NSW digital twin to play part in emergency planning

By Shannon Jenkins

December 16, 2020

Data61’s Mats Henrikson and NSW Spatial Services’ Bruce Thompson at the NSW Digital Twin launch. Source: CSIRO

The New South Wales government is updating its spatial digital twin so it can be used to help emergency services be more prepared for disasters, including bushfires, according to the CSIRO.

NSW’s digital twin — a virtual replica of a real-life object, process or system — was launched earlier this year in partnership with CSIRO’s Data61. The technology allows projects to be digitally planned before the physical work begins.

On Wednesday the national science agency announced that the digital twin’s capabilities would be boosted with a new 3D spatial dataset, which would map the locations of telecommunications towers and assets across the state.

This would allow emergency services to better protect these locations before and during a disaster, according to NSW Spatial Services executive director Bruce Thompson.

“The new dataset will inform emergency responders as to what telecommunications services are and are not accessible for operational use, what services are available to communities, and will help ensure residents have the greatest prospect of retaining communications and connectivity during a crisis,” he said.

Read more: NSW launches spatial digital twin

The CSIRO noted that the platform organises and visualises data from public agencies and the private sector, benefiting disaster planning, preparedness, response and recovery.

The NSW government’s independent inquiry into the 2019-20 bushfire season found that telecommunications was the service most valued by community members during the bushfires, and the impact of the loss of this service due to damage to telecommunications infrastructure “needs to be anticipated and prepared for”.

The inquiry had recommended that the building of the digital twin be accelerated so that the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) would have “authoritative guidance on which assets we want to protect from fire and where they actually are”.

Resilience NSW head and former NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said having a digital twin for communications infrastructure would mean emergency services can factor it into risk planning and annual treatments long before the fire season begins.

“There is nothing more powerful than the spatial layers to paint the picture about what’s at risk, so having access to the digital twin allows us to invest in preventive and mitigation strategies,” he said in a NSW Spatial Services video.

“In an unfolding emergency, like a bushfire, we can know in advance what’s likely to happen in that fire in the next few days, making sure we can shore up protection as much as we can.

“In the event that something is impacted, we can put in contingencies for servicing resupply and repair to get it back up and running as quickly as we can.”

Read more: Victoria to pilot digital twin program

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