Chicago Digital Twin

“Make no little plans. Think big” was David Burnham’s famous quote after he set about to rebuild the city of Chicago after the great fire of 1871.

In a similar vein, our intent in this project, the Chicago Digital Twin, is to create a physical and virtual 3D rendering of the Chicago skyline that includes augmented reality features and superposed real-time information. This will help better planning of transportation grids and infrastructure rebuilds, enable green and reusable energy, exploit adjacencies for horizontal integration of services, and showcase before and after scenarios in a dynamic setting. It will contribute to increased resource efficiency and help to achieve circular economic models. This will result in plan validation, implementation speed, cost savings and collaborative solutions of large ESG initiatives.

The idea of creating a digital twin of the Chicago skyline with augmented reality features and real-time information is ambitious and has the potential to revolutionize urban planning and development. By integrating data and technology into the planning process, it will be possible to achieve more efficient use of resources, improve sustainability, and reduce costs.

Overall, the Chicago Digital Twin project has the potential to be a game-changer in urban planning and development. By thinking big and embracing new technologies, it is possible to create a more sustainable, efficient, and livable city for all residents.

Our intent is to showcase the art of the possible by combining it with the science of engineering to create a digital and technological representation of a large environs – in this case the City of Chicago – to enable similar such undertakings in smart city, transportation and space research endeavors.



A digital twin can be used to simulate and test different scenarios, allowing for more informed decision-making and a better understanding of the impact of proposed changes. This can help ensure that infrastructure and transportation systems are designed to be more resilient and adaptable to future challenges, such as climate change and population growth.

The integration of green and reusable energy sources can help reduce the carbon footprint of the city, while horizontal integration of services can improve efficiency and reduce waste. By showcasing before and after scenarios in a dynamic setting, stakeholders can better understand the potential benefits of proposed changes, leading to increased buy-in and support for large-scale ESG initiatives.

The Chicago Digital Twin project will have multiple applications in urban planning, such as:

  • transportation optimization,
  • infrastructure improvement, and
  • green energy initiatives, and
  • the additional benefit of improved emergency services.

Modeling and visualization of potential initiative outcomes before they are implemented will enable better decision-making and more efficient use of resources are some of the salient features of the Chicago Digital Twin. Additionally, through its augmented reality features, city planners will be able to access real-time information to make informed decisions. This will help create the shift to a more sustainable urban environment and reduce the cost of projects. Finally, as a virtual tool, the Chicago Digital Twin will facilitate collaboration between city departments, businesses, and citizens improving communication and problem-solving.


Based on the Climate Infrastructure Fund by the Department of Planning and Development of City of Chicago requirements, we propose a Digital Twin to facilitate electric mobility by building a cyber-physical model of the City of Chicago. This would enable an interactive rendition of various historical and real time information that can be superimposed into dashboards, mobile applications and physical models of the city to facilitate infrastructure build. It will also feed from and to supplementary applications to enable a holistic view and support the basis for a circular economy.


Digital twins are built on the core concept of a digital equivalent for a physical entity. From automotive to agriculture, every enterprise interaction with their customers involves physical entities. Digital twins are paving the path for enterprises to bring the benefits of the software world onto the physical assets – providing an opportunity to better serve the needs of the digital customers.

At Numorpho Cybernetic Systems (NUMO), our basis is to understand cause and effect by assimilating digital twins and their associated digital threads (data and information lineage) to automate, harmonize, and optimize operations. This will enable robust digital strategies and provide for actionable outcomes.


In this thesis, we discuss the intersection between electrification, urban mobility & transportation, and the environment, the three verticals indicated in the RFP, and apply a scientific, technology oriented and data-centric approach to explore the current challenges and offer compelling solutions.

Our proposal will be “Chicago Digital Twin model to facilitate electric mobility” including:

  • Micro-mobility or personal active transportation – the ecosystem for electric bikes and narrow/thin transportation,
  • Macro-mobility – the ecosystem for transit vans, electric buses, mobile homes, campers, and RVs, and
  • Hyper-mobility or urban air mobility – the ecosystem for drones, air taxis and future air transportation utilizing e-VTOLs.

It includes the infrastructure to support them and the adjacent services that will be needed to provide for and utilize them. This will be based on our theme – Everything Connected.

By focusing on micro-mobility, macro-mobility, and hyper-mobility, our proposal aims to address a wide range of infrastructure needs, transportation modes and use types.

One key aspect of facilitating electric mobility will be the development and deployment of the necessary infrastructure to support these modes of transportation. This includes charging stations for EVs, as well as the infrastructure needed for package delivering drones and air taxis, such as landing pads and maintenance facilities. It will also be important to consider how these different modes of transportation can be integrated into the overall transportation network, including how they can connect with traditional modes of transportation including public transit.

