A new whitepaper explores how digital twin technology can play its role in the future of a service-oriented environment – highlighting the potential benefits and opportunities as well as the challenges that can arise when implementing innovative digital solutions. The paper focuses on Moorfields Eye Hospital, leading provider of specialist eye health services in the UK and world centre of excellence for ophthalmic research and education, as it designs and constructs a smart hospital of the future.
A Cambridge-based research team worked with multiple stakeholders – asset owners, management, service providers, and clinicians – to better understand how digital transformation of the built environment could create new opportunities to enhance inclusion and improve services provided to patients in new smart hospitals, and how the shift to the uptake of digital technologies around telemedicine and AI will impact service provision and service transition.
The research paper uses Moorfields Eye Hospital as a case study, taking a service-oriented perspective to explore the potential of digital twin technology in addressing specific needs and pain points of users, and the subsequent implications for new models of service delivery.
It will help Moorfields and similar organisations in their search for newer and better navigational guidance solutions to help visually impaired patients journey to and from the hospital, and to help provide an improved digitally enabled service experience once they reach the building itself.
According to project lead Professor Michael Barrett, 'this new digitally-enabled assistive technology of visually-impaired navigation, which is still a burgeoning area, can help to ease anxiety, making visually-impaired navigation and travelling easier.'
The research team considers the Moorfields journey, exploring patient-care opportunities and noting the challenges of transitioning the current service into the future service. Physical relocation of any hospital is an enormous task and the move of an eye hospital where the visually impaired patient community has a more complex relationship with the built environment and digital technologies will present additional challenges. In addition, current services provided to patients by Moorfields will need to be integrated with and transitioned onto the future service model and ecosystem.
What are digital twins?
Digital twins are realistic digital representations of physical assets, for example, a digital representation of an aeroplane that can be used to monitor and predict performance, feeding out insights and interventions. These insights lead to better interventions and unlock real-world value from assets through financial savings, improved performance and services, and better outcomes for society. As highlighted by the Gemini Principles, a high-quality and accurate digital twin depends on three components: the quality and quantity of data used for the model, the fidelity of the algorithms that constitute the model, and the validity of the assumptions/competence of the model and the quality of final output’s presentation.
by Alexandra Bolton, Executive Director, Centre for Digital Built Britain; Mark Coates, International Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Bentley Systems; Peter El Hajj, National Digital Twin Programme Lead, Centre for Digital Built Britain
The finance industry has long been at the forefront of using data and technology to make better decisions, to de-risk and improve return on investments, and to create better outcomes. Tackling the big challenges of our day—such as climate change, energy, and healthcare—relies on having the right technologies and data to make the right interventions.
One of the most significant technology developments of the past decade, digital twins—a digital replica of a physical asset or world—is the key in building infrastructure that supports future generations.
The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) has seen first-hand how digital twins can improve decision-making in the planning, design, build, and operation of assets, as well as the benefits of connecting the technology across organisations and sectors.
Based on the Gemini Principles, the CDBB spearheaded the development of the U.K.’s national digital twin project, building an ecosystem of connected digital twins that can securely share infrastructure information in real-time to support better outcomes.
If this goal seems one step too far into science fiction, then we can take inspiration from Singapore, which recently became the first country to create a country-wide digital twin. The technology will help create more sustainable, resilient, and smart development; help in the rollout of renewable energy; and protect against climate change and rising sea levels.
Cross River Rail in Brisbane, Australia, is another example of a publicly sponsored mega-project that can provide the catalyst for a city-level digital twin. Featuring multi-environment digital twins that constantly talk to one another, the AUD 5.4 billion (GBP 3 billion) project aims to introduce the benefits of a federated model approach to digital engineering.
The issues in Singapore and Brisbane that are being solved through digital twins are similar to those that are affecting, or soon will affect, the U.K. However, there are other use cases for the technology. The Grenfell Tower tragedy, for example, has ushered in a renewed focus from government and regulators on the safety of higher risk buildings, while national and international banks are having to demonstrate the impact of their investments against economic, social, and environmental (ESG) targets.
As key investors, the finance community has an opportunity to realise the benefits of digital twins by using them to add value, track sustainability targets, attract new investments, and manage risk better.
Having spoken with a wide range of investors, the conclusion is that there is huge untapped potential for investors to influence how data is used to improve infrastructure decision-making. Also, by taking on a greater role in the digital transformation of infrastructure, investors can be involved in providing better outcomes for businesses, people, and nature.
There is also a significant opportunity to leverage digital twins to support key challenges facing the investment community: where to allocate capital; screening and managing risk; enhancing asset value by improving performance and reliability; and complying with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) requirements.
