Why is Information Assurance Important for the Built Environment?
For the purposes of this article, information assurance refers to verifying and/or validating information.
Organisations want to deliver increased productivity, reduce or avoid costs, and increase their output. 1Spatial help achieve positive outcomes for organisations by delivering automated information assurance using specified requirements, rules, and reporting.
The Government Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030 is the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s flagship programme to lead system change in the built environment. Its purpose is to transform how the government and industry decide to intervene in the built environment, to drive a step change in infrastructure performance.
The roadmap includes an information management mandate, stating that organisations should have a digital mechanism for defining their information requirements and then procuring, receiving, assuring, and storing, via a system of record, the information that they procure.
The GIIG (part of UK BIM Framework) aims to help organisations deliver, and benefit from information management, by developing guidance for specifying, procuring, delivering, assuring, storing, presenting, and exploiting built environment information.
1Spatial supports the work of the GIIG and recently joined nima (formerly UK BIM Alliance) as a bronze patron, to help make information management across our built environment business as usual.
Information management is not effective unless the information is of an agreed quality and standard before being ingested or integrated into a larger system or shared for wider consumption and decision-making.
Multiple stakeholders (asset owners, contractors, and suppliers) capture, hold and share information about built environment assets throughout the lifecycle of assets. Where information is being used to manage strategic built environment assets - such as buildings, road networks, airports, flood defences or power stations - challenges may arise when information needs to be integrated from multiple data owners.
Discrepancies in file exchange formats, data currency and data granularity can lead to varying levels of accuracy, quality, and consistency.
To create strong data foundations and “the golden thread” that allow organisations to share information and have confidence in their information, information quality is critical. Rather than Information Managers or Document Controllers for example, resorting to repetitive manual information assurance processes, it is important that organisations establish information management and an information assurance regime to identify and rectify errors according to a set of predefined requirements and rules.
Organisations with large amounts of legacy data, in old IT systems, are especially prone to this challenge. Specified requirements, for example, an Information Delivery Plan (IDP), Project Information Requirements (PIR), Asset Information Requirements (AIR) and specifications, for example, Information Delivery Specification (IDS), can significantly improve information quality, completeness, and reliability, via information assurance. By applying an information management framework, objective information assurance becomes an automated workflow process rather than an event and ensures the integrity, interoperability, availability, and compliance of built environment information.
Automated information assurance improves the quality, availability, and timeliness of the information available to organisations – facilitating more efficient and effective decisions and investments.
Who Needs Information Assurance?
Many stakeholders, including external contractors (appointed parties) and their suppliers, contribute information about the built environment throughout its lifecycle to asset owners (appointing parties). Where information is being used to manage strategic built environment aspects - such as road networks, airports, flood defences or power stations – challenges may arise when information needs to be integrated and assured from multiple data owners.
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Rules are a great way to help organisations maintain information quality and reliability across the supply chain (asset owners, contractors, and suppliers). They are a great way to explicitly assure information against specified requirements. They also become an independent way to catalogue, version and report what assurances are performed on information so that organisations can collaborate with all users. This allows organisations to be clear with everyone about the context organisations have used to determine that information is fit for purpose.
A Rules Engine Approach to Information Assurance
A Rules Engine (software application) is, at its core, a mechanism for executing business and technical rules from specified requirements to a dataset. Business and technical rules are simple statements that encode business decisions of some kind. It provides a true or false result depending on whether the input data matches that rule. Rules have always been considered a part of Artificial Intelligence although in a rules-based system, the rules are explicitly defined by experts rather than being automatically inferred from possible subtle patterns in data.
Information management assurance using requirements, rules, and reporting at the Environment Agency
The Environment Agency is one of the central government early adopters for interoperable built environment information management, using specified requirements and rules to drive efficiency and productivity.
Source: Environment Agency and GIIG
The Environment Agency is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). With responsibility for protection and enhancement of the environment across England, Flood and Coastal Risk Management deals with approximately half of the Environment Agency’s annual expenditure to build, maintain and operate flood defences, maintain rivers, and provide effective flood warnings to communities.
Information about its extensive flood and coastal defence assets, which are an essential part of the national built environment, is as important as the physical assets themselves. Robust information management is therefore required to ensure that the Agency’s information is findable, accessible, interoperable, re-usable and fit for purpose. With most of Environment Agency’s information commissioned from contractors and their suppliers, it needed to transform the acceptance and assurance of information coming from difference systems. The “Data store, Rules and Visualisation” (DRV) service is a key component of going digital and transforming Environment Agency’s information management and specifically information assurance.
To give confidence in the information provided by its contractors and their suppliers, the Environment Agency use 1Spatial’s 1Integrate product and Safe Software’s FME Flow (formerly FME Server) product to deliver automated asset information assurance. The integrated DRV service assures geoCOBie data against different specified requirements, for example, Information Delivery Plan and Data Requirements Library.
A hosted FME Flow looks for new geoCOBie files in an Excel format, that have been uploaded by contractors to the Environment Agency Common Data Environment (CDE), Asite. New geoCOBie files are parsed and loaded into a staging area in preparation for assurance using FME Flow. The 1Integrate “central rules book” is made up of 170 business and technical rules that checks the geoCOBie data. If the geoCOBie data passes the required rules, an approval report is generated. If the data fails to meet any of the rules, a failure report is generated, advising the contractor of the issues found. This report can be used by the contractor to correct the issues before re-submitted files back to the DRV for assurance.
Accepted geoCOBie data whose workflow status indicates that it is ‘For Publication’, is imported into the DRV structured data repository, a Microsoft Azure SQL Database, ready for visualisation and re-use across the Environment Agency processes and associated business systems, for example asset information management, business intelligence and GIS.
1Spatial are working with organisations across the built environment to build and maintain structured data repositories (data foundations) of the built environment, by automating information management assurance throughout the built environment lifecycle. Structured data repositories of the built environment have the capacity to meet operational needs and provide foundations for digital transformation, e.g. digital twins.
If you would like to find out more, take a look at this on-demand “The Road to Smarter Asset Information Assurance” webinar, which includes presentations from the GIIG, Environment Agency and 1Spatial.
This article can also be found here: The Journey to Smarter Information Assurance for the Built Environment | 1Spatial
Author: Matt White, Head of Built Environment, 1Spatial