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