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  1. While there is a lot of discussion around ethics in technology, and growing interest in these pages in ethics and digital twins, there is a significant gap that needs to be addressed. This is the gap that exists between ethical principles and ethical practice. Kirsten Lamb noted in her discussion on this site back in March that, "The Gemini Principles set out the need for digital twins to be ethical and secure, but ... this can be surprisingly difficult to ensure." This is a problem that challenges a lot of areas of application for digital ethics, most notably in AI and automation (how do you make an AI "fair"?), with obvious implications for digital twins. There are numerous different approaches being trialled to bridge this gap. To date, one of the most successful is an ethics by design approach. This considers the design process for a digital twin and then identifies different ethical issues that arise at each stage of the design. While it doesn't give a convenient tick box approach to ethics (and probably never will or should, given the complexities of the challenge) it breaks down an approach to ethical development into more manageable chunks. Rather than saying "a digital twin should respect privacy", it encourages developers to consider the impacts of their digital twin on privacy at specific stages of the develpment process. To that end, Sopra Steria has published a report on operationalising digital twin ethics in travel and transport. This sets out an ethics by design approach to developing digital twins. It breaks down the development cycle and raises key considerations at each of the stages. Please do not think that if you don't work in travel and transport then this isn't for you! Context is always going to be important in determining ethical issues with digital twins (as noted here) but there can still be learning across contexts. An operationalisation approach in travel and transport can still inform an operationalisation approach in farming, for example, or finance. The key message is getting the ethical issues beyond abstract requirements at the start of a project, and to bake them in to an approach that sees ethical reflection as a fundamental part of the development life cycle. If you would like to discuss ethics and digital twins further then please do get in touch.
  2. To asset owners and managers, understanding how people move through and use the built environment is a high priority, enabling better, more user-focused decisions. However, many of the methods for getting these insights can feel invasive to users. The latest output from Digital Twin Journeys looks at how a researcher at the University of Cambridge has solved this problem by teaching a computer to see. Watch the video to learn more. Working from the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, Matthew Danish is developing an innovative, low-cost sensor that tracks the movement of people through the built environment. DeepDish is based on open-source software and low-cost hardware, including a webcam and a Raspberry Pi. Using Machine Learning, Matthew has previously taught DeepDish to recognise pedestrians and track their journeys through the space, and then began training them to distinguish pedestrians from Cambridge’s many cyclists. One of the key innovations in Matthew’s technique is that no images of people are actually stored or processed outside of the camera. Instead, it is programmed to count and track people without capturing any identifying information or images. This means that DeepDish can map the paths of individuals using different mobility modes through space, without violating anyone’s privacy. Matthew’s digital twin journey teaches us that technological solutions need not be expensive to tick multiple boxes, and a security- and privacy-minded approach to asset sensing can still deliver useful insights. To find out more about DeepDish, read about it here. This research forms part of the Centre for Digital Built Britain’s (CDBB) work at the University of Cambridge. It was enabled by the Construction Innovation Hub, of which CDBB is a core partner, and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).
