As Intended? (for discussion)
I wanted to share some early thinking with you, and please consider this a consultation not a formal announcement of direction.
Following the latency post from @DRossiter87 and some conversations with people in different markets. I have found a useful framework to separate BIM from Digital Twins.
There is a caveat with the following, this is not a statement of which is better. Both BIM and Digital Twinning have key benefits. Much like a chef has a collection of knives for different use cases. The same is true for BIM and twins. BIM as defined in the standards available sets out how data can be procured in a transactional model. This is where a client can set the information requirements for a supply chain to author and deliver information for a particular purpose.
The table above sets out a series of differences and I will work through them one by one to explain what they mean and how they differ.
1. What is vs What if
A BIM will tell you what something is, it cannot answer the question what if. The IMF sets out a pathway for askign questions of datasets. For example “What if I turned this value off?”.
2. Files vs Queries
Very similar to the above, but with a view on functionality. The BIM sets out the container of the data and the files within. These files include CSV files or a SQL databases for example. The query in the twin space is an operation on the dataset or file.
3. Physical vs Real
The BIM space treats physical elements as assets. Those assets would be on some form of register which lists 'tangible things'. Those assets generally develop over time in line with the level of information need. In the twin space this representation of the physical is abstracted up into its function. The real aspect is how the object interacts with reality. This interaction is physically within the system (a pump pumping water) and is broader service / organisational purpose (the pump provides a minimum pressure to supply water to customers and is linked to the revenue stream that, for example, is charged by the cubic meter of water.)
4. Asset vs Function
Related to the above, the asset focus is purely on the performance specification and range of the asset's performance in isolation. The twin considers the function the asset plays. @Simon Scott explained a great example of this. The function of a level crossing is to ensure two types ofmobile infrastrcture do not collide (please correct me if im wrong here simon), there is a difference between asking for a level crossing (an asset) and asking for two infrastructures not to collide (a function) are fundementally two differnt questions.
5. Time stamp vs time graph
Time in BIM is a time stamp against a transaction or digital snapshot of an asset. The twin aspect is the time graph, the status of a person over time changes. The queries from the twin understand the historical elements of an asset. For example, when searching for an actor on google it can piece together data of that person from a series of datasets that allows a comprehensive history of that a actor to be rendered.
6. Transaction vs Enterprise
The BIM standards describe a process for multiple parties to transact data. They set out how data can be procured, authored and delivered as a series of transactions. The twin represents an enterprise view where data flows with purpose aligned with agreed outcomes.
7. Outputs vs outcomes
BIM through its focus on transactions and assets can only provide insight on outputs, where twins focus on functions and enterprise it can provide insights on outcomes.
8. 3D Rendition vs Abstracted
BIM requires a 3D rendition of an asset as set out in the level of information need / requirements. For the digital twin, and to use @DRossiter87example of a BMS, there is no need for a full representation of the asset. All that is required is the data needed in order to execute a decision, either for a machine or human.
Of course, if the what if statement includes a spatial requirement a boundary condition for the geometry is required. A non-geographic example, is that the BMS wants to know which rooms to heat for the day for a school, a key input could be the lesson plans from the teaching staff to understand occupancy of a space.
On the other hand, a geographic example is if the AHU requires a filter replacement and the plantroom is tight for space. There would be a need for a physical representation of the space.
I welcome the discussion and feedack!
Following input from DT Hub members into a community-driven document, we have proceeded to reduce the number of use cases identified during the Pathway to Value Workshop from 28 down to 12:
Open Sharing of Data
Using these use cases, we can begin to explore how the National Digital Twin (NDT) programme can support members of the DT Hub in realizing their value. One way of doing so is by identifying what parts of these use cases need to be developed via the Commons Stream as part of the Information Management Framework (IMF).
The reasoning being these 12 use cases are:
Horizontal. Meaning that they can be applied within several sectors and their respective industries; and
High-value. Meaning that they can achieve a return on investment.
Positively, these use cases have a strong synergy with a similar schedule presented by Bart Brink of Royal HaskoningDHV on a recent buildingSMART webinar on digital twins.
By identifying DT Hub member horizontal, high-value, use cases we hope that their associated tasks, key performance indicators and federation requirements can be recommended for prioritization as part of the development of the Information Management Framework (IMF).
At the beginning of June, CDBB released The Pathway Towards an Information Management Framework: A Commons for a Digital Built Britain, a report setting out the technical approach that will lead to the development of the National Digital Twin. Within the report it focuses on three key facets that will enable secure, resilient data sharing across the built environment:
Reference Data Library. A taxonomy describing a common set of classes to describe the built environment;
Foundation Data Model. An ontology outlining the relation between these classes or properties of these classes; and
Integration Architecture. Exchange protocols to facilitate sharing of information, using these defined classes and relations between digital twins.
