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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article26 June 20202 min read

Six European cities to experiment with 'digital twins' for urban logistics

A Horizon 2020-funded project aims to create 'digital twins' of urban logistics networks in six European cities in order to support the experimentation and decision making with on-demand logistics operations in a public-private urban setting. The project that will be doing this is called LEAD, which stands for Low-Emission Adaptive last mile logistics supporting 'on Demand economy' through digital twins. 

The dawn of on-demand logistics poses many challenges to operators, which are struggling to accommodate customers' expectations for responsive logistics systems that deliver products at low or even zero cost. Such is the case for small and large-scale consumer platforms, that pledge swift delivery times with little economic incentive for the creation of sustainable systems. The so-called “Uberisation of logistics” is putting increased pressure on cities, which are now facing potentially negative consequences from this phenomenon, alongside the unpredictability of market developments.

That is where the concept of 'digital twins' comes in. These consist of a 3D digital replica of a complex real-world urban environment and represent different processes, actors, and their interactions. The virtual version of the model reproduces its physical counterpart in a realistic, complex and dynamic way.

Initially developed as a supportive element in the processes of product lifecycle management in manufacturing, 'digital twins' are becoming increasingly popular for predictive urban planning. Interactive platforms capture and display the 3D urban environment via real-time data feeds, to improve planning ranging from long-term infrastructure investments to near-real-time service operations. The 'digital twin' evolves with the city by collecting data from a variety of sources and by receiving real-time city data through sensors. Changes within the real-world automatically update the virtual models through online processes.

LEAD will create 'digital twins' of the urban logistics networks in six cities (Madrid, The Hague, Budapest, Lyon, Oslo and Porto) in order to test and represent different innovative solutions for city logistics and to address the requirements of the on-demand economy, while aligning competing interests and creating value for all different stakeholders. The 'digital twin' for each Logistics Living Lab will work as a virtual ‘living’ equivalent of the intervention area, integrating data sources, and allowing the modelling of possible strategies to deal with problems before and as they occur.

This process will enable the development of a wide variety of solutions for shared, connected, and low-emission logistics operations, driven by an approach to adaptive and 'digital twins' models. These agent-based models will enable stakeholders in the field of urban logistics to recognise their roles and business models, as well as all of the relevant operational, tactical and strategic decisions in these 'digital twins', reflecting value cases from the real-life urban situation.

In the long run, LEAD seeks to design an open physical internet-inspired framework for smart city logistics in order to lay the foundations for the deployment of large-scale 'digital twins'.

The LEAD project was launched during an online kick-off meeting on 8-9 June 2020 and is coordinated by EMT Madrid and involves 27 partners, from 9 European countries, as well as the USA and China, which represent the complete value chain of actors including city and logistics stakeholders, research organisations and SMEs.



Publication date
26 June 2020
  • Urban freight/city logistics
  • Europe-wide