In addition to infrastructure, it will also be important to consider the adjacent services that will be needed to support and utilize these modes of transportation. This can include things like rental and sharing programs, maintenance and repair services, and insurance. It will also be important to consider how these services can be made accessible and convenient for users, and how they can be integrated into the overall transportation ecosystem.

Overall, our proposal to facilitate electric mobility has the potential to significantly improve urban mobility and transportation while reducing environmental impacts. By considering the needs of a wide range of transportation modes and users, and by focusing on the development of necessary infrastructure and adjacent services, we can help to create a more sustainable and integrated transportation system for the future.

In Phase I (this phase) we build the foundational elements of the Chicago Digital Twin. Phase II onward will correspond with key vertical initiatives in the 3 legs of the Chicago Recovery Plan to build out the required services and horizontal integration between them using simulation, proactive data analysis and intelligent agents to further enable planning activities and coordination between teams.

PHASE I  will be divided into the following five constructs:

  1. Build a 1:200 scale model of the city using GIS based mapping programs for defining the extent of the smart city urbanification program. Other smaller scale models (S and M) will also be built to summarize our larger build and show the extent of the project, the partnerships and the vendor tools we will use in the course of the project.
  2. Include 3D printed models for key buildings and structures. The printing of the models could be accomplished in organizations like the mHUB, the Richard Daley Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing Institute or in high schools with participation from the community and the students.
  3. Create virtual renderings of new/missing buildings using AR/VR to digitally represent these structures using mobile or virtual headset devices. This would enable us to view the city in past, present or future contexts.
  4. Correspond with the teams working on the vertical initiatives and integrate adjacent apps pull-push information horizontally for better support and commercial basis. These could be a geographical view of EV charging locations, real time CTA transport view, street congestion maps and other virtual incident/condition reports.
  5. Enable introspection (inside view of built-up areas) of existing and new infrastructure by linking to dynamically stitched images and video files. This will enable virtual navigation and other immersive engagements.

We will be integrating software and applications from:

  • Snazzy Maps for a clean theme-based customization of Google Maps for the cartography,
  • What3Words for a more resolute 10×10 ft pixelation of map coordinates to enable precise locations,
  • CyberCity3D for the 3D STL files of the buildings of Chicago that we will use both to physically print and well as virtually render based on mode of use,
  • Unity/UrsaLeo/PTC Vuforia for AR/VR renderings of buildings using their STL files and other dynamic information inclusions, and
  • Matterport for dynamic walk thru rendering of built-in spaces.

and others.

We plan to utilize the rich ecosystem that Chicago provides for the underpinnings of this project. The details of the service providers, tools and partnerships that we are developing are detailed in the subsequent section related to this. The project will be undertaken at our location in the mHUB and we plan to accomplish Phase 1 by August 15, 2023.

Our city model will serve as a cyber-physical dashboard for all the needs to build a smarter city, manage its process and maintain it when in operations. Digital replicas of the above would be created and distributed to key government and local establishments. This will also aid in adverse circumstances to assist first responders, including Police, Fire, EMS and other city departments, during active crises.

We will follow a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) based agile approach to achieve the 5 constructs of this phase. Subsequent phases will deal with adding more functionality, connecting with more services and enabling scenario-based simulation of events.


We will create a rending of the Chicago skyline complete with cartography, 3D printed cityscaped buildings and augmented reality renderings. This will not only serve as an architectural model but also include cyber-physical interactions using digital technology to overlay contextual and real-time information using cellular phones, tablets, and AR/VR glasses driven by an app.

We will plan to create these models in three sizes, each having a different mode of view. The S and M models will serve as coffee table informational artifacts, while the L model will showcase the full extent of the digital twin.

  • Small (8×10 inch) – This will be a one 3D-print rendering of the landscape of Chicago, in its entirety, to showcase the extents of the complete DPD planning that would serve as the basis of the effort and a marketing swag.
  • Medium (11×14 inch) – One side of this would be an orange-green chess board showcasing all the organizations, companies and partner toolsets engaged in this effort, while the other side will have a cartographic map of the extents of the plan with key markers, and an initial basis to include augmented reality features.
  • Large (5×6.5 ft) – This would be an architectural rendering of the city of Chicago with dynamic capabilities to introspect and render different historical and real time information using cell phones, tablets and AR glasses.