As opposed to being released as a complete resource, we will likely see these facets developed organically as the NDT programme continues to follow its mantra of:
As such, the key question isn’t “what should these facets include?” but “what should be included first?”. We hope to answer this question using these horizontal, high-value, use cases.
“Environmental management”. At the beginning of 2020, news reports focused on air pollution and its link with infrastructure. In addition, many building assets may wish to monitor air quality due to its known impact on occupant performance. As a use case that is associated to regulatory compliance, productivity, and applicable to a breadth of assets Environmental Management may be a horizontal, high-value, use case.
To support such a use case, the:
Reference Data Library. May need to include classes such as: Temperature, Wind speed, Humidity, CO2, and PM2.5 as well as their associated units to enable the consistent recording of this information.
Foundation Data Model. May need an ontology describing acceptable ranges and the relationship of air quality concepts to other classes such as Health and Productivity depending on the function being monitored; and
Integration Architecture. May need to facilitate the sharing of information from sources such as other digital twins, as well as datasets from the Met Office and local governments.
Simply put, by identifying these horizontal, high-priority, use cases, we may be able to begin accelerating the realization of their value by having the taxonomies, ontologies and protocols needed to facilitate them available at an earlier stage of the overall IMF development.
And there we have it. As DT Hub members begin to consider how the information management framework may support their digital twin development as well as the national digital twin, which use cases do you think are the most horizontal and high-value? How do you think these facets might support your ability to undertake these use cases?
Please feel free to add your thoughts below, or, alternatively, comment directly on the draft community-driven document which is, and will continue to be, progressively developed as member views are shared.
As a response to the grand challenges, the UK Government provided funding for the Construction Innovation Hub (CIH) which is considering four key work streams:
While the DT Hub forms part of the digital work stream, other elements of the CIH programme, such as the development of a value framework, are relevant to our discussions around enabling digital twins to realise value.
Of course, considering the breadth of organisations who are members of the DT Hub their approach to value will differ, as each organisation will have different social, environmental, and economic priorities. Having a value framework allows this variety to be articulated in a structured way so that all approaches can be expressed consistently. Shown below are the categories being considered as part of the CIH Value Framework, which was presented at a Generation4Change (G4C) event in May:
Based on The Five Capitals approach, each category within this framework is intended to be weighted to articulate an organisations’ definition of value. For example, an organisation such as the Environment Agency may wish to place a stronger weighting on natural values than an organisation that primarily operates within a large urban centre. Once the value categories and their respective weightings have been identified, the indicators associated with those categories need to be identified and measured. This is what we have tried to begin exploring within the DT Hub during June via our Pathway to Value conversation starters #1 and #2. These use cases were then developed into 12 horizontal use cases which can be broadly mapped onto the Five Capitals as shown:
NOTE: Data Sharing and Scenario Simulation are considered applicable to all value categories.
In turn, we did further research to demonstrate that these use cases can be attributed to performance indicators. For example, organisations who prioritise financial categories may wish to manage their assets. To manage these assets, they need to measure indicators such as:
Mean time to failure; and
Mean time to repair.
To measure these indicators, several tasks will need to be undertaken; constituting a use case. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that, to realise value, each category that an organisation prioritises will need underlying use cases. It is these use cases that enable the respective indicators to be measured to determine whether value has been realised.
Value > Indicator > Tasks > Use Case
In addition, digital twins can themselves provide deeper insight into the value of multiple use cases. This is because of the way they connect to physical assets and systems, providing an ability to analyse and model what might happen next.
For example: Replacing a piece of plant within a system may impact on all of the five capitals as it may use less fuel (+ natural), perform to a higher efficiency (+ manufactured), reducing the operational cost of the asset (+ financial) with improved access and installation procedures (+ safety), but manufactured by an organisation with questionable ethics (- social).
It is only through the use of a digital twin that all of the indicators, for all of an organisations’ use cases, can be considered holistically. As the datasets develop they could even establish correlations that allow potential decisions to be measured against several value categories simultaneously to determine the outcome that provides the greatest overall value. These decision therefore will be data-driven; validating the value they intend to provide.
And there we have it. By determining which categories an organisation prioritises within a value framework, the associated indicators can be identified and measured to realise value. This helps an organisation to determine which of these indicators are most critical, which of their assets can be considered exemplar, as well a method of measuring the impact of future interventions and investments which in turn can support business cases. How suitable do you feel the CIH value categories are for your organisation? How does your organisation currently measure value? Are you aware of any alternative value frameworks that should also be considered?