The key to unlocking this potential is to apply the fundamentals of the information value chain.
By collaborating with the wider industry to develop practical use cases, the finance community can help use the insights derived from data to solve their most pressing problems.
The infrastructure sector needs to play its part and approach this dialogue with openness and flexibility. Infrastructure professionals need to understand that investors generate their return on investment (ROI) in a variety of ways, via different types of assets and at different stages of the infrastructure lifecycle. Some of their use cases overlap with those already developed for supply chain businesses or operators while others will not.
We first need to improve the quality of the dialogue between investors and other parts of the infrastructure sector, re-imagine the information value chain from an investor’s perspective, explore how investors can expand their leadership role, and share some use cases investors are currently pursuing.
From an infrastructure industry perspective, there are three important steps to achieve this goal:
Understand the variety of infrastructure investors and what that means for the different ways that they can benefit from digital twins
Understand how investors categorise infrastructure
Relate digital twin use cases to different investor strategies
Collaboration across the infrastructure industry and investors is key to building smarter, more sustainable infrastructure. When we collaborate, across boundaries and across borders, we can do amazing things. We can make better business decisions that drive better economic, social, and environmental outcomes.
There is already progress being made, with digital twin spending set to reach USD 27.6 billion by 2040, according to an article published by Twinview. It will be exciting to see how the finance community will join with the wider infrastructure community and solution providers to use higher quality data and digital twins to improve investment returns, meet ESG goals, and create the sustainable future we all want to see.
Listen to the Engineer's Collective, New Civil Engineer podcast where NCE editor Claire Smith discusses the paper with former executive director of the Centre for Digital Built Britain, Alexandra Bolton, and talks to Cross River Rail's CEO Graeme Newton and digital delivery manager Andrew Curthoys.
How Finance and Digital Twins Can Shape a Better Future for the Planet.pdf
'The growth of the Digital Twin Hub (DT Hub) over the last two years has exceeded all our expectations as numbers have leapt from an initial group of six, to an amazing 3,400 members, representing more than 1,600 organisations from over 77 countries across the globe.
'The DT Hub has become a vibrant meeting place for people wherever they are on their digital twin journey and the ‘go-to’ place for anyone wanting to find out more about connected digital twins. It has been a game-changer, showing the real need and desire for this DT community, and that collaboration, connection, and knowledge exchange are vital if we are to achieve our goal of connected digital twins across the built and natural environments. As the DT Hub approaches its second-year anniversary, we would like to share our progress and learnings.'
Alexandra Bolton, Executive Director, CDBB
Read the Annual Benchmark Report 2021
This research aimed to investigate the breadth and depth of digital twin blockers, galvanising the community towards greater engagement and collaboration to solve a complex set of national challenges.
The DT Hub’s strategic approach was cyclical, beginning with highlighting the challenges and the opportunities faced by members.
The project consisted of a series of strategy jams with the community interspersed by activity on the DT Hub in a ‘call-and-response’ manner. This approach became more effective as the project progressed.
First, community thinking was used to seed the Roadblock Identification Jam, whose outputs in turn were put back into the community for further comment, refinement and validation.
The next step was to kick off a discussion on the relative importance of different roadblocks to feed into the Roadblock Prioritisation Jam. Again, the outputs were subsequently checked in the wider community.
The final DT Hub activity was preparatory to the Roadblock Prototyping Jam, consisting of a brainstorm to find ways around certain blockers, the results of which were fed into the final Jam – evaluating the problem definition and trying to find solutions.
The research resulted in recommendations to support the DT Hub in tackling gaps, prioritising pressing issues and galvanising engagement to tackle the blockers. In summary, they are to:
· Form a digital twin accelerator programme
· Review the online community platform
· Leverage the convening power of the DT Hub for engagement with others
· Lead on the development of vision and value for digital twins
· Evaluate and progress the Strategy Jam ideas
· Introduce a problem-solving toolkit
· Conduct a meta-analysis to compare this research with other findings and DT Hub resources.
Read the report.
Electricity, water and telecoms assets are owned and operated separately, but they form an interconnected system. This means that the failure of one asset, for example in the event of a flood, can cause assets of other operators to fail. For example, electricity substations provide power to water and wastewater pumping stations and telephone exchanges; cooling water systems can be used to remove waste heat from telephone exchanges; and telephone lines are installed at electricity substations where a mobile telephone signal cannot be received.
Flooding can cause failures to utility assets, which can propagate through the system. This results in costs to asset operators as well as service interruptions and associated costs for customers. For example, the Environment Agency estimated that the total economic damage of the winter floods of 2015 and 2016 to asset operators (electricity and water) and their customers was more than £100m.1 Because of climate change, the likelihood of these potentially damaging floods is expected to increase over the next century.
