Digital urban planning for smart cities

Digital urban planning is key to creating smart cities

Combining Big Data, smart technologies and unprecedented accessibility, Digital Twins are reshaping city planning for the digital age.


Smart cities offer better use of space, less traffic and cleaner air, all of which increases quality of life. This makes digital urban planning and digitalization of cities inevitable. Indeed, it’s already happening across many aspects of our lives, from the beginnings of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to the emergence of the Internet of Things.

Described by professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, this digital revolution is “characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.”

These new spatial technologies are powered by Digital Twins. They enable us to plan, build, measure, manage and predict using real world data through digital platforms like Nomoko Platform and spatial services like 3D models. Making the physical world digital and interactive opens up many possibilities for the people, businesses and municipalities involved in shaping our cities to fundamentally change how they plan and work on projects.

What is digital urban planning?

In a few words, digital urban planning is the use of digital tools, assets, and innovational approaches to urban planning. The complexity of modern cities and issues like the housing shortage and climate change, require advanced data models and techniques and the active involvement of citizens, urban planners and stakeholders.

What is a smart city?

A smart city is one where both residents and municipal authorities have fast, reliable, and convenient access to an array of city-wide information services. These services address a range of aspects of everyday life, from typical e-government functions to traffic, water and energy control, waste management, surveillance, public announcements, and more.

The primary goal of a smart city is to leverage technology and data-driven insights to improve the quality of life for its residents, promote sustainability, and create a more efficient and effective urban environment that addresses the challenges of urbanization.

Secondary, but equally important, purposes include improving the accessibility of essential information and city services and promoting economic growth through deep process optimization at all levels, including city administration, public agencies, medical authorities, emergency services, businesses, and residents.

A smart city aims to create a more livable and inclusive urban environment by providing better access to essential services such as healthcare, education, and transportation, promoting sustainable practices such as reducing carbon emissions and conserving resources, and enhancing citizen engagement and participation in decision-making processes, leading to a more democratic and transparent governance structure aligned with the needs and priorities of its residents.

Why are the existing urban planning processes not suitable for the digital era?

Current urban planning and development processes are drawn out, laborious, time consuming and, at scale, prohibitively expensive. They are, typically, analog.

Let’s take as an example the process for submitting a building permit. But before you can apply for that permit, you’ll first need to check if any development falls within the relevant city’s planning guidelines, which will include an entirely different application process with its own sets of fees and rules to adhere to.

Once planning is granted, the building permit application requires the applicant to submit 150+ papers covering everything from multiple application forms for each relevant permit (they may be different for construction, plumbing, electrics etc) to detailed scale drawings, as well as reports on everything from energy usage to environmental impact. Once submitted, these physical papers and plans typically take three to five months to process for a decision – if everything goes smoothly.

Apart from the obvious problems such timescales and demand on resources can create, there are more pernicious side effects as well. Traceability of information and accountability of decision making is inevitably fractured, and that can lead to resubmitting applications at the cost of more time and money.

Overall, it is an approach and process entirely incompatible with the digital ecosystem the real estate industry is heading for. But by individually digitalizing different parts of the process – assets, formats, interoperability – we will over time create a homogenous digital whole that transforms the planning and development process from the ground up.

Digitizing 2D plans into 3D model

Digitizing 2D plans into 3D models helps digitalize the entire project planning process, which makes it cheaper, faster and more efficient

The importance of moving from analog 2D plans to digital 3D visions

A first obvious but exponential step is the transformation of working practices from 2D to 3D. The world around us is 3D, so operating in a 3D digital environment makes everything more natural, more realistic and more intuitive – it’s what we call ‘spatial context’.

Spatial context allows planners, architects and developers to visualize real estate projects in entirely new ways. And more importantly, it allows them to communicate those ideas clearly and effectively with their stakeholders – from the municipalities granting planning permissions to the communities they will directly affect.