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:
This exemplar organization utilizes a digital twin to improve the effectiveness of their predicative maintenance systems
This exemplar organization utilizes a digital asset on which services can be performed that provide value to an organization to improve the effectiveness of their predicative maintenance systems
Within the Gemini Principles, there is also another definition to consider:
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?
UK infrastructure, like many industries, is going through a period of significant transformation with digital technologies underpinning much of this change. The current COVID19 situation will perhaps catalyse the pace of change as we consider a new normal. ‘Digital Twin’ in particular is emerging as a core capability that will underpin UK infrastructure as digital transformation continues to evolve.
Being a relatively new concept in the infrastructure sectors, the most common question I get asked is ‘what is a digital twin?’
Indeed, the more people I speak to, the greater my belief that there is a better question: ‘What could a Digital Twin be?’
The real beauty of Digital Twin is that the market is emerging, the ‘what’ is still being explored by those who will own and utilise them, predominately owner/operators of UK infrastructure assets.
You can, of course, speak to many organisations who can articulate a vision for Digital Twins that are tailored to their goods and services, and in my experience, these are generally valid examples.
Here are a few examples:
[Engineering Provider] Enabling clients to adjust parameters and assess the impact of real world behaviours to understand how an asset will perform over its whole life.
[Technology Provider] Allowing clients to integrate or simulate real world feedback to see how changing components within a system might affect overall risk profiles.
[Contractor] Allowing digital production management to evolve design data through the build process, ensuring an asset is ready for use in its operational phases.
[IT provider] Portraying a vision of enterprise systems being linked to real time information from sensors, leveraging internet of things capability.
All of the above are great examples of Digital Twin capabilities when considering the Gemini Principles definition ‘a realistic digital representation of assets, processes or systems in the built or natural environment’. What excites me most, is what would happen if we considered integrating all these capabilities to create a fully integrated enterprise, to include supply chains and perhaps even citizens?
Think of what could be achieved, a design change could be tested against real time data in a simulation to assess how it would perform in operational life. Not only that, the link to enterprise systems would mean the impact on cost, risk, supply chain and other business metrics could also be tested. The possibilities are endless. Importantly many businesses already have the component pieces, they are however isolated rather than being integrated.
Taking this very broad, all-encompassing view, is tough for businesses to digest as they identify likely investment needs, work through value creation and understand risks. This is difficult when thinking about things on such a grand scale. This is why a good first step might be to develop a roadmap showing what a Digital Twin could be for your organisation. This could be done by underpinning a high-level vision and working backwards to prioritise what to do now, in the mid and long term to help you get there. A roadmap should not be considered a fixed plan and must evolve with your business as it changes, however it provides direction and initial guidance on where to focus investments and create early value.
By taking this approach, digital twins can become part of an organization’s integrated enterprise. By developing an integrated enterprise utilising the framework as set out in the ICE Project 13 (http://www.p13.org.uk/) , organisations will not constrain themselves by worrying too much about ‘what is a Digital Twin’, and can instead focus on what Digital Twin could be. This approach is being promoted by the water sector regulator OFWAT, termed ‘systems thinking’. Systems thinking encourages a big picture mindset, identifying the pieces of the puzzle to create that big enterprise picture and approaching each piece of the puzzle in a structured way, towards a common goal.
The next big step for an integrated enterprise is to think about federating information across multiple organisations to create a National Digital Twin. It is this global opportunity that we should all be excited about, through collaboration between government, academia and industry the UK can be a world leader in the evolution of the digital economy.
To achieve this, we need to think big, be prepared to fail, not hold back and work together to evolve UK infrastructure to be a world leading centre of excellence.
Kevin Reeves is the Director of Internet of Things and Digital Twin at Costain.
I recently posed a question in this forum to clarify thoughts on the need for a digital twin ‘test’... a way of determining if a proposed digital twin is actually what everyone can agree upon and that matches expectations.
A test will serve as an invaluable tool for educating and up-skilling, avoidingconfusion and set a direction for implementation. This is something particularly close to my heart as we’re currently (still) experiencing this in global BIM discussions. Whilst on the topic of BIM, the test could be a great way of identifying what a typical BIM process deliverable is and how a digital twin might differ. This is particularly pertinent as we’re currently observing digital twin negativity and the misconception that digital twins are ‘just BIM’.
Take a look at the attached image, a snapshot of a Twitter Poll... this may be just a small sample, but of 113 people on twitter who responded to this tweet by a Canadian colleague, just over HALF of them think digital twins are software vendors marketing vaporware - a product that doesn’t come to fruition. The other half are of the impression that digital twins are a ‘technology’. Clearly there’s work to be done...