CReDo can help address a key information barrier preventing investment in system resilience
Asset operators invest in their assets to ensure that they are resilient to climate change, including floods. Asset operators understand their own networks and, when deciding whether and how to invest in resilience, they take account of a number of factors. These include how critical each asset is for their networks and the financial resources they have available for resilience investment.
It is unlikely that asset operators have complete information on 1) the resilience of other operators’ assets on which their assets depend or 2) how critical their assets are for other operators. For these reasons, investment decisions may not be as cost effective across the system as they could be. For example, an asset operator may decide not to invest in a specific asset because it is not critical for its network, not knowing that it may be critical for another asset operator’s network. It may also decide to increase the resilience of one of the assets which is critical for its network, not knowing that the other asset operators’ assets on which its assets depend are already resilient. Hence, there is an information barrier that prevents asset operators from assessing the resilience of the whole system and making investment decisions accordingly.
The combination of a system-wide view of infrastructure resilience provided by CReDo and improved information management is expected to lower the information barrier. Frontier Economics was commissioned by CDBB to identify the expected impacts of CReDo and provide a simulation of the subset of potential social benefits related to flood resilience.
Visit our Recommendations and Resources page to read the report
This report sets out an overview of the first phase of CReDo, running from April 2021 to March 2022, with a focus on the technical architecture developed to integrate different datasets and models into the connected digital twin.
CReDo is a climate adaptation digital twin sponsored by UK Research and Innovation and Connected Places Catapult and is the pilot project for the National Digital Twin programme. CReDo’s purpose is two-fold:
1. To demonstrate the benefits of using connected digital twins to increase resilience and enable climate change adaptation and mitigation
2. To demonstrate how principled information management enables digital twins and datasets to be connected in a scalable way as part of the development of the information management framework
Data about assets is brought together across three infrastructure asset owners — Anglian Water, BT and UK Power Networks — into a connected digital twin of the infrastructure system network. Combining data sets from three separate organisations into one system model is not straightforward. Principled information management techniques, such as using the appropriate ontologies and striving for semantic precision, are essential to bringing the data together to present the clearest picture of the infrastructure system without inaccuracies.
Coastal and fluvial flood data has been sourced from the Environment Agency and the HiPIMS (High-Performance Integrated hydrodynamic Modelling System) model has been used to generate surface water flooding data that could be expected under a range of future climate change scenarios. Expert elicitation techniques have been employed to understand the impact of the flood scenarios on asset failure within the infrastructure networks. Operational research techniques have been employed to better understand the infrastructure interdependencies and to identify the propagation of asset failure, both across single networks and across the infrastructure system as a whole, resulting from the flood scenarios. This builds a picture of system impact from flooding scenarios that would not otherwise be available to the individual networks or regulators who would only see the impact of flooding on single networks.
Visit our Recommendations and Resources page to read the report
CReDo aims to demonstrate how the National Digital Twin programme could use connected digital twins to increase climate resilience. This first phase of the project investigates how to implement a digital twin to share data across sectors to investigate the impact of extreme weather, in particular flooding, on energy, water and telecoms networks. The current digital twin integrates flood simulations for different climate change scenarios with descriptions of the energy, water and telecoms networks, and models the interdependence of the infrastructure to describe the resilience of the combined network.
CMCL Innovations were engaged by the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB )and the Connected Places Catapult (CPC) as part of CReDo to develop a digital twin of assets from Anglian Water, BT and UK Power Networks. The digital twin combines a description of the logical connectivity between the assets with flood data to resolve the effect of floods on individual assets and the corresponding cascade of effects across the combined network. It demonstrates how to achieve basic interoperability between data from different sectors, and how this data might be combined with flood data for different climate scenarios to begin to explore the resilience of the combined network and identify vulnerabilities to support strategic decision making and capital planning.
The first phase of the digital twin and an accompanying visualisation were implemented on DAFNI, the Data & Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure. This report describes the use and technical implementation of the current digital twin. Recommendations are made for how it could be extended to improve its ability to support decision making, and how the approach could be scaled up by the National Digital Twin programme.
Visit the technical report page
Climate change will bring far reaching consequences across many aspects of society, including our health, prosperity and future security. The latest climate projections from the UK Met Office indicate that we will experience warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers, together with an increase in the frequency and intensity of extremes. Substantial increases in hourly precipitation extremes are expected, with the frequency of days with hourly rainfall > 30 mm/h almost doubling by the 2070s. The increase in short, intense, rainfall events may be expected to manifest in flooding which can cause serious threats to society and the economy.