This means making 3D models digital is equally as important – to facilitate that ease of sharing and communication. Creating a digital 3D model that’s shareable via a simple URL harmonizes and expedites the entire planning and applications process. Instant sharing with multiple stakeholders and urban planners, consolidated feedback and real-time updates are all now possible. Applications can be formatted and automated based on model data and multiple applications can be conducted concurrently rather than in a linear fashion. No more hazy paper trails, lack of accountability and inexplicable time delays.

PropTech, digital transformation and digital urban planning also enables another benefit that’s fundamental to maintaining a competitive and healthy commercial balance. It democratizes the planning and development process for all companies, big and small. 3D digital models are more affordable than physical models and the myriad paperwork they create. They are multi-purpose across a range of areas and outputs and can be reused over and over again, making them extremely cost effective. Accuracy and detail minimizes mistakes and rejections, which brings down fees. Suddenly, smaller developers can feasibly compete against industry giants on a level playing field.

Digital Twins empower digital urban planning, creativity and deliver certainty

Data-based, photorealistic, interactive, editable and able to update in real time where the data is available, Digital Twins are reshaping cities at every stage, from initial planning to ongoing management.

Digital Twin concept

Our 3D models incorporate layers of spatial, building and other types of data that add benefits for every stakeholder

Virtual experimentation and data-led decision making

Test and refine planning scenarios to optimize building location, layout, orientation and efficiencies. Incorporate CAD models to test designs and run ultra-precise simulations for everything from shadow casts to noise analysis, optimal solar panel allocation to 5G propagation.

Research and support for new initiatives

Experiment with and adopt new approaches to community-led living that offers better conditions to live, work and play and align them more easily with planners, municipalities and authorities to make buildings and cities more durable and sustainable.

One holistic platform as a single point of entry

Say goodbye to disparity, miscommunication and repetition. A Digital Twin is a single point of entry for everyone involved at every step of the process (from planners to managers) – all seeing the same version of the same thing represented at the same point in time.

Big Data made accessible, understandable and actionable

Tap into unlimited, trusted and verified data sets from a range of government and private sources. From cadastral, zoning and transport maps to highly detailed individual property information – floor plans, added floor potential, plot sizes, building orientation, historic retail and rental values, and development potential to name but a few.

Access and accessibility

Create realistic, interactive and easy-to-use 3D visualizations that give non-technical people the ability to interpret and understand plans and developments, even at scale. Incorporate terrains and scenarios that are hard to model in analog or 2D – bodies of water, vegetation, changing infrastructures.

Who can benefit from the digital urban planning processes?

For stakeholders across every part of the digital urban planning process, these attributes deliver immediate benefits.


Digital Twins are a critical enabler in the emergence of smart city initiatives. Governments can benefit from digital urban planning processes in several ways, including improved decision-making, enhanced collaboration, increased efficiency, better infrastructure, and economic growth. Digital tools provide governments with real-time data and insights, promoting collaboration among different government agencies, stakeholders, and communities, leading to better coordination of efforts and increased transparency. Administrative procedures can be streamlined, reducing bureaucracy and eliminating redundancies, leading to more efficient and cost-effective government operations.

Additionally, governments can design and implement better infrastructure, improve the quality of life for citizens, and promote sustainable development. By creating a more livable and sustainable urban environment, governments can also enhance the attractiveness of their cities to businesses, residents, and visitors. Overall, digital urban planning processes can help governments to create smarter, more efficient, and more sustainable cities that meet the needs of their citizens and promote economic growth.


One of the primary benefits of digital urban planning is improved efficiency. By streamlining administrative procedures and eliminating redundancies, digital tools can help municipalities reduce bureaucracy and increase cost-effectiveness. Better infrastructure, such as public transportation systems, waste management, and energy networks can be created, improving the quality of life for residents. Digital tools can also promote collaboration among different municipal departments, stakeholders, and communities, which can lead to better coordination of efforts and more effective engagement with residents.

Access to real-time data and insights allows municipal officials to make more informed decisions based on accurate and up-to-date information, leading to more effective use of resources, better planning, and improved service delivery. Additionally, digital urban planning processes can help municipalities understand the impact of projects on the environment and communities, promoting environmentally sound and socially responsible solutions for a more sustainable urban environment and a better quality of life for residents.