Personally, I think we need a mutually agreed distinction to engage and involve a wider group of professionals from within our sector and outside of it to really progress and deliver the benefits outlined in The Gemini Principles.
Comments you’ve provided so far suggest that a test could be helpful, although some of you share the concern that the time taken to form a test may be better spent developing a digital twin. Other comments have highlighted the need to avoid being short-sighted in the ‘boundaries’ of a test. If we are to develop a test, it will need to be flexible enough to cater for edge cases and to evolve over time as technologies and possibilities become more easily achievable - i.e. when the goal posts move!
Do we need to define a baseline case, so that all proposed digital twins are measured against it? If so, what are the fundamentals?
For example, which of the following might be considered a digital twin:
• www.lightningmaps.com (near real-time data visualization of weather systems);
• https://www.tidetimes.org.uk/ (log of expected highs and lows of a tidal system); and
• www.googlemap.com (periodically updated traffic system with patterns and disruptions)
Each of these are similar but constitute different fundamentals. LightningMapsuses weather station data, while TideTimes uses a database of pre-established tide peaks and throughs. Is the collection of (near) real-time data fundamental, or something that is only applicable to specific use case?
Once we have the fundamentals, which digital twins need to be tested? If we are ultimately aiming for a national digital twin, surely we need to test all of them to ensure compatibility and value if it is to be included/connected to it? If this is the case, then I’m talking myself into the notion that a simple yes/no or pass/fail will never be enough... We need to find a way to identify and celebrate the (positive) extremes, to encourage the development of borderline cases to become true digital twins and to seek new directions and measures of ‘what looks good’ as the sector integrates digital twins into its decision-making.
It looks like we have a LOT to discuss in the proposed workshop on the 17thNovember to explore why, what and how we should be measuring.
Outline agenda below, to be informed by the ongoing forum discussions.
The Why - Discussing the pros and cons of a digital twin test.
Objectives & Activities for looking at intuitive tests for digital twins
Summary of initial industry feedback.
A Yes/No, Pass/Fail or a Sliding Scale?
Existing 'test' examples that could be leveraged from other industries.
Discussing what elements make up a digital twin.
I hope you will continue the discussion on this thread, which will give us time to prepare the workshop materials and key discussion points and to do that, I have some questions to continue the discussion...
1. In YOUR role in either procuring, creating, maintaining or analysing/interacting with a digital twin, what should we be testing or measuring?
Please let us know what your involvement (current or proposed) is and what we should be measuring/testing to help in that role.
2. What, in your opinion, makes a digital twin - real?
Let’s keep this short, give me your top 5!
3. How do we best differentiate what we should typically deliver in a BIM process and a digital twin?
Digital twins are a huge opportunity for bettering the entire built environment design, procurement, operation and provide tangible benefits to society. What therefore can we do to promote the relationship (and a distinct difference) between BIM and digital twins?
The workshop will take place on the 17th November from 14:00 – 16:00. Register on Eventbrite to receive joining instructions. See you there!
What a session!
Following the initial forum discussion querying the need for a digital twin ‘test’ and the subsequent post asking ‘what’ we should measure if a test is needed, we hosted a workshop to deep dive into the topic. With great interactivity and engagement with over 40 active contributors from across various roles in the sector, a few common themes surfaced which inspiringly, were echoed by a Digital Twin Fan Club event the following week.
After a brief introduction from the CDBB team, Dan Rossiter of BSI covered the meaning of the word ‘definition’ and ‘test’ before we dived into the workshop session where we asked several questions of the attendees. The themes covered the following topics:
Do we need a test for digital twins?
If there is a test, how should it be ‘scored’?
What makes a digital twin a ‘real’ digital twin?
If there is a test, what would it measure?
And then a quickfire yes/no round to determine if certain ‘things’ are digital twins.
Mapping of those results on a banded scale.
Spoiler alert! The first topic garnered a resounding ‘yes’. Observations within the group raised concern over digital twins and their use being driven by technology companies rather than the approach we’d rather take which is by purpose-driven solutions (culture, process and technology) to solve current client challenges. With ‘twinwash’ marketing often reaching clients and the supply chain masses before it reaches those with the real experience and capabilities, we really are perilously close to repeating what BIM has been through already – and we’re still battling against that!
Scoring was a longer discussion that saw real industry value of a simple yes/no result, but through the workshop, it became evident that being able to see how one particular digital twin compared to another was perhaps a useful checklist for the ‘lesser’ version.