This report provides details of how flood data was generated within the CReDO project. A summary of different types of flooding are considered (river, coastal, surface water) together with an outline of standard industry approaches and requirements to quantifying probabilities of occurrence. We provide a summary of the information available within the UKCP18 projections, and how this can be used for assessing changes in precipitation under climate change scenarios. This includes the UKCP18 local projections, consisting of hourly data at a 2.2km resolution for 12 simulations from a convection-permitting model, with a bias correction applied, and the probabilistic extremes dataset (PPCE), with discussion of what information these products can and cannot provide.
Information on the risk of river and tidal flooding in the study region is provided from Environment Agency models. UKCP18 does not provide direct information on flooding, and the flood model HiPIMS was used to convert precipitation to surface water flooding. For generating storm events, FEH methodology was used, in combination with uplifts from different sources to represent the effects of climate change, and a discussion of how UKCP18 products may augment this approach, given appropriate consideration of the challenges in using this for decision making.
Using HiPIMS allowed the provision of multiple surface water flooding scenarios for different storm lengths, return periods (1 in 100, 1 in 1000 year events) and climate change scenarios, giving spatio-temporal maps of flood depth over time, in a form that can be used to assess the vulnerability of assets and consider how changes in the climate will affect the likelihood, and extent, of flooding in the future.
Visit the technical report page
Climate change is increasing the frequency with which the UK infrastructure is threatened by extreme weather events. To explore the potential impact of future climate conditions, the CReDo project is working to develop a digital twin of key infrastructure networks. This digital twin can be used to help make decisions to better protect the networks in advance of extreme weather events, and ultimately to help inform a real-time response to extreme weather events. The novel feature of this tool is that it will provide the collaborating asset owners- and also crisis management teams- with not only assessments concerning the impact of a weather-induced flooding incident in a future climate on the infrastructure and networks monitored by the individual asset owners, but also the operability of assets owned by other companies- where the failure of these assets impinges on the functionality of their own. The highly interdependent nature of these infrastructure networks, such as telephone lines relying on power supplies being operational, mean that reliably modelling the impact of an extreme weather event requires accounting for such connections. It is planned that the shared appreciation of the mutual threats described by the digital twin across the different actors will encourage further coordination between the companies in their strategic plans to mitigate these increasing threats.
This report outlines just one component of this development. We demonstrate how it is possible to elicit from asset owners the probabilities that each of their assets might fail, in a particular future flood scenario that makes consideration of the impact of climate changes on extreme weather patterns. Taking these unfolding events, and through working with teams of domain experts drawn from asset owners associated with the local power, water and telecommunication companies, our team demonstrate how it is possible to elicit probability distributions of the failure of each asset and their connections within the network. This information would then be fed to operational researchers who can calculate the knock-on effect on the whole network of each simulated future incident. From a decision-analytic perspective, the digital twin would thus consist of connected digital twins representing hydrology, the failure modes of assets, and the system in which the assets sit, with a decision support layer sitting above this.
Visit the technical report page
This paper describes the work done on the understanding of infrastructure interdependencies and impact on the overall system. The work on the model described in this report started in September 2021. Access to the data was given at the end of October 2021 and the technical work ran until mid-January 2022.
The work was led by Lars Schewe and primarily carried out by Mariel Reyes Salazar. The integration of the multiple different networks was carried out by Maksims Abalenkovs. We achieved to demonstrate that we can integrate the data from a digital twin into component networks models and could connect these with an overarching coordinating algorithm. This allows us to propagate failures in the networks and then analyse the impacts on the different networks. The observed runtimes for the test networks indicate that the implemented methods will work on realistic networks and that implementing more complex models is feasible in follow-up projects.
The technical work planned in the work package was to model each of the component networks, build models that allow to propagate failures through each of them, and propose methods to propagate the failures between them.
To structure the work, the team proposed three levels of detail for the network models and two levels for the integration. In addition, the objective functions for the underlying optimization problems were to be developed. Due to unavailability of data and the short timescale, it was decided to focus on the first levels for all networks and the integration. As no data was available that could guide the definition of an objective function, this work was not undertaken.
The basic models were implemented in Python and tested on a small-scale model of part of a UK town. This allowed to demonstrate that the overall methodology is sound and that data from a digital twin can be transferred to more detail network models and the results can be played back to the digital twin.
Visit the technical report page
BSI Flex 260 Built environment - Digital twins overview and general principles
This work began with the Standards Roadmap developed by the British Standards Institute to explore the existing standards landscape and define a route charting the subsequent standards opportunities. It will evolve with the development of standards within the BSI’s recommended framework for digital twins in the built environment.
