Prepare for the Metaverse Ditching

In the metaverse, virtual real estate companies and major retailers are implanting digital real estate storefronts. Entrepreneurs build businesses and sell homes, clothes and experiences to avatars whose human counterparts explore the virtual world with VR glasses and make cryptocurrency payments.

A California town dips its virtual toe into the metavers.

Santa Monica offers users who download FlickPlay, a social games app, the ability to collect tokens as they move, and a mixed reality version of the city’s shopping district. Players can exchange their tokens for physical items at area restaurants, parks and businesses and experience what’s possible in a slice of Santa Monica of the metaverse.

While the metaverse seems to be on the horizon for most cities, many are already experimenting with technologies that enable the metaverse: the Internet of Things, digital twins and blockchain, according to an April 18 report from the National League of Cities: How Cities Engage in the Metavers.

IoT solutions provide data about a city’s physical space, resource use, and how people move. While often used to monitor traffic and track air quality, noise and temperature, IoT data collected from the real world is “fundamental” to the augmented and virtual reality applications that make up the metaverse. , the report said.

Cities are installing IoT-enabled street lighting that can support surveillance and sensing technologies, as well as charging stations, information displays and artificial intelligence applications. Cary, NC, uses IoT flood monitoring to predict when roads or greenways will need to be closed and to redirect traffic to prevent motorists from experiencing flooding.

With digital twins or 3D virtual models of a physical space, city planners, developers and even public safety officials can see detailed models of interiors, buildings and neighborhoods that they can use to test different development or security scenarios involving complex and connected infrastructures.

Boston’s planning and development agency has created a digital twin that maps the city’s physical landscape, from water and sewer systems to treetops, to see how changes will affect a neighborhood. Chattanooga is working with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on digital twins to increase energy efficiency while optimizing travel time, speed and driver safety.

Researchers are building a digital twin of Galvaston, Texas, to help planners and citizens better understand how changes to physical infrastructure could affect a community’s resilience to severe storms and coastal flooding. In January, Las Vegas announced plans to use digital twins to model energy consumption, emissions, mobility and emergency management as part of its efforts to meet sustainability goals.

The metaverse will be built on a blockchain or distributed platform to enable secure currency exchange as well as decentralization, security, privacy and interoperability.

In 2018, Austin, Texas conducted a pilot to give people who are homeless a digital identity stored on blockchain. The system securely stores important identification documents, such as Social Security numbers or medical records, that are required to access medical services or care. As part of its smart city program, Lafayette, Louisiana launched a blockchain application to manage the maintenance and safety of vehicles in the city, according to the report.

Cities also use blockchain to keep records. Last summer, Medici Land Governance announced it would partner with the New York City Department of Finance to develop a proof-of-concept blockchain that would make data in proprietary documents transparent and immutable and prevent corruption. Wise County, Virginia is also developing a blockchain program to create, store and access smart land records. And with a proof-of-concept in Riverside County, California, customers can select the records they need, authenticate, pay for copies and receive blockchain-secured digital records in minutes.

Miami will become the first major US city to introduce a decentralized indoor and outdoor air quality measurement network built on the Algorand blockchain. PlanetWatch, a French company specializing in the use of green technologies, plans to build an Internet of Things network of compact third-party air quality monitors in Miami, which will transcribe data to the Algorand blockchain. Aggregated sensor data helps detect pollution hotspots and is used for environmental analysis to monitor air quality in Miami.

“The technology and vision to create these kinds of virtual spaces and enable meaningful interpersonal interactions within them are finally here, and the effects on society are not yet fully understood,” the report states. “Leaders need to think about what these technologies will mean for cities as they plan for the coming years and decades.”

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