We were steering clear of defining ‘what’ a digital twin is, that work is being undertaken in other CDBB workstreams. What we wanted to unearth was, for each attendee, for their particular use case, what made a digital twin ‘real’… needless to say that this began the real-time versus right time discussion (also previously discussed here and here on the DTHub)! There were wide and varied responses about interfaces, connectedness, insights and prediction and these are summarized in the upcoming report.
The quickfire round was useful, for a few reasons. Firstly, attendees were required to answer using their gut instinct. Secondly because it demonstrated that there is a clear consensus on a few digital twin examples. Finally, it was useful to expand a little on each of the examples to explore where the differences of opinion lie. I should point out that the examples used in the quickfire round are all taken from marketing / forums / discussions that are happening out there in the built environment right now… these aren’t examples that we, the workshop facilitators, defined as ‘being’ digital twins.
The results are as per the attached image and you can clearly see where the common trends sit. The interesting examples for the overall discussion are the items with a split in opinion… clearly an indicator for the need for a test?
The last exercise for the attendees was to place these above examples and their own contributions onto a graded scale, from red (not a digital twin) through amber and to green (real digital twins and ‘unicorn’ digital twins!). An interesting and revealing exercise, especially when given the opportunity to move the indicators that others had placed.
If we’re looking to draw conclusions from the workshop, I’d suggest that the many great conversations over 1.5hrs could have easily lasted several weeks, mainly due to the ‘is it’ or isn’t it’ nature of the discussions. This leads me to observe that:
As an initial exploratory task to determine the industry’s appetite for a test, linked to an accurate definition, this has been a revealing and thought-provoking exercise and one that I’m keen to continue.
To that end: Do you agree with the quick-fire round? Are you adamant about a particular characteristic that a digital twin must have? Let’s ensure that the workshop is the beginning, not the end, to this discussion!
Learn by doing, Progress by sharing: DT Hub and The Information Management Framework
The DT Hub was launched at the end of March 2020 and now in August has grown to over 500 members. That’s over 500 people and organisations interested in developing digital twins across infrastructure asset owners, local authorities, architects, engineering consultants, construction companies, software developers, AI companies, big tech and more. We’re discussing how digital twins do mean different things to different people but what we all have in common is the need to share data. Connecting digital twins to reduce the level of carbon use in a city will only be possible if we can share data across digital twins.
That’s why behind all the really exciting digital twin developments lies a framework. An information management framework for organising, labelling and sorting data. An information management framework for setting standards for how we share data. Because if we don’t have that framework our digital twins will all speak different languages.
The approach to developing this framework is set out in the Pathway to the Information Management Framework (the technical document) and the summary. This approach is open for consultation and feedback until 31 August and we really encourage you to respond, even if it’s with a “we like it” or more importantly, if you want to provide some feedback that might impact the approach. Our ontologists are busy building the foundation data model because we need to get on with building the framework but that doesn’t mean it can’t be adapted or improved and we need your input to ensure we get the best version possible.
With the possibility of different types of information management frameworks emerging across the economy, our focus if very much on consensus and consultation to ensure we are able to share data in a secure, interoperable way. A good example to drive home the important of interoperability is the evolution of mobile phone technology, two different standards emerged, GSM and CDMA. GSM was driven largely by the political will of European states to have a standard mobile technology across Europe. CDMA was privately driven and proprietary, out of the States. Whilst each had their technical merits at different points in the evolution of mobile phone technology, eventually GSM became the most widely adopted technology. Interoperability in mobile phone technology is really important because people want to be able to use their phones wherever there is network coverage. Scale in networks is important where we all benefit from being able to interconnect. Imagine a different version of the internet where we couldn’t access public websites from certain computers?
Scale and quality of networks are really important where public benefit is involved. We all benefit from one high quality network rather than many small, inferior networks. In this way, getting the best input into developing the Information Management Framework is crucial. The Information Management Framework will lay the foundations for sharing data about infrastructure and the built environment globally as we ensure it emerges as the best set of standards. The foundation data model is currently being developed by a set of experts and whilst good theories are developed in the lab they need to be tested out in the open. The DT Hub provides a forum for testing. The motto of the DT Hub is “learn by doing, progress by sharing”. There is no definitive guide to Digital Twins as yet, I believe you are all co-developing it. We are all learning what is possible with digital twins and what we need to do to make them work. The National Digital Twin programme at the Centre for Digital Built Britain which is supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is open to your suggestions and input on developing the Information Management Framework. In order to develop the best set of standards for sharing data, we need the best input, so please respond!
Sarah Hayes is the Change Stream Lead of the National Digital Twin programme.