IoT in Government: How Government is Using Digital Twins

Digital twins are virtual, 3D representations of buildings, neighborhoods, or products built with real-world data collected from internet-of-things (IoT) devices like sensors, video cameras, and other enterprise data applications. These twins allow researchers, planners, and policymakers to experiment with changes to the object or environment to see if the desired results of that change are achieved. Applications include infrastructure improvement, sustainability planning, emergency response preparedness, and research and development. IoT in government is being driven by the results digital twins can achieve. One report showed that cities can expect to save $280 billion by 2030 with the deployment and use of digital twins.


The move to smart cities has introduced a wide variety of sensors that collect incredible amounts of data on the physical space of cities including how people move about, air quality, noise, and temperature. There is enough data available to build digital twins of the physical space. This allows for experiments in infrastructure planning. Boston's Planning and Development Agency has created a digital twin that maps the city's physical landscape, from water and sewer systems to tree canopies, to see how changes will affect a neighborhood. The city also used a digital twin to model the shadow that would be cast by a proposed building. Seeing it in the twin led authorities to modify the design.


Las Vegas is looking to use digital twins to model energy use, emissions, mobility and emergency management as part of meeting sustainability goals. The virtual world will "allow the city to review and experiment with the viability and validity of technology." They are using the digital twins to simulate and optimize large-scale building projects using automated real-time energy monitoring and geo-tagged smart data layers.

For broader sustainability efforts, researchers at the Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory built a digital twin modeling software suite that uses publicly available data to fully visualize energy details about every one of America's 129 million buildings. The tool, Automatic Building Energy Modeling, or AutoBEM could be used by urban planners and energy justice advocates to assess entire blocks and neighborhoods, pinpointing areas that have been historically overlooked in building improvement efforts.

Emergency Response

IoT sensors that monitor for flooding are helping cities become more predictive in their emergency management and response. In Cary, NC, water-level sensors send alerts when levels hit a certain threshold. The gauges provide minute-by-minute information that Cary officials can use to predict what areas might flood. They then use all of that data to make more immediate and impactful decisions about closing roads and rerouting traffic to prevent drivers from encountering floodwaters. This information also enables stormwater management system staff to make informed decisions about what steps to take in the event of a flood and begin to mediate issues before there is real damage.

Digital twins can also create models of a physical space that allow public safety officials to get a detailed look at interiors, buildings and neighborhoods to use for testing various safety scenarios.

Research and Development

Digital twins are also proving useful in research and development, particularly in the defense sector where products are expensive to build and update. Army researchers used a digital twin to look at new design options for gas turbine engines that could improve performance, efficiency, and reliability.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) is looking at digital twins to help improve weather forecasting. By integrating data from satellites and sensors, they can create a replica of the earth's environment from ocean to atmosphere to cryosphere all the way to space weather. With this common view, anyone in the climate field can access data on a specific region or time of day to help build better forecast models.

More IoT in Government

GovEvents and GovWhitePapers have a wide variety of IoT resources that delve into digital twin applications.

  • ATARC 2022 Health IT Virtual Summit (July 12, 2022; virtual) - Explore the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, what it means for agencies, and the steps needed to implement it. Speaker will discuss how they see the future of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan being strengthened by using data as well as what that will look like within the Federal Government.
  • IoT Tech Expo (October 5-6, 2022; Santa Clara, CA) - Explore the latest challenges, opportunities and innovations within the Internet of Things and the impact it has across industry sectors. Industry experts will explore and debate the technological advancements across the IoT ecosystem and beyond.
  • Defense Services Conference (October 20, 2022; Arlington, VA and virtual) - Engage with senior defense leaders on the evolving threat environment and the changing requirements to deliver innovative and impactful solutions for the warfighter.
  • IoT World (November 2-3, 2022; Austin, TX) - Highlighting the intersection of AI and IoT, a key theme is a discussion about the next wave of secure, connected IoT environments.
  • Digital Twin Cities: Framework and Global Practices (White paper) - This report puts forward a "4+5" framework and policy recommendations for the development of digital twin cities based on effective practices around the world.
  • Smart Cities and Communities: A Key Performance Indicators Framework (White paper) - This publication presents research findings and scientific work that advance the development and progression of smart city and community measurement methodology and introduces a measurement framework for assessing the direct and indirect benefits of smart city technologies.

Continue checking GovEvents and GovWhitePapers for more insight on IoT in government. Events and resources are added daily.

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