In the meta-verse, virtual real estate companies and large retailers implant digital real estate store facades. Entrepreneurs build businesses and sell homes, clothing and experiences to avatars whose human counterparts explore the virtual world using VR glasses and make payments in cryptocurrency.
A city in California is dipping its virtual toe into the meta verse.
Santa Monica offers users downloading FlickPlay, a social gaming app, the ability to collect tokens as they move, and a mixed reality version of the city’s shopping district. Players can redeem their tokens for physical items in area restaurants, parks and businesses and experience what’s possible in a Santa Monica section of the meta verse.
While the meta-verse seems to be on the horizon for most cities, many are already experimenting with technologies that enable the meta-verse: the Internet of Things, digital twins, and blockchain, according to a April 18 report from the National League of Cities: How Cities Engage in the Metaverse.
IoT solutions provide data on a city’s physical space, resource consumption and how people move around. Although 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. , according to the report.
Cities are installing IoT-enabled street lights that can support surveillance and detection technologies as well as charging stations, information monitors and artificial intelligence applications. Cary, NC, uses IoT flood monitoring to predict when roads or green roads should be closed and diverted to prevent motorists from encountering floods.
Digital twins or virtual 3D models of a physical space allow urban planners, developers and even public safety authorities to 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 has partnered with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory on digital twins to increase energy efficiency while optimizing travel time, speed, and driver safety.
Researchers are working to build a digital twin of Galvaston, Texas, to help planners and citizens better understand how changes in physical infrastructure can 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 meta-verse 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, tested a program to give people experiencing homelessness a digital identity hidden on the blockchain. The system securely stores key identification documents, such as social security numbers or medical records, needed to access medical services or treatment. As part of their 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 track records. Last summer, Medici Land Governance announced it would work with the New York City Department of Finance to develop a proof-of-concept blockchain that would make data in real estate documents transparent and unchangeable and detect and reduce corruption. Wise County, Virginia is also developing a blockchain program to create, store and access smart land records. And a proof-of-concept in Riverside County, California, lets customers select the items they need, authenticate, pay for copies, and receive blockchain-secured digital documents in minutes.
Miami is set to become the first major city in the United States to introduce a decentralized indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring network built on the Algorand blockchain. PlanetWatch, a French company specializing in leveraging green technologies, plans to build an Internet of Things network of third-party compact air quality monitors across Miami that will transcribe data to the Algorand blockchain. Aggregated sensor data will help detect pollution hotspots and lead to environmental analyzes to monitor air quality in Miami.
“The technology and vision of creating these types of virtual spaces and facilitating meaningful interpersonal interactions within them is finally here, and the effects on society are not yet fully understood,” the report said. “Leaders need to think about what these technologies will mean for cities as they plan for the coming years and decades.”