  3. “As CDBB celebrates the successful completion of its mission to advance the digital transformation of the built environment, I am excited to be able to share the learning we have gained over the past four years both within CDBB and with our many academic, government and industry partners who have made a digital built Britain a reality. “The Gemini Papers capture the consensus viewpoint of the connected digital twin community and serve as a blueprint for future leaders and policy makers.” Alexandra Bolton, Executive Director, CDBB The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) is delighted to announce the publication of the Gemini Papers. The Gemini Papers set out CDBB’s vision for the future, showcasing the vital role that connected digital twins play in improving social, economic, and environmental outcomes, to create a better quality of life for all. Driven by the Gemini Principles of purpose, trust and function, the papers are a series of three documents addressing the ‘What’ ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of connected digital twins. CDBB has worked closely with industry, academia, and government to explore and create solutions for the challenges facing the built environment. The Gemini Papers present our learnings from the past five years, capturing the consensus viewpoint of the connected digital twin community - serving as a blueprint for future leaders. Watch the video: https://youtu.be/PpW5yDzrIn0 Read the Gemini Papers: Summary paper What are connected digital twins? Why connected digital twins? How to enable an ecosystem of connected digital twins
  4. Motion sensors, CO₂ sensors and the like are considered to be benign forms of monitoring, since they don’t capture images or personal data about us as we move through the buildings we visit. Or at least, that’s what we want to believe. Guest blogger Professor Matthew Chalmers (University of Glasgow) helped develop a mobile game called About Us as part of the CDBB funded Project OAK. The game takes players through a mission using information from building sensors to help them achieve their aims — with a twist at the end. He writes about why we all need to engage with the ethics of data collection in smart built environments. Mobile games are more than just entertainment. They can also teach powerful lessons by giving the player the ability to make decisions, and then showing them the consequences of those decisions. About Us features a simulated twin of a building in Cambridge, with strategically placed CO₂ sensors in public spaces (such as corridors), and raises ethical questions about the Internet of Things (IoT) in buildings. The premise of the game is simple. While you complete a series of tasks around the building, you must avoid the characters who you don’t want to interact with (as they will lower your game score), and you should contact your helpers — characters who will boost your score. You can view a map of the building, and plan your avatar’s route to accomplish your tasks, based on which route you think is safest. On the map, you can watch the building’s sensors being triggered. By combining this anonymous sensor data with map details of which offices are located where, you can gather intelligence about the movements of particular characters. In this way, you can find your helpers and avoid annoying interactions. If you’ve avoided the bad characters and interacted with the good characters while completing your tasks, you win the game. However, a twist comes after you have finished: the game shows you how much could be inferred about your game character, from the exact same sensors that you had been using to make inferences about other characters. Every task in the game exposes some sensitive data about the player’s avatar, and reinforces the player’s uncomfortable realisation that they have exploited apparently neutral data to find and avoid others. What does this tell us about the ethics of digital twins? Our journeys through the built environment can reveal more than we intend them to, e.g. our movements, our routines, where we congregate, and where we go to avoid others. All this information could inadvertently be revealed by a building digital twin, even though the data used seems (at first glance) to be anonymous and impersonal. The game used CO₂ levels as an example of apparently impersonal data that, when combined with other information (local knowledge in this case), becomes more personal. More generally, data might be low risk when isolated within its originating context, but risk levels are higher given that data can be combined with other systems and other (possibly non-digital) forms of information. The Gemini Principles set out the need for digital twins to be ethical and secure, but About Us demonstrates that this can be surprisingly difficult to ensure. Collecting data through digital twins provides aggregate insights — that’s why they’re so useful — but it also creates risks that need ongoing governance. It’s vitally important that citizens understand the double-edged problem of digital twins, so that citizens are more able to advocate for how they want the technology to be used, and not used, and for how governance should be implemented. Gamification is now a well-established technique for understanding and changing user attitudes toward digital technology. About Us was designed to create a safe but challenging environment, in which players can explore an example of data that could be collected in distributed computing environments, the uses to which such data can be put, and the intelligence that can be gathered from resulting inferences. The ultimate purpose of Project OAK is to enable anyone concerned with how data is managed (e.g., data processors, data subjects, governance bodies) to build appropriate levels of trust in the data and in its processing. Only if we recognise the ethical and legal issues represented by digital twins can we start to give meaningful answers to questions about what good system design and good system governance look like in this domain. Information about this project is available on their GitHub page. This research forms part of the Centre for Digital Built Britain’s (CDBB) work at the University of Cambridge. It was enabled by the Construction Innovation Hub, of which CDBB is a core partner, and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). To join the conversation with others who are on their own digital twin journeys, join the Digital Twin Hub.
