Jump to content

ISO and Digital Twin Definitions


Tammy Au
Message added by Tammy Au,

Please be aware that these comments were copied here from another source and that the date and time shown for each comment may not be accurate.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has published over 22,000 formal standards supporting the dissemination of good practice to a range of sectors from agriculture to retail.  Due to the breadth of topics covered it is difficult to conceive of a domain which hasn’t been at least partially standardized.  In fact, as of 2019, ISO had four standards published which referenced digital twins:

  • ISO 14033 (Quantitative Environmental Information)
  • ISO 15704 (Requirements for enterprise-referencing architectures)
  • ISO 18101-1 (Oil and Gas interoperability)
  • ISO 30146 (Smart City ICT Indicators)


And, more interestingly, one of these saw the first definition for a digital twin included within an ISO document:


Within ISO, there are several requirements which need to be conformed to when producing a definition.  These requirements are outlined within two standards:

  • ISO 10241-1 (general requirements and examples of presentation)
  • ISO 704 (principles and methods)

ISO 10241-1, which covers the structure of a term including how to structure a definition and referencing; and ISO 704, which covers the principles of doing terminology work.  These standards state that when developing a definition, it should:

  • Be a single phrase specifying the concept and, if possible, representing that concept within a larger system;

The digital twin definition from ISO/TS 18001 does so by referencing other key terms such as digital assets and services.  This provides a relationship to other related terms.  In doing so, this definition makes digital twin a type of digital asset being used to create value.

  • Be general enough to cover the use of the term elsewhere;

This definition is specific enough to capture what a digital twin is in a generalist sense, while also being sufficiently generic that the same definition can be used in other standards.  This is vital to achieve a harmonization of concepts across a disparate suite of documentation.

  • Not include any requirements; and

In addition, this definition doesn’t say what needs to be done for something to be considered a digital twin.  This is important as definitions are meant to inform, not instruct.

  • Be able to substitute the term within a sentence.

Finally, and possibly the most challenging requirement, a definition needs to be able to substitute for the term within a sentence.  For example:

Within the Gemini Principles, there is also another definition to consider:


digital twin
a realistic digital representation of assets, processes or systems in the built or natural environment

However, while this definition isn’t suitable for ISO as it wasn’t designed to meet these requirements, the inclusion of “realistic digital representation” might help enhance the ISO definition.


And there we have it.  The ISO definition for digital twin is, technically speaking, a good example of an ISO definition.  However, does the definition sufficiently capture the correct concepts and relationships outlined within the Gemini Principles?  Following the criteria above, how would you define a digital twin?

Foundation Guide (2).jpg



User Feedback

Recommended Comments

In IEC Smart Cities Systems Committee we are working on a definition from our perspective. Our draft is:

Digital Twin

formal, explicit, computer-readable and computer-executable digital representation of an object or system that allows a computer to understand that object or system

Note 1

Digital twins can be made of material objects and systems (house, city, human, electrical distribution system etc.) and of immaterial objects (process, project plan, etc.)

Note 2

Digital twins can be primary, when the digital representation is developed before the physical object or system is built to help in the design or construction of that object or system. Or they can be secondary, when they are developed to represent an object or system that already exists in the physical world.

Note 3

A digital twin of an existing object or system is created from data gathered from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, with scientific and social-science modelling, machine learning and other advanced analytics applied to replicate the behaviour of that object or system, supporting decision making.

Note 4

A digital twin of an existing object or system is more than just a model: it must have a two-way connection with that object or system and should provide dynamic as well as static representations of that object or system. Data needs to flow between the physical twin and the digital, enabling insights and creating the opportunity for positive interventions within the physical twin.

Clearly Note 4 has some "should"s in it, so we need to correct this!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would also add that ISO37106 - interoperability framework for smart communities lends itself nicely to exploiting digital twins.  

Not forgetting PAS185 - security minded approach and the latest BIM security focus too BS EN ISO 19650‑5:2020 "Organization and digitization of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including building information modelling (BIM) — Information management using building information modelling

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Create New...