Depicted below is the grouping of the partnership model into four quadrants of a chess board. They consist of:

  1. Chicago Government and Local Institutions
  2. Geographic Map and GIS Companies
  3. Manufacturing and Space Technologies
  4. Physical 3D Models and AR/VR Companies


The chess grid below indicates the organizations, tools and partnerships we are building for this project:


1. Chicago Government and Local Institutions

DPD – Department of Planning and Development

As the principal planning agency for the City of Chicago, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) promotes the comprehensive growth and sustainability of the City and its neighborhoods. The department also oversees the City’s zoning and land use policies and employs a variety of resources to encourage business and real estate development, historic preservation, accessible waterfronts, walkable neighborhoods, and related community improvements.

Chicago Data Portal

The City of Chicago’s open data portal lets you find city data, lets you find facts about your neighborhood, lets you create maps and graphs about the city, and lets you freely download the data for your own analysis. Many of these datasets are updated at least once a day, and many of them are updated several times a day.

Array of Things

AoT is “an urban sensing project, a network of interactive, modular sensor boxes that will be installed around Chicago to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. It will essentially serve as a ‘fitness tracker’ for the city, measuring factors that impact livability in Chicago such as climate, air quality and noise.”

While sensors are not uncommon to cities, AoT is the first project of this scale and level of specificity. AoT’s sensor boxes – or nodes – consist of protective shields with up to 15 sensors, a computer, two cameras, a microphone, and even a cooling fan. When fully implemented, AoT will consist of 500 of those sensor boxes across the city.

Chicago Smart Lighting Program

Chicago is undertaking one of the largest street lighting modernization programs in the country. Its goal is to provide better quality, more reliable outdoor lighting for Chicago.

The City of Chicago is installing better quality, more reliable LED light fixtures on streets, alleys and viaducts to increase safety, reduce energy costs and improve the environment.

The city-wide lighting initiative will replace over 270,000 existing outdated High Pressure Sodium (HPS) light fixtures with new energy-efficient LED lights and create a modern lighting management system to streamline maintenance and repairs.

Chicago Health Atlas

The Chicago Department of Public Health and PHAME Center at UIC believe data should be accurate, transparent and easy to understand. We created the Chicago Health Atlas so that you can review, explore and compare health-related data over time and across communities. In addition, the Chicago Health Atlas provides a place for residents to see our progress implementing Healthy Chicago, the citywide plan to improve health equity.



1. MODEL SMALL – This represents the highest level view of the City in its entirety.

2. MODEL MEDIUM – This would allow the user to focus on more specific parts of the City – like neighborhoods – to better see detail associated with that area.

3. MODEL LARGE – This would create an even more detailed view of the city with AR features superimposed real time information to be overlayed onto the part of the City in question



  1. Asset Library – Build a repository of STL assets for the full cityscape models and the buildings taged with the tile location and other geomarkers that they exist in. A database schema will be created to appropriately point and get the right STL asset for virtual depiction. Similarly, logos of companies will be stored for similar URL invocations.
  2. Full City projections – For the physical representations in the Model Small of the full cityscape, STLs will be used to depict virtual images to showcase the Digital Twin context.
  3. Logo Image Mapping – Companies in the Chess Board of Model Medium will be mapped to URLS to enable camera link via ap
  4. Neighborhood Mapping – Neighborhoos in the Model Medium will be mapped to appropriate URLs
  5. Building Virtual Projections – Based on the pattern of the footprint of building outline, they will be projected in Augmented reality.


Imagining the future requires intense planning. In today’s world we need to link and intertwine heterogeneous systems, make them interoperable, aggregate data, and provide pertinent information at the right time and the right place with flexibility and ease of use. The events of 2020 and the COVID pandemic debacle taught us that we weren’t prepared and caught the world off guard. It has in no small measure changed the footprint of our step in our progress as a civilization. It has defined new knowns and created more unknowns. It has made the case for good and thorough planning ever so pertinent.

As we work on this project to digitize Chicago in Phase 1, it subsequent versions and others, we will involve local schools and communities alike to build our workforce. We will help local small businesses thrive by being digitally connected to the surroundings and be able to have commercial transactions that pull/push information so that we achieve a cooperative basis to evolve smart city tenets.

This will start with analyzing the existing infrastructure, processes, and customer relationships. We will look at the current digital infrastructure and invest in modernizing it to meet the needs of a digital infrastructure and digital economy. We will build a network of digital services, including IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) that are connected in real time and are able to provide data driven solutions to city problems. We will also build a platform to enable and facilitate digital transactions, such as digital payments, digital contracts, and digital signatures. The platform will also enable the city to collect data on city services, such as transportation, energy usage, healthcare, and education, and use this data to improve services and provide better insights.

