A drive to promote better understanding of digital twins and their role in optimising the delivery and operation of assets and entire cities has been marked with the publication of a new guidance note.

The note, produced by the Smart Cities Council ANZ and PCSG, provides a clear introduction to digital twins, their purpose and their benefits. It outlines their five key functions, explains their application at the different life-cycle stages and details their important role in enabling Governments to optimise capital investment, reduce whole life costs and ensure service delivery which is aligned to the needs and expectations of users.

Pioneered by computer technologist, Dr Michael Grieves, in 2003, digital twins have long been deployed to positive effect by the manufacturing and aerospace sectors. NASA deployed one to support its Apollo 13 rescue mission and Tesla regards a digital twin of each of its cars as instrumental to delivering a stand-out customer performance over the lifespan of the vehicle.

Their advent in construction is in part the result of technological developments – advances in capturing techniques and networked sensors and the rise of smart phones as well as a reduction in costs has made available an abundance of data about our built environment.

In addition though, asset owners operating in today’s data-rich age are fast realising that huge volumes of data in themselves are of little use: The data needs to be amalgamated and connected in a way that unlocks insights and intelligence, which can be acted on and which can drive positive outcomes – for all stages whether through reducing costs, reducing waste or increasing safety.

The diagram opposite demonstrates the lifecycle approach on applying a digital twin from planning, capital delivery, operations through to delivering citizen services.

The guidance note features on a new Digital Twin Resource Hub. The hub, supported by leading innovators and policy makers, has been established to provide a central body of information and research and a discussion forum for policymakers, practitioners and decision makers.

Adam Beck, SCCANZ Executive Director, explained: “The Digital Twin Hub presents an  opportunity for the region to build an active community and thriving digital twin marketplace, where strategic policy can be created around social and economic benefit, and the supply-side can partner with government to deliver the best possible services and solutions… and where the community has place to network, share and continue to educate and build capacity.”

He said the hub and the guidance note had helped to “build the foundations for a thriving marketplace for digital twins.”

Gavin Cotterill, PCSG’s Asia Pacific Lead, said: “We must shift our focus with data. Data of our assets is just as important as our physical assets. It is as much a critical component of our infrastructure as bricks and mortar. Data is part of infrastructure and needs maintenance in the same way that physical infrastructure needs maintenance. It must be updated, housed and made secure.”

He said that data about our infrastructure assets needs to be shared in way that opens up the benefits yet maintains appropriate levels of privacy and security.

“Our culture must change from one of closed, siloed thinking to an open, transparent culture of effective data management.”

The digital twin is essentially a data platform that allows stakeholders to connect, integrate, visualise, analyse its portfolio information and data securely.

For more information on PCSG Australia’s data management and digital twin services please contact Gavin.Cotterill@pcsg.co.uk