We have chosen to test the BSI Flex approach to explore its applicability in the context of connected digital twins. It allows for iterative modification of the standard as common knowledge around digital twins develop, lessons are learned, and practical experience is gained across domains and geographies.
The consultation period for this Flex standard runs for six weeks until Monday 7 March 2022. Please see:
BSI Flex standard landing page
BSI Flex standard commenting page
We are pleased to announce the publication of the (Smart Infrastructure Index) Digital Maturity Benchmarking report.
Summary of responses
This year, we received 57 responses from the DT Hub community as a whole, this compares with 21 responses in 2020 from asset owners/operators. While increasing the reach of the survey, it also influenced the scoring.
The overall digital maturity score for the DT Hub community was 37.3 in 2020, decreasing to 33.6 in 2021. When looking at scores for asset owners / operators only, the decrease was evident, however far less significant, with the average score of 37.1 in 2021.
The overarching observation of this year’s Smart Infrastructure Index results is that on average, the digital maturity score of the DT Hub community has decreased. However, the overall digital maturity of the DT Hub community’s member organisations has not necessarily dropped. There are two key factors which lead to this conclusion: first, that the demographic of respondents has changed, with the survey being sent to vendors and academia as well as asset owners / operators; and second, that the DT Hub community last year was much smaller than it is now, with far fewer organisations, who likely fall into the category of ‘early adopters’ of digital twins and digital more generally.
Analysis and recommendations to improve digital maturity
This report compares results from the 2021 Digital Twin question set with those from 2020, arranging observations and insights into subcategories then continuing with an analysis of the core Smart Infrastructure Index questions. It concludes with specific recommendations to improve digital maturity scores across both these categories.
About the Smart Infrastructure Index
The Smart Infrastructure Index allows organisations to:
Better understand their maturity in relation to both digital transformation and digital twins
Compare and contrast DT Hub members with broader Index metrics
Draw comparisons with the wider community
Understand progress in the last year
Identify future areas of focus.
The DT Hub version of the Smart Infrastructure Index includes core questions that assess digital maturity across the asset lifecycle and an extension focused on digital twins in the context of the National Digital Twin programme (NDTp).
Download the report
Produce a benefits report and valuation for the National Digital Twin Climate Resilience Demonstrator (CReDo)
Calling valuation experts who like a challenge. How would you value data and resilience? Help us assess and quantify the benefits of CReDo and articulate the direct and indirect benefits of a CReDo-type approach to climate adaptation. Access the tender documents here: University of Cambridge Electronic Tendering Site - Project Manage - Tender (in-tendhost.co.uk)
Register interest through the link by 14 December and submit proposals by 4 January.
The Credo project started in April 2021 and is funded by UKRI until 31 March 2022. The benefits assessment covers both this period and the future value of Credo if it is continued and scaled up over the coming years. The scaling up aspect of Credo as part of the National Digital Twin should relate to the benefits realisation framework work being carried out by consultants appointed by the National Digital Twin programme under a separate contract also due to complete by 31 March 2022.
The benefits assessment should assess the value of the minimum viable product developed by the Credo technical team and the value of the findings and lessons learnt generated by Credo for the period April 2021 to March 2022 for both the participating asset owners and the wider DT Hub community. The benefits assessment should also explore the benefits of applying the IMF approach in this initial phase of Credo and in future phases of Credo, in terms of enabling asset owners to improve their levels of information management and in terms of developing a scalable, replicable approach to connected datasets and digital twins. Credo is developing future best practice in connecting datasets and digital twins and the valuation should seek to quantify the value of this future best practice.
We have seen over the past year how the COVID-19 response has accelerated the speed and scale of digital transformation. One of the most striking developments is the huge momentum towards the adoption of digital twins in the built environment.
It’s an important step forward as there is immense value for the UK in unlocking the potential of digital twins. However, it needs to be done in the right way - built on good values, as well as a shared foundation and framework to support the end goal of secure data exchange and interoperability. This is why the development of a set of standards is crucial and a key aim of the Construction Innovation Hub (the Hub). Working with the CDBB’s National Digital Twin Programme (NDTp) and the British Standards Institute (BSI), we’ve already 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.
Keeping pace with a rapidly evolving market
Standards are typically seen as offering clarity and consistency – but the methodology traditionally used to develop them does not necessarily offer agility as it can often take years. We are collaborating again with both the NDTp and the BSI to produce a visionary white paper exploring the benefits of developing standards that are more dynamic, flexible and agile.
