the Technical University of Munich as well as the topic of Urban Digital Twins in Munich. He also emphasized the particular relevance of the ASCEND project, which is funded by the European Union. Together with more than 40 partners from science, business and administration from 14 European countries, the City of Munich is working on energy-positive districts in the participating cities.

“The approach of using the Urban Digital Twin as a digital representation of the city for analysis, simulations, and what-if scenarios has gained traction in cities and municipalities. The City of Munich is a pioneer in this field on an international level. What sets it apart is that the GeodataService Munich is directly responsible for generating the data, thereby overseeing the entire process from data acquisition through to the Digital Twin."
(Edwin Grodeke, City of Munich)

After the opening there was a keynote presentation by Dr. Ing. Jens Bartholmes, Policy Officer at the European Commission on the topic "Positive Clean Energy District Digital Twins in the European Context". He started with the question “How can Urban Digital Twins support the transformation of districts and entire cities to climate neutrality and promote urban development?”

Presentations concerning the topic of Urban Digital Twins

This was followed by seven presentations from international and national speakers on various topics related to Urban Digital Twins:



„I really enjoyed the day and the opportunity to speak to different people and find out what’s going in Europe. I think it was an excellent event with a fantastic set of enthusiastic people joining it which always makes the difference! For me, it was very insightful to learn first hand what’s going on across different European countries and I hope it was useful to share our learnings from CReDo.”
(Sarah Hayes, CReDo, Connected Places Catapult, UK)

After the lunch break, the Barcamp started. Sessions on various topics were announced, giving participants the opportunity to spread out into the rooms of the Munich Urban Colab based on their personal preferences. A total of 13 different topics were presented, brainstormed and discussed. This led to intense and personal exchanges.

The results of the Barcamp sessions can be found here:


"We discuss the characteristics of a good strategy and how to apply these to a digital city strategy. In addition, we will examine the principles applicable in practical project work. The goal is also to openly share experiences from failed projects and learn from them. The reference target of the session are applied guidelines and experiences in Helsinki 3D+ work."

"In this BarCamp session, we will take a deep dive into the key question of one of the latest Horizon Europe projects “ASCEND”: clarifying the concept of digital ecosystems supporting positive clean energy districts. What are the differences for both the digital twin and a digital ecosystem in a positive clean energy district opposed to a conventional city district?[…]“

„New foundational AI models, advances in 3D Computer Vision as well as compute enable near real-time creation of accurate 3D digital twins. Combining large
language models with such data unlocks unprecedented insights through intuitive and automated analysis of complex data with an UI leveraging natural language. […]“

„How can we utilize Urban Digital Twins to make it easier for severely disabled citizens to live in the city and get around more easily? Accessibility (e.g. language) and urban development with heart!“

„A city is a complex system that involves many actors with different interests and information about the city's physical objects. Integrating information from distributed sources is therefore a common challenge in many smart city projects as well as in projects establishing Urban Digital Twins (UDT). In the context of distributed data infrastructures, metadata catalog systems make a significant contribution to data integration. […]“

„Digital evolution is still ongoing with a rapid paste. While currently cities begin to introduce and use the Urban Digital Twin new topics like City Information Modelling and Citiverse are already under discussion in various discussion groups or standardisation. What do you think if you hear citiverse and how does it fit to the needs of a city? Or - is it just another buzzword and the Urban Digital Twin is all we need?“

„We take you into the world of Netherlands 3D! The FAIR Digital Twin for everyone. https://3d.utrecht.nl/?project=Munchen is created with open code technology and we are working to introduce the whole of the Netherlands (and preferably Europe ;)) to this game oriented platform.“

„Urban digital twins are digital representations of the physical built environment that bring together many adjacent but distinct professional domains by creating relationships and streamlining workflows. Beyond the buzzword, urban digital twins, have practical application for asset management, design and engineering, spatial planning, and facility operations. This session will provide a fundamental overview of 3D data management, visualization, analysis capabilities, and practical advice for implementing your own digital twin.“

„What kind of Innovation and Research is most needed at the moment to advance urban (energy) digital twins? Which solutions can be repurposed ? How do you see replicability? Are there already clusters (forming?) Which facets can be best approached from a European (replication) perspective ?What are specific EU R funding needs?“

„Envision geospatial information, IoT sensor insights, and social interactions teaming up to create digital replicas that turn urban landscapes into vibrant living entities. Yet, here's our narrative's twist: we aren’t merely echoing that 'sensor data is crucial.' We're embarking on an investigative journey. Brace yourself to venture into real-world scenarios, using your own knowledge and examples, to uncover which data streams truly stand out in our regular encounters with digital twins. […]“

„We as humans perceive almost 80% of our environment through our eyes. We think, dream, and speak in pictures. Whether it's photos on social media or short
instruction videos on the web, we prefer simple, visually appealing content over long and complex texts in books or articles. Visual representation has become the most basic form of communication. Technological innovations continue to drive and accelerate this process. Parallel realities can be created through augmented (AR), virtual (VR), or mixed reality (MR). […]“

„In this session we will explore the deployment of Urban Digital Twins, from the point of view of Urban Planning. We would like to propose a simple 2-step exercise. In the first step which we will classify a variety of city "domains" (material, water, mobility, etc.). Then, in the second step, we will classify different city domains by assigning them different levels of maturity (virtual, connected, predictive and perspective). […]“

Barcamp, great idea to do a deep dive of the pitch we did in the morning. Thanks Markus and all of the team, for a great event in a magnificent city, with so many lovely people.

Arjan Koelewijn City of Utrecht


Foto: (C) empaworks

During the concluding get-together, the participants had the opportunity to network with each other over focaccia and refreshing beverages and to delve deeper into the topics from the presentations and Barcamp sessions.

The event demonstrated the significant interest in Urban Digital Twins and importance they have for cities, research and businesses. The exchanges between the participants were very important in this context.

The organization team

Foto: (C) empaworks

A big thank you to all speakers, participants and moderator Melitta Varlam. Many thanks to the entire organization team and the Technical University of Munich for the successful cooperation!

An article of:

Markus Mohl, 
GeodataService Munich, City of Munich

Eva Herrmann, 
External consultant from CGI, GeodataService Munich, City of Munich