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City as a stress factor: potential for improvement with the digital twin

May 3, 2023

How cities of the future can become more sustainable and stress-free through technology

  • 84 percent of people living in big cities feel stressed by infrastructure and mobility issues
  • Around a third (34 percent) are considering moving to another neighbourhood due to city stress - 27 percent even to the countryside
  • The majority of the metropolitan population (64 per cent) is willing to provide their data anonymously in order to mitigate urban stress factors based on technology

Ismaning, 3 May 2023. The city - vibrant, diverse and exciting, or just stressful? A recent study by the IT and consulting company msg shows that big-city stress can actually be a trigger for leaving the city. In it, residents of major German cities provide information about the stress factors of city life.
The factors that stress most people in large cities relate to the infrastructure and mobility of cities and were named by around 84 per cent of respondents. Specifically, in this category, traffic jams and crowded roads are major stressors for more than half of city dwellers (around 53 percent), as are the number and noise of construction sites (around 51 percent).
Furthermore, a total of three out of four respondents (75 percent) identify stress factors in their immediate environment: more than half (around 51 percent) feel stressed by noise pollution. But also the increasing heat load in summer (about 39 percent) as well as high air pollution (about 38 percent) and cramped living conditions (about 31 percent) are perceived as stress factors.
Already today, about one third of the respondents (about 34 percent) would be willing to move within the city in order to reduce stress factors for themselves. Twenty-seven per cent would leave city life behind altogether.

Identifying potential for improvement with the digital twin

Dr Stephan Melzer, Executive Vice President Industry at msg, also emphasises that certain conditions in large German cities can be improved and cities can be made "smarter": "Large cities are changing, life in cities is changing. Mobile working is now normal for many people, while others drive to their place of work every day. Our cities must therefore become smarter and satisfy these individual needs. Individual traffic, for example, must be more equalised. For this, however, it is necessary to create transparency. Transparency about traffic as a whole, but also about individual journeys. And that can only be done through digital instruments and data sovereignty."
Much of the necessary data is already being collected on a daily basis, for example through automatic meters at tunnel entrances or traffic lights. According to Melzer, in order to turn cities into real smart cities for the benefit of the citizens, the collected data should flow into a networked system. With such data ecosystems, it would then be possible to create not only simulations of individual crowded street intersections, but a digital model of an entire city - a so-called digital twin.
"This can then create real two-way transparency," Melzer continues. "There are already many approaches to how digital technologies can make our living spaces smarter. Standards and standardisation are important here, so that cities and their inhabitants retain sovereignty over their data and platforms are interoperable. msg actively supports this, for example, through the development of national smart city standards."

What data big city dwellers would make available

Whether metropolitan residents would also share their personal data anonymously to help identify and mitigate urban stressors is also revealed by the survey results: A majority of the metropolitan population (around 64 percent) would generally be willing to share data for this purpose. However, more than a third of the respondents (around 36 percent) reject sharing completely.
Not all data is the same: Around 39 percent of respondents would share data on their transport routes with both private and public transport. Only 25 percent would share data on details of their own home, such as water consumption, living space or temperature, and only about 19 percent would share bio-data such as pulse, heart rate and rhythm. Overall, it is evident that digital natives and younger generations are more willing to share their data for optimisation purposes than the older urban population.

Who is the master of data in the smart city?

Whether personal or public data - on the way to the smart city, the question arises as to how data is handled in a networked ecosystem so that no dependencies arise. "Smart cities are a prime example of decentralised platforms. Here, there cannot be one 'master of the data'," says Dr Stephan Melzer and adds: "We need other solutions for data sovereignty among equals, for example in the sense of a DAO - a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation. That way, collaboration works in a technically secure and traceable way."

About the survey
The data used is based on a population-representative online survey conducted by the market research institute INNOFACT AG on behalf of msg, in which a total of 1,028 adults living in a major German city with a population of 100,000 or more took part between 4 and 6 April 2023. The survey examined the stress factors that residents of large cities are confronted with and the strategies they use to counter them. Furthermore, it was investigated whether the participants would provide data to identify stress factors in the city in order to initiate improvements.

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