BSI Flex 260: first guidance document on digital twins

The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) is leading a National Digital Twin Programme on behalf of the UK Government that aims to help harness the power of digital twinning for the national good. This blog outlines BSI’s role in this, and the first standard that’s resulted from this work.

The Centre for Digital Built Britain describes digital twins as: “realistic digital representations of physical assets”. These are connected to the physical twin and can be used to monitor and predict its performance. Typically, the physical asset is fitted with sensors that monitor vital areas of its functionality and feed back information to the digital twin, which can then run simulations, study performance issues and look to generate insights and ideas for improvement that can be applied back to the physical asset. The endgame is to achieve better interventions and to unlock greater value from the physical asset by improving or perhaps extending its performance and services.

Connectivity and the Internet of Things

The idea of digital twinning isn’t new – NASA is said to have used some basic twinning ideas in the 1960s – but as connectivity and the Internet of Things have become more reliable and sophisticated, they’ve enabled the wider adoption of digital twin technology across a range of industries.

In particular, it’s been identified that the built environment is an area ripe for digital twin interventions. To that end, the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CBDD) – a partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Cambridge – is tasked with progressing the UK’s National Digital Twin Programme for the built environment. To do this in the right way, with a strong, shared foundation based on consensus and good values, CBDD turned to BSI to help develop a digital twin standards roadmap.

BSI Flex

This roadmap in turn recommended the development of a four-part standard based on the ISO 23247 series (Digital Twin Framework for Manufacturing) and using BSI Flex standards, a relatively new vehicle for standards information. A Flex standard is, in essence, a live document developed using an agile approach in an area where consensus can be achieved quickly, and that can be published in rapid iterations as the market that the document serves demands.

In the case of digital twinning in the built environment, it was envisioned that iterations would be needed to reflect upcoming ISO publications as well as consensus as it’s being established within emerging innovation. CDBB agreed this format and have sponsored the first part of this series which has now been published as BSI Flex 260: v1.0 2022-01 Built environment – Digital twins overview and principles – Guide.

Better insights and decisions

BSI Flex 260: v1.0 2022-01 is the first iteration of this standard, and has been published in October 2021, with an expectation that future iterations will quickly follow. As such, the standard is available as a free download. In this form it can be considered for further development as a PAS, a British Standard or can constitute part of the UK input into the development of a European or international standard in future.

For now, the Flex standard establishes the key terms, concepts, and principles related to creating, managing and using digital twins. Through access to this content, the goal is that organizations will be able to adopt a common language that will align stakeholder expectations, mitigate friction when information is exchanged between digital twins and ultimately accelerate innovation.

The Flex is for use by any organization that contemplates or is already creating, managing and using digital twins of assets, systems, processes and systems of systems which constitute the built environment. This could include regulators, policy makers, asset managers, portfolio managers, process modellers, analysts, designers, engineers, and cyber security professionals as well as commercial vendors delivering digital solutions to support all phases of the asset life cycle.

Its publication marks the beginning of an exciting journey that has the potential to deliver significantly better outcomes for the economy and society if we get digital twinning right.