  5. By 2050, an estimated 4.1 million people will be affected by sight loss in the UK, making up a portion of the 14.1 million disabled people in the UK. How might digital twins create opportunities for better accessibility and navigability of the built environment for blind and partially sighted people? A new infographic presents a conception of how this might work in the future. In their work with the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, the Smart Hospitals of the Future research team have explored how user-focused services based on connected digital twins might work. Starting from a user perspective, the team have investigated ways in which digital technology can support better services, and their ideas for a more accessible, seamless experience are captured in a new infographic. In the infographic, service user Suhani accesses assistive technology for blind people on her mobile phone to navigate her journey to an appointment at an eye hospital. On the way, she is aided by interoperable, live data from various digital twins that seamlessly respond to changing circumstances. The digital twins are undetectable to Suhani, but nevertheless they help her meet her goal of safely and comfortably getting to her appointment. They also help her doctors meet their goals of giving Suhani the best care possible. The doctors at the eye hospital are relying on a wider ecosystem of digital twins beyond their own building digital twin to make sure this happens, as Suhani’s successful journey to the hospital is vital to ensuring they can provide her with care. Physical assets, such as buildings and transport networks, are not the only things represented in this hypothetical ecosystem of connected digital twins. A vital component pictured here are digital twins of patients based on their medical data, and the team brings up questions about the social acceptability and security of digital twins of people, particularly vulnerable people. No community is a monolith, and disabled communities are no exception. The research team acknowledges that more research is needed with the user community of Moorfields to understand the variety of needs across the service pathway that digital twins could support. As such, developers need to consider the range of users with different abilities and work with those users to design a truly inclusive ecosystem of digital twins. The work by the Smart Hospitals research team raises wider questions about the role of digital technology both in creating more physical accessibility in the built environment but also potentially creating more barriers to digital accessibility. It is not enough to create assistive technologies if not everyone can – or wants to – have access to those technologies. ‘The role of digital technologies in exacerbating potentially digital inequalities is something that needs to be looked at from a policy perspective, both at the hospital level, but also more generally, from a government Department of Health perspective,’ says Dr Michael Barrett, the project’s principal investigator. Dr Karl Prince, co-investigator, reflects that, ‘The traditional questions when it comes to this type of technology are raised as to: do they have access to equipment, and do they have the technical ability?’ The lesson is that you can build digital twins that create a better experience for people if you design digital systems from the perspective of an ecosystems of services, with input from users of that ecosystem. Through exciting case studies, the project raises vital questions about digital ethics and the potentially transformative effects of digital twins on the physical built environment. To read the infographic in detail, click here. You can read more from the Smart Hospitals project by visiting their research profile page. This research forms part of the Centre for Digital Built Britain’s (CDBB) work at the University of Cambridge. It was enabled by the Construction Innovation Hub, of which CDBB is a core partner, and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). To join the conversation with others who are on their own digital twin journeys, join the Digital Twin Hub.
