I’m writing this blog following my attendance at the Digital Twin Day organised by the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) in partnership with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Those who are not familiar with Digital Twins, as I was, the simplest explanation of this concept is that it is the digital representation of an actual physical asset, it can also apply to potential physical assets, e.g. the simulation, modelling and testing for the planned construction of a physical asset but, can also be the digital representation of people, processes and entire places, similar to the concept of a smart city. For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on the digital representation of physical assets.
The Digital Twin Day on September 9, 2019 was a great introduction to this concept and as I learn more about it, my mind’s eye can see a whole digital world opening up in front of me that will enable people and organisations to see and monitor digital versions of their assets, ranging from your entire home and what’s in it, to full digital representations of complete cities. This concept promises to deliver some interesting efficiencies, such as being able to monitor asset performance remotely and in real time. The data produced from Digital Twins will provide valuable insights into how assets are being used and in what way this impacts performance. This can help devise more effective preventative maintenance plans to increase the lifespan of the asset but, also for improving the quality of – and interaction with physical assets.
The emergence and evolution of the Internet of Things (IOT) will continue to give impetus to Digital Twins but, for it to be more widely adopted by businesses and non-profit organisations, the hardware and software costs will need to come down further along with a significant investment in people will be required to ensure they have the right skills to make this concept really work. The latter is from our own experience the factor that is not focused on enough. All too often organisations are too focused on technology and adopt one bit of new technology after the other, without fully utilising the technology they already have and ensuring it is supported by a robust data strategy, well-thought-out and documented processes, which people, across business support functions, have ownership of. This is also fundamental to the Data to Dashboard solutions and Data Strategy consulting we provide to our clients.
Digital Twins have a lot of potential for business and society but, there will be some big challenges along the way that will need to be taken head on for it to be more widely adopted and accepted. Particular caution must be taken with data generated from Digital twins that are owned and run by non-profit organisations and are critical for the public infrastructure to run smoothly. This will require strong leadership and vision to ensure the application of this concept does not result in the functioning of public infrastructure being compromised. As governments and non-profits will seek participation from the private sector, a clear data strategy must be devised to ensure ownership and the use of data is safeguarded together with a clear operating model that ensures accountability.
Blockchain technology should also be considered in the realisation of Digital Twins, as this technology makes the data immutable and through the use of a decentralised network and cryptology, it is seen as highly secure. The application of Blockchain has now moved beyond Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain technology is increasingly being used to improve day-to-day business processes and compliance, for instance in the procurement and management of assets. Blockchain technology, therefore, lends itself well for safeguarding data from digital twins and in such a way that organisations can be held accountable.
We live in exciting times and the concept of Digital Twins is testament to that. It is great to see CDBB championing this concept and working with industry to bring this into realisation on a wider scale and Data2Dash look forward to supporting this.
Dirk Holtgreve – Managing Director & Founder Data2Dash