Digital urban planning processes can benefit architects in several ways. By integrating computer-aided design (CAD) models and designs into the planning process, architects can visualize, test, and plan projects more effectively. Outputs like orthophotos and flythrough videos can be shared instantly with stakeholders and clients, promoting transparency and collaboration.

In addition, digital twins can be created and reused on multiple projects, providing a platform for experimentation and innovation while reducing costs and risks. These tools allow architects to explore and test different scenarios, evaluate the feasibility of projects, and optimize designs for better performance, sustainability, and user experience. Overall, digital urban planning processes can improve the quality of architectural work, increase efficiency, and enhance communication and engagement with stakeholders.


By leveraging digital planning tools, real estate developers can streamline workflows, reduce costs, and increase efficiency, which can ultimately improve awareness and confidence. Collaborative feedback and concurrent applications can also promote transparency, accountability, and engagement, enabling stakeholders to provide input and feedback throughout the planning process.

In addition, digital urban planning processes can help developers better understand the impact of their projects on the environment and the community, which is becoming increasingly important for both regulatory compliance and social responsibility. By using data-driven insights and simulations, different scenarios can be evaluated and more informed decisions that balance economic, social, and environmental concerns can be made. Overall, digital urban planning processes can help real estate developers create more sustainable, efficient, and socially responsible projects, while reducing costs and risks.


Digital urban planning can offer residents an important benefit, which is improved awareness. This is possible through features like geo-visualization, analytical tools, and 3D information, which can help them gain a better understanding of their environment and the potential impact of urban planning decisions. This can empower opinions and create a channel to influence decision-making, allowing residents to play a more active role in shaping their communities.

Digital urban planning processes can also provide opportunities to enrich communities, by enabling better access to essential services, such as education, healthcare and transportation. By using data-driven insights and simulations, more efficient and effective systems that meet the needs of residents can be designed. By improving accessibility, reducing congestion, and promoting sustainability the residents have a better quality of life. Overall, digital urban planning processes can help create more livable, inclusive, and resilient cities that better serve the needs of their residents.


By taking advantage of real-time data and analytics, businesses can gain a better understanding of their environment, leading to more informed decisions regarding their operations. This information can be utilized to enhance specialized services, stabilize resource planning, and identify opportunities for growth.

In addition, digital urban planning can help to create a more efficient and connected city, which can benefit businesses in a variety of ways. For example, it can reduce traffic congestion and make transportation more efficient, which can save businesses time and money. It can also improve communication and collaboration between businesses, city agencies, and residents, which can lead to new partnerships and opportunities for growth. Overall, digital urban planning can help businesses to operate more effectively and efficiently, while also contributing to the development of a thriving and sustainable city.

Research community

With access to real-time data and insights, researchers can develop tools for multi-party collaboration, interoperability, deep analysis, and test bedding. Digital urban planning provides an opportunity to improve research and development processes and promote innovation.

Moreover, digital urban planning can help researchers better understand the impacts of urban planning decisions on communities and the environment. This can help guide research efforts and promote the development of solutions that address the challenges facing cities. With access to real-time data and analytics, researchers can make informed decisions and develop new tools and technologies to improve urban planning processes and promote sustainable urban development.

Nomoko is powering digital transformation in real estate

We’re already forging ahead with our spatial services and Nomoko Platform, providing cutting edge digital solutions to age-old problems for architects, planners, developers and municipalities. We believe truly transformative digitalization comes from a collaboration between public bodies and private organizations that can together deliver on the potential smart digital cities offer.

A digital twin representation used to model the infrastructure of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology

A screenshot of the 3D model of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) HQ in Luxembourg, captured and created by Nomoko

By collaborating with entities like LIST and Myni Gmeind, we’re exploring new use cases and applying Digital Twin technology in exciting and profound new ways. We participated in other areas too, such as the Swiss Blockchain Hackathon 2021 to find new ways to solve existing real-world challenges using cutting-edge blockchain protocols.

Want to find out how Digital Twins can reshape your digital planning processes to work smarter and build better?

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