  6. Research Sopra Steria has undertaken extensive academic and industry research into the ethics surrounding digital twins. This research provided the foundations for three stakeholder workshops, held in collaboration with the National Digital Twin programme (NDTp), exploring the ethical considerations behind digital twins and the National Digital Twin. Stakeholders were invited due to their expertise and experience with ethics, data and digital twins. There was an array of perspectives from organisations spanning government, academia, and industry and this collaboration sparked invaluable insight. These workshops were focused specifically on understanding the Gemini Principles from an ethical perspective. Sopra Steria’s seven categories of digital ethics, drawn from academic and industry standards, were adopted as a framework with which to approach the Gemini Principles. The workshops then explored the relationships between the framework values and the Gemini Principles. Combining the initial research with the analysis from the workshops has provided insight and clarity on the ethical aspects of the National Digital Twin for the NDTp and users of the Gemini Principles. This is essential for the operationalisation of the Gemini Principles, turning them from aspiration to reality. To read more about the findings from our study, the report can found at this link or attached here. So what next? In order to ensure that ethics sits at the core of all Digital Twins and the National Digital Twin, engagement from the whole community is essential. Therefore we would love to use this thread to start a conversation around ethics and Digital Twins. Please post any questions, opinions, contemplations, thought leadership or even late night thoughts; discussion and collaboration from a range of perspectives is how we will achieve a truly ethical National Digital Twin. We will get it started..... From the research conducted, what was the conclusion about governance supporting data ethics? Is it sufficient and if not what is the role of digital twin developers to bridge the gap? Digital Twins Ethics and the Gemini Principles.pdf
  7. Alexandra Robasto

    Digital Ethics Summit 2021

    until
    The 2021 techUK Digital Ethics Summit marks five years since TechUK first brought the digital ethics community together to discuss some of the biggest ethical challenges posed by the dominant role technology plays in our society. On the 8 December 2021, to commemorate the Summit’s fifth anniversary, TechUK will take stock and reflect on the material progress that has been made globally over the past five years; celebrating the achievements, sharing international best practice and examining areas for improvement. The Summit will also be an opportunity to focus on the future, and question ‘What we need to do now to get the next five years right?’ Read more ... Agenda Registration form
  8. Digital twins can help organisations achieve various goals. In some cases, the end goal is for buildings and infrastructure to last longer, use less energy, and be safer. In others, it is enhancing the lives of people who interact with the built environment and its services. As highlighted by the Gemini Principles, these are not mutually exclusive aims, so wherever you are on your digital twin journey, it is important to consider other perspectives on the hybrid digital and physical systems you create. How will your digital twin fit into a wider ecosystem that provides services to all kinds of people? How will your asset’s performance impact the wider built environment and those who need to navigate it? Whose lives will be better if you share data securely and purposefully. In the first output from the Digital Twin Journeys series, the team working on the Smart Hospital of the Future research project, enabled by the Construction Innovation Hub, shared case studies from two smart hospitals and reflect on the innovations they saw during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this two video mini-series, the research team shares insights about how existing digital maturity enabled these hospitals to respond to the pandemic in agile ways, transforming to a hybrid physical and digital model of care distributed across multiple sites. They also explored how individual asset digital twins fit into a wider landscape of ecosystem services, guiding how we approach interoperability to achieve better outcomes. These insights inform the way we think about the role of digital twins in the smart built environments of the future. Dr Nirit Pilosof reflects that, ‘Digital twin as a concept can promote the design of the new system, the design process of the built environment and the technologies, but also really help operate… the hybrid models looking at the physical and virtual environments together.’ If health care is enabled by connected digital twins, how could the design of hospitals – and whole cities – change? In the videos, the team also discusses the limitations and ethics of services enabled by digital data and the use of digital technologies to improve staff safety, from isolated COVID wards to telemedicine. They frame service innovation as an iterative and collaborative process, informed by the needs of digital twin users, whether those are the asset owners and operators, or the people benefitting from the services they provide. According to project co-lead Dr Michael Barrett, ‘The people who need to drive the change are the people who are providing the service.' After the COVID crisis, we can better recognise what we have learned from implementing digital services at scale, as more people than ever have relied on them. The team reflect that having the right people in the right roles enabled the smart hospitals in these cases to transform their services rapidly in response to the need. The same human and organisational infrastructure that is creating the smart hospital of the future is also needed to create the flexible, responsive built environments of the future. Digital Twin Journeys can start from the perspective of available technology, from a problem-solving perspective, or from the perspective of users experiencing a service ecosystem. The smart hospitals project demonstrates the value of the latter two approaches. Hospital staff were instrumental in shaping the digitally-enabled service innovation to keep them safe and offer better services on and offsite, but project co-lead Dr Karl Prince points out how people accessing those services have to navigate a variety of different services in the built environment to get there. As we begin to connect digital twins together, we need to consider not just our own needs but the needs of others that digital twins can address. For more on this project, including links to their publications, see the team’s research profile on the CDBB website. Keep up with the Digital Twin Journeys series on the CDBB website or here on the Digital Twin Hub blog.
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