One of the greatest challenges of creating digital twins is the sheer complexity of the task. A comprehensive digital twin, spanning the entire built environment would need to include millions of individual assets and a wealth of associated data.
For example, if a construction business creates a digital twin of a single building, this still needs to be usable by sub-contractors, IoT device manufacturers and facilities managers – all of whom would use the twin in different ways and need to connect it with ever wider sets of data.
From our discussions with leading players in this space, some of the main challenges are likely to include:
- Common understanding of digital twins, backed by common language
- Commercial and contractual models
- Security and privacy
- Interoperability, including data models and APIs
- Changing behaviours to encourage new, digitally enabled, practices
Is it happening already?
Digital twins might conjure the idea of a sci-fi future filled with fantastically complex avatars. In fact, the term has been in use since the early 2000’s and some trace its origins back to NASA and the use of physical twins that teams on the ground could use to test and fix problems experienced by spacecraft in flight.
Many organizations are already starting to create digital twins of their assets. Some manufacturers in particular, see digital twins as being central to the digital transformation of their businesses, services and supply chains.
There is also an increasing interest from the built environment sector. Specifiers, architects, engineers, construction firms, asset owners and operators are all interested in using digital twins to increase efficiency and improve the quality of services throughout asset lifecycles. The “Data for the Public Good” report from the National Infrastructure Commission went a step further and called for the creation of a national digital twin – which might, in the end, become a way of connecting the individual twins created by a host of private and public sector organizations.
The role of best practice
Right now, there is lots of fantastic innovation around digital twins. This has the potential to unleash tremendous benefits but only if the different twins and their underlying data and technologies can work together.
Connecting stakeholders across the value chain to agree a shared view of “what good looks like”, commercially and technologically, is an essential part of realising the anticipated benefits of digital twins.