Finally, we will use the platform to build a network of digital services, such as virtual assistants, smart buildings, and autonomous vehicles, that are connected in real time and are able to provide data-driven solutions to city problems. These projects will help create more jobs, reduce costs, and improve the quality of life for citizens. In addition, they will create a more connected and efficient city, which will improve economic development and have a positive impact on the environment.

Overall, this project will be an important step in the direction of creating a digital, smart city in Chicago, that is secure, efficient, and sustainable. It will provide the foundation for future initiatives and will ensure that Chicago is well-prepared for any future challenges.

Our ambition is to leave a lasting impact on people by building a portfolio that is not only solely driven by standard measurable KPIs but also by empathy, usability, sensibility, passion and purpose. These ROIs are immeasurable yet invaluable considerations to justify our existence and progression as a company. To this end we commit to assembling an awesome team of diverse individuals whose achievements and talents will enable us to achieve a hockey stick growth during our formative years and be a recognized world leader in 5 years.

And Chicago will be the beginning of our journey.


Proper planning is the basis for for all ESG initiatives. Without it, it is impossible to know whether an ESG initiative is meeting its goals and objectives. Planning begins with understanding the organization’s current ESG position and setting specific goals and objectives. From there, a plan should be developed that outlines the steps needed to reach the desired outcomes. This includes identifying strategies and tactics, setting timelines, and allocating resources. It is also important to have a system in place to monitor progress and adjust the plan as needed.

The environment benefits of the Chicago Digital Twin project are multifold. First, it will provide a platform to monitor and manage the city’s energy consumption, waste management, and air pollution. This will help the city better understand and manage its energy use, reduce emissions, and conserve resources. Second, it will enable the development of smart city services, such as autonomous vehicles and smart buildings, that will reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. Third, it will enable the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, that are clean, renewable, and cost-effective. Finally, it will provide the city with the ability to track, monitor, and manage its carbon emissions in order to reduce its carbon footprint. The ultimate goal of this project is to improve the environment and create a more sustainable city.

These can be summarized in the following bullet points:
– ascertain congested areas in the city.
– detect and respond to safety hazards.
– identify and mitigate environmental risks.
– optimize public services and amenities.
– help identify and promote development opportunities.
– improve efficiency of public transportation.
– support public health initiatives.
– identify energy savings opportunities.
– improve air quality.
– reduce waste and emissions.
– help manage and monitor water levels.
– help optimize stormwater management.


The Chicago Digital Twin project is an ambitious plan to create a 3D rendering of the city skyline with augmented reality features and real-time information. This will help in better planning of transportation grids and infrastructure rebuilds, enable green and reusable energy, exploit adjacencies for horizontal integration of services, and showcase before and after scenarios in a dynamic setting. This will lead to plan validation, implementation speed, cost savings, and collaborative solutions for large ESG initiatives.

The project has the potential to revolutionize urban planning and development and create a more sustainable, efficient, and livable city for all residents. The proposal aims to facilitate electric mobility, including micro-mobility, macro-mobility, and hyper-mobility, with the infrastructure to support them and the adjacent services needed to provide for and utilize them.

The project will focus on Everything Connected, with a data-centric approach to explore current challenges and offer compelling solutions.


Basis –

For Model Small

3D map of Chicago. Google’s 3D data is proprietary, and ripping geometry from Google Earth like this is sort of a hack. The tools only work on Windows and IMO it’s a rather messy process. OpenStreetMap also features accurate building height data like Google does, and while their models usually aren’t as detailed as Google’s (Google stores actual 3D models whereas OSM stores flat geometric shapes that have height data attached so they can be represented in 3D), it’s free for the taking and the tools for doing so are much more straightforward. Also, the resultant geometry is much cleaner.


  1. Export a .map region file from OpenStreetMap.
    Just click the Export button at the top of the page. The default area is the viewport, but you can also manually change that. Make sure the property you want is completely within the export region, then click the blue Export button to download the file.
  2. Convert the OSM .map file to an OBJ model with OSM2World
    OSM2World is a free Java program for converting OSM data into 3D models. Just open the .map file in OSM2World with File >> Open, then export the whole thing as an OBJ via File >> Export OBJ file. That’s it.
  3. Import the OBJ into your 3D modeling application of choice and delete extraneous geometry before getting to work.

This map still needs to have a base added on, and sliced into tiles using Netfabb Free to slice things into tiles, it’s fast and easy. Also, I wanted to make the ground more textured, I’ve been playing with using image to STL heightmap generators but haven’t had much time to get it perfect. Finally, the building scales should be pretty close to accurate now; exaggerating them may be nice but I was saving that for last since I’d prefer to have a realistic map as well as a height exaggerated one.


NI+IN UCHIL Founder, CEO & Technical Evangelist


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