The need for agility is driven by the pace of change in the digital sector - good practice needs to adapt at the same rate. Agile approaches to standardization are a way of remaining relevant and delivering value by acting as up-to-date reference points, even at times of great uncertainty and change.
Ensuring that standards can evolve and flex to facilitate and support innovation is a key driver for both the National Digital Twin programme and the Construction Innovation Hub. This White Paper and the development of the new Flex Standard is a really positive move for future disruption, which will drive the sector forward. Driving innovation and cutting edge practice including the development of digital twins helping to advance the construction sector and beyond.
We are not creating something completely untested – we can look at the evidence found in the software development industry, where agile methodologies and DevOps have delivered high quality working code, continuously at scale. This paper sets out how we can learn from such techniques and apply them to the world of standards.
Alongside the white paper we are running a pilot using BSI’s new agile standardisation service (BSI Flex) to demonstrate why agile standards are the right approach to use in the digital twin space. BSI Flex develops consensus-based good practice that adapts to keep pace with fast changing markets such as the digital twin market. Update We are looking forward to delivering the latest phase of this work, with consultation on the pilot standard beginning at the end October 2021.
An interesting example of how BSI Flex has been used recently was in developing Safe Working Guidelines with the onset of the pandemic. BSI published its first Safe Working Guidelines BSI Flex standard in May 2020, and Versions 2 and 3 followed in July and August. The first version was produced in just two weeks and the subsequent iterations benefitted from comments received during public consultation. The Guidelines were then used as the basis of a new international standard. It demonstrated that in such a fast-changing environment, where everyone was faced with unprecedented challenges, a flexible approach to creating a standard was the right approach.
The standards journey so far
The agile standards white paper is building on early standards groundwork that was undertaken within the Digital Twin (DT) Hub and BSI over the last year. It consisted of:
Research to produce a Landscape report on existing standards related to digital twins, including a gap analysis of areas which require further development
The publication of a Standards Roadmap for digital twins, which guides and recommends potential development of standards within the digital twin sector.
Dan Rossiter, Brand Ambassador to the National Digital Twin programme gives an overview on the standards groundwork that has taken place so far.
Each step of the way, consensus and collaboration have been essential and we’re enormously grateful for all the various stakeholders who have offered feedback and advice. We’re looking forward to sharing this white paper with you and again receiving all your comments. It’s a really exciting development and paves the way for the first standard for digital twins due to be published for open consultation later this summer. They will shape the future of our built environment, ensuring safety, quality and value.
Ron Lang, Chief Technical Officer, Construction Innovation Hub
Industries involved in the creation and management of built assets require effective, resilient and secure data and information sharing and aggregation. Much of this information is needed throughout the life of the asset and needs to be shared with a number of organisations. This is critical not only for asset management, but to support the services provided by the asset, as well as other considerations such as measuring the accumulating carbon in order that a net zero footprint can be achieved.
As a result, a formal mechanism to ensure that the right information can be made available at the right time, to the right people and that the quality of the information is known and understood, is required.
The Information Management Framework (IMF) is such a mechanism, the technical part of which comprises three main elements:
A Foundation Data Model
A Reference Data Library, and
An Integration Architecture.
The Foundation Data Model (or ontology) and Reference Data Library define a common structure and meaning for information that is shared between organisations within and across sectors and domains. Together, therefore, they enable the consistent sharing and integration of information. The Integration Architecture comprises a combination of technologies that enables this sharing of data between databases and the systems that use them.
The pragmatic and technical requirements for the Foundation Data Model have now been developed and consideration has been given as to whether any existing Top-Level Ontologies could be used as a suitable start-point.
There are four Top-Level Ontologies that meet all the technical requirements: BORO, IDEAS, HQDM and ISO 15926-2. They are distinct from the other Top-Level Ontologies in being 4-dimensionalist. These allow us to see individual objects as four-dimensional, having both spatial and temporal parts.
We are therefore proceeding to develop the Foundation Data Model seed from these 4-dimensionalist Top-Level Ontologies.
More detailed information on the requirements and the process followed is set out in the ‘Top-Level Ontology Survey’ and the attached ‘The Approach to Develop the Foundation Data Model for the Information Management Framework’ documents.
The Approach to Develop the FDM for the IMF.pdf Read more...
Strategic planning for life after Covid-19 brings an unprecedented opportunity to change the way we view and manage our infrastructure. Mark Enzer, from CDBB makes the case for putting people first.
The current pandemic has been a powerful but unforgiving teacher. It has demonstrated the importance of data and the power of digital models to derive insights from those data, to help us model outcomes, to guide the pulling of the levers to control “R” and to help us make better more-informed decisions. Covid’s disruptive impact across all sectors and societies has also revealed the interconnections and interdependencies between our economic and social infrastructure, highlighting the importance of creating resilient, sustainable and secure infrastructure systems upon which essential services depend.
