Standards make everyday life work. They may decide the size or shape of a product or system. They can specify terms so that there are no misunderstandings. They are crucial for instilling confidence and consistency for both providers and users. This is why we have made the development of a set of standards a crucial component of our journey towards building a National Digital Twin.
In conversations we’ve had in the Digital Twin (DT) Hub and the wider Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) community, there have been significant concerns about the costs involved in investing in a digital twins. We believe, that to mitigate the risk and avoid the need to make changes down the line, standards are of vital importance. We need a shared foundation and framework to support the end goal of secure data exchange and interoperability.
We’ve made significant progress towards that goal and it’s exciting to be pioneers in establishing what will hopefully be a common language - guidelines that can be used, not just here in the UK, but globally.
To start with, we’ve needed to gain a thorough understanding of what the current standards landscape looks like and the CDBB commissioned the British Institute of Standards (BSI) to do the research. Their initial scoping exercise is complete and BSI and CDBB are now reviewing the results of this exercise to identify if and where standards are needed to overcome a specific challenge or fulfil a purpose. We’ve also looked to other sectors to see if existing standards can be applied or modified to work in the built environment.
We are now in the process of creating a clear roadmap that prioritises standards to be developed. The document will be accompanied by a report to include the narrative, justification and rationale behind the roadmap. It will be presented through a series of thematic areas: Digital Twins, Data, ICT, Application, and Outcomes as well as multiple sub-topic themes, to help enable users to locate key standards.
The end goal is a very practical guide. It will cover everything from a shared vocabulary, to ensure consistent definitions of assets, to recommended data formats, user case methodology, a code of practice on information exchange and so on.
A vital part of the process is involving stakeholders and we’re very grateful for all the feedback we’ve received so far. We have recently had the opportunity to share the latest review with DT Hub members as well as those within the wider digital twin community. Attendees of the recent workshop, hosted by BSI, had the opportunity to both critique and verify the findings as well as to share their views on some of the priorities for standards to support successful digital twins in the built environment. This has been a valued opportunity to really shape the direction of these important developments as we can’t do it alone.
A great example of the impact standards can make is one I came across from the early 1900s when the BSI developed a standard for tram gauges at a time when, in the UK alone, there were 75 different widths of gauge! They succeeded in reducing it down to five recommended widths. These became the standards going forward and greatly boosted the industry’s fortunes increasing compatibility between networks and rolling stock. As the British standard was adopted abroad, the UK tram market enjoyed more opportunities to trade and business flourished.
We hope to make a similar kind of impact – we want to see all developers of digital twins flourish and benefit from the advantages that sharing data and ideas can bring. But in order to do that successfully, the whole process needs to be underpinned by standards that have been formed out of thorough research and review and have the support and involvement of as many people as possible. We look forward to seeing you around the DT Hub!
Samuel Chorlton, Chair of the Digital Twin Hub