Happy new year! I’m sure that many of us are quite relieved to put much of 2020 behind us, but as I reflect back on the past year and our new goals for 2021, there is much to celebrate as well.
A year of surprises
There was of course, the huge impact of COVID on all our lives – like others across the country we had to move to home working, new ways of communicating and juggling home school with Zoom meetings. Yet throughout I was struck by how my team and the wider DT Hub community kept the momentum going and were determined to keep ‘moving things forward’. I’m really grateful for all their hard work and find it encouraging that things can progress and work so well in the virtual world.
Another surprise came earlier in the year after the launch of the DT Hub. It was clear to us that there needed to be a community of users sharing ideas and experience, but we were cautious as to what the response would be. The built environment has typically been quite siloed, without much engagement between sectors, so we knew it would be a challenge to break people out of those distinct sectors and work as a unified entity.
So it was a very welcome surprise to find our caution misplaced! We were expecting around 200 members by year end, but we have, in fact, got over 1000 members. It has really shown us that there is this huge amount of enthusiasm and momentum around digital twins, as well as an appetite for being a part of the conversation.
We’ve also been struck by the emotional investment of members towards getting this emerging field right. For example, the debate around establishing a common set of standards has been heated at times, but in a positive way. We’ve wanted to include different voices and make sure that everyone is being heard and that means differences in opinion. We believe that is a healthy environment to be in and we intend to keep driving the conversation in a constructive way.
Keeping the momentum going
This all gives us good cause to be optimistic going in to 2021. We’re starting the year by opening the Hub up further to try and accommodate as many people as possible. We are extending the invite to academia and the international community, as well as branching in to other sectors such as Formula 1 and manufacturing.
To support this increase in numbers, we have revamped the DT Hub website. We’ve reflected on the feedback we’ve received and the refresh aims to make it more useable and accessible. As ever, we would love your opinion on what is working best for you and what you would like to see more of.
There will also be a shift in the Hub in terms of content. As expected from a new organization, we have been directing much of the content to get the conversation started.
We’re now at the point where we will move to enabling our members to share and drive that content.
At the heart of the DT Hub is its members. This is a place for members to share, discuss, network and learn and although we have been driving much of the content up until now, we want to hand the reigns over to you - enabling you to suggest the topics and themes you want to discuss and exploring the areas that will most benefit the community.
Launch of ‘Hub Together’ and Community Insights
Starting this year there will be a regular series of ‘Hub Togethers’, town hall style events where the reins will be very much in the hands of our members. This will be your chance to shape the conversation and grill us on any topics related to the DT Hub. We intend to make it as interactive as possible with flash up polls and the option to respond or add in comments to questions.
In conjunction with Hubs Together, we will also be starting a series called ‘Community Insights’. Each month we’ll invite a different member or group from the community and interview them on the work they are doing in the digital twin space, as well as finding out a bit about their background and interests. We now have members from all infrastructure sectors and we think it will be fascinating to get a chance to really dig deeper on what is happening in each field.
In the first of our Community Insights, I’m excited to interview the CSIC research team who, in collaboration with Cambridge City Council, are developing a digital twin for Cambridge. I’m keen to find out all the lessons they learnt from the experience and what kind of impact they think it could have for the city.
We will also be continuing our work on standards this year. A lot of the foundational thinking has already been done, as well as some of the passionate discussions referenced earlier! This has set us on a clear path to what will be the first set of standards - a really momentous achievement, born out of a lot of collaboration.
So there is plenty to get stuck in to for 2021 and we would love our members to continue to get involved. Do please take a look around the refreshed website and start signing up to the various events on offer. I look forward to seeing you all this coming year.