So why change our view of infrastructure?
We have created an amazing, complex machine on which we wholly depend. Without it, our lives would be immeasurably worse. Society would not survive. That machine is infrastructure – our built environment. However, we don’t appreciate the relationship between infrastructure and our wellbeing. Therefore, we don’t set objectives in terms of outcomes for people and society.
And although we understand each part of the built environment, we do not manage it as a whole. Therefore, we don’t know how to address its systemic vulnerabilities or make it work better. If we envision, plan and manage infrastructure differently, we can make it what it should truly be: A platform for human flourishing.
Putting people first
The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) and the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) have recently published ‘Flourishing systems’, which makes the case for a people-focused systems-based vision for infrastructure. As we consider priorities following the Covid-19 outbreak, we have an opportunity to plot a new course that recognises the fundamental role of infrastructure in the social, economic and environmental outcomes that determine the quality of people’s lives. To do this, we must see infrastructure as a complex, interconnected system of systems that must deliver continuous service to society. Infrastructure is so much more than just a series of construction projects.
Adopting a system-of-systems approach makes it possible to address the great systemic challenges such as achieving net-zero carbon emissions, improving resilience and preparing for a circular economy. It also unlocks the potential of digital transformation across the built environment.
How digitalisation delivers value
With the ongoing digital transformation of the infrastructure industry, we have the opportunity to deliver huge benefit for people – for whom infrastructure ultimately exists. Digital transformation encompasses how we function as organisations, how we deliver new assets and how we operate, maintain and use existing assets. Bringing digital and physical assets together creates cyber-physical systems – smart infrastructure. Effectively, this is applying the fourth industrial revolution to infrastructure. Making better use of asset and systems data is central to this vision because better analysis of better data enables better decisions, producing better outcomes, which is the essential promise of the information age.
As part of this, we must recognise digital assets, such as data, information, algorithms and digital twins, as genuine ‘assets’, which have value and must be managed effectively and securely. In time, as data and digital assets become valued, data itself will be seen as infrastructure.
We are now at a point where the vision for effective digitalisation of the whole of the built environment is within reach.
Enabling secure, resilient data sharing
Managing complex interconnected systems requires the appropriate tools. CDBB’s National Digital Twin programme sets out a structured approach for effective information management across the system as a whole. This approach is informed by ‘The Gemini Principles’ and is driven by the NIC’s ‘data for the public good’ report. The recent paper ‘Pathway Towards an Information Management Framework’ suggests an approach for the development of an Information Management Framework to enable secure, resilient data sharing across the built environment. It is this that will enable data connections between digital twins, which is at the heart of the concept of the ‘National Digital Twin’ – an ecosystem of connected digital twins.
All systems go
Taking a systems-based approach to our infrastructure will improve our ability to deliver desirable outcomes for people and society – around accessibility, inclusion, empowerment, resilience and wellbeing – not just for now but for generations to come. It will also better equip us to address the urgent global systemic challenge of climate change. It’s time to see infrastructure differently – as a system of systems that provides a platform for human flourishing.
The 2020 DT Hub extension to the Smart Infrastructure Index survey explored organisational maturity towards digital twins and the National Digital Twin programme. It was completed by 18% of eligible DT Hub members. Analysis of the response provides insight into; maturity within the DT Hub, relationships between organisational maturity indicators and digital twin maturity and where there may be risks and opportunities for advancing digital twin maturity within the Built Environment.
Watch Sam Chorlton and Tom Hughes' interview on the survey results and what it means to the DT Hub.
As everyone who works within the built environment sector knows, the essential starting point for any successful construction project is the establishment of a solid foundation. With that in mind the Digital Twin Hub is thrilled to announce the publication of its first ever digital twin foundation guide: Digital Twins for the Built Environment.
The purpose of this guide is not to be exhaustive but to document, at a high level, knowledge and examples of Digital Twin use cases that have been shared through the development of the DT Hub and engagement with our early members.
It is hoped that by sharing this knowledge all members of the DT Hub will benefit from a common understanding of foundational concepts and the ‘How, What and Why’ of Digital Twins and that this shared knowledge will enable more meaningful discussions within the DT Hub.
To provide a relatable structure we have broken down the concepts into the different phases of the asset lifecycle. This should provide a greater sense of clarity of how Digital Twins can be applied to support real business problems against tangible examples.
The Role of the Community
The creation of this guide has demonstrated that there is complexity in distilling foundational concepts. For this publication we have focused on what we hope will benefit the community. To maximise the value we must therefore develop, refine and iterate this guide in partnership with the members.
