In our first editorial from the DT Hub’s new home at Connected Places Catapult, Tamar Loach, Technology Initiative Director and Ryan Goodman, Connected Digital Twins Team Lead, discuss their vision, their new roles and their priorities for the Digital Twin Hub in the coming months.
Can you tell us about your journey to the DT Hub and what your new role will focus on?
Tamar: I've got a technical background as a data scientist and have led data science and software engineering teams in the past, mainly working in tech start-ups. They’ve included everything from ten people together in a tiny room through to significantly funded scale-ups that are starting to grow out from the UK internationally – all focused on data, machine learning and AI and applying scientific methodology to impactful problems.
In my role as Technology Initiative Director at CPC, my priority is on setting up strategic innovation programmes, so setting up new collaborative initiatives that support UK companies to grow in the connected places realm. I think the Catapult is a great home for the DT Hub as we will be focused on encouraging further collaboration between different companies that may not currently work together, bringing in new approaches and thinking from academia and also connecting into policy development.
Ryan: My background is largely in open innovation approaches. I previously worked for the Open Data Institute, where my role was leading on EU open innovation programmes to support SMEs in maximising the use of open and shared data. Within that context, I supported a few suppliers of digital twin technology, to address challenges with predictive maintenance by using shared data. I came to Connected Places about a year and a half ago in the urban technology team, where my role was a Living Labs and Testbed Manager. My primary focus has been to help SMEs to demonstrate and validate their products and services by understanding how they operate and perform in real-world scenarios.
Now my remit is looking at the operational opportunities the DT Hub offers, not only from a community perspective, I'm also keen to look at how we as an organisation can support the community to either design, develop and test real-world applications of digital twins.
Tamar: And that is an area where the Catapult had already joined up with the Centre for Digital Built Britain on the CReDo (climate resilience demonstrator) project, as delivery partners. That was very much about testing theory in real-world applications and has been very successful – the foundation to us working with the DT Hub.
Tamar: I think of “digital twin” as a collection of technologies coming together to tackle real challenges – we draw on innovations in networked sensors, data engineering and modelling, cloud compute, machine learning and AI as well as software engineering best practice and scientific modelling to represent physical systems digitally and then use these systems to test and trial in the digital world before implementing. This approach, particularly in the world of transport and across the built environment, for cities and towns, for utilities like power and water – is a huge opportunity because it allows us to make the best changes and the best decisions in a complex setting: digital twins can help us take a system of systems view, taking advantage of often disparate or unconnected digitalisation of our places. Connected thinking, and following best practice around interoperability – what we might call “connected digital twins” are key to our ability to take advantage of the digital and data transformations that are technically speaking easy to implement today with the right leadership, funding and skills in place. We need to see an acceleration in digital and data maturity and for me that's a huge opportunity – I'd like the digital twin hub to be at the heart of driving challenge-led, impact-focused digitalisation tackling some major priorities, like creating fully integrated transport systems and climate-resilient utilities for our growing population.
I think this is where the DT Hub can make a real difference in building momentum and supporting sectors that haven’t yet reached digital maturity. We can act as a practical resource to help them get there. It’s why I'm also excited about the DT Hub Strategic Board that we'll be announcing shortly. It’s a great combination of organisations coming together from infrastructure asset owners to technology suppliers and academia, together galvanising and using the strength of that group to drive the DT Hub and its community forward.
Ryan: I agree with Tamar that there are exciting opportunities to derive insights from data that can massively impact people’s everyday lives and enable us to make more informed decisions. As a neutral convener, Connected Places wants to increase our impact and value to society by improving digital maturity. We see the community that supports the DT hub as a key enabler in promoting the wider adoption of digital twins. By helping to improve understanding and capability in digital technologies, we aim to unearth new use cases where the application of this approach can be tested and demonstrated.
Ryan: I feel our role is to support higher risk projects and help trial and test some of those so that we can contribute to the conversations that are taking place in the community. By taking this approach we can help share learnings on best practice deliver work where other organisations might not necessarily have the time, resources or capacity to do so. The Catapult is becoming more of a thought leader within the space, so that we can effectively steward the DT Hub.
Tamar: I think that’s an important point about taking on some of the risk as we know that can be a real barrier to organisations on their digital twin journeys. So, it means we’re working on projects that test, trial and showcase, we can be very agile and can change direction if things aren’t working and share that learning. The idea is to fail fast, learn fast and help others to do that. I think that will be enabled by lots of collaborative research and development. And we actively want to join in with the community to collaborate in that context – we have such fantastic teams that can support in that process from human connected design experts to data scientists, city planners to transport modellers – and it’s our job to take learnings and share with others.