We actively encourage the community to provide feedback, both positive and negative in nature. More importantly than this, we hope that as part of this feedback process the community will be able to suggest potential alterations or amendments to continue increasing the value offering of the document.
Historically, standards have often been (falsely!) perceived as a contradiction to innovation. In fact, standards have often played a pivotal role in the adoption of new innovations. This is because those standards established a framework which defined aspects such as common vocabularies, essential characteristics and good practice. Once such a framework had been established, products and services that support the framework were developed.
What happened with Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a great example of this. After developing the PAS 1192 series, UK competencies around BIM were catalysed; allowing the UK to (and continue to) export its leadership globally. To facilitate the same level of adoption for digital twins, a similar framework is needed.
With work already underway to develop standards relating to digital twins at ISO, a roadmap for digital twins within the built environment is needed to ensure that such standards are developed in a holistic manner; formalizing the right content while allowing the sector to compete within these constraints.
To that end, BSI have worked with CDBB to produce a digital twins standards roadmap for the built environment. This roadmap considers what specific digital twin standard are needed as well as what supporting standards need to be produced which relate to the wider use of digital within the built environment. The roadmap was developed through the analysis of around 12,540 standards across a myriad of sectors. The Standards roadmap is attached below.
Comments and contributions to the roadmap, due to be updated periodically, are welcomed. Please feel free to comment below, email DTHub@cdbb.cam.ac.uk.
HUB Version_DT Standards Roadmap_November 2020 (3).pdf
The Centre for Digital Built Britain’s National Digital Twin programme has launched an open consultation seeking feedback on the proposed approach to the development of an Information Management Framework for the built environment.
A new report, The Pathway Towards an Information Management Framework: A Commons for a Digital Built Britain, sets out the technical approach for the development of an Information Management Framework (IMF) to enable secure, resilient data sharing across the built environment. The publication of the report by CDBB, in partnership with the Construction Innovation Hub, is a critical milestone towards a National Digital Twin.
On the publication, Mark Enzer, Head of the National Digital Twin Programme said, “I would really like to thank everyone who has come together over the past 18 months to help develop this proposed pathway towards an Information Management Framework. It represents a huge amount of work and exemplifies the collaborative approach that will be needed as we seek to enable an ecosystem of connected digital twins – the National Digital Twin.
“The challenge is sizeable, but the promise is huge: better outcomes coming from better decisions based on better connected data. And, working with industry, academia and Government all pulling together we can deliver it. So, I’d urge you to join with us on this journey and help us build consensus on the way forward.”
The way that digital twins are connected is important to ensuring security and improving the resilience of assets and systems. The goal of the IMF is to establish a common language by which digital twins of the built and natural environment can communicate securely and effectively to support improved decision taking by those operating, maintaining and using built assets and the services they provide to society. Its development by CDBB was recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission in 2017’s Data for the Public Good report and HM Government’s Construction Sector Deal.
As industry leaders, DT Hub members involved in planning, creating and managing the built environment are invited to provide feedback on the report here.
The consultation questions are:
It has been proposed that the Information Management Framework (IMF) should essentially consist of a Foundation Data Model (FDM), a Reference Data Library (RDL) and an Integration Architecture (IA). Do you agree with this overall framework? In your view, are there any key elements missing from this framework?
In your view, is the proposed approach to the IMF consistent with the Gemini Principles? Are there any inconsistencies that should be addressed?
Section 3.4 lists the models and protocols that would form part of the IMF. Is there anything that you would like to suggest to improve this list?
Section 3.5 describes key concepts of a Foundation Data Model. Is there anything that you would like to suggest to improve this description?
Section 3.6 describes key concepts of the Reference Data Library. Is there anything that you would like to suggest to improve this description?
Section 3.7 describes key concepts of an Integration Architecture. Is there anything that you would like to suggest to improve this description?
Section 4 proposes a pathway for developing the IMF. Do you agree with the proposed overall approach? In your view, are there any key tasks missing from this pathway? Would you suggest any improvements to the order in which the tasks are undertaken to develop the IMF?
What do you see as the barriers to connecting digital twins within organisations and between different organisations/sectors? How can these barriers be overcome?
In your experience what are the reasons why organisations invest in the creation of digital twins? Why would they invest in connecting digital twins?
Do you have any other comments on the proposed approach to developing the information management framework?
What opportunities do you see arising in your business from being able to connect Digital Twins and share and integrate data across them?
The consultation on the IMF is open until 31 August and responses can be submitted here.
Read a summary of the report here.