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A lot of hype is starting to build with regard to Digital Twins. They are becoming the tech industries go-to answer to a few challenges. Not that this is incorrect, just a little bit light on the truth in that a Digital Twin comes with responsibilities and a level of maturity to be effective.

What does this mean then when it comes to smart places (be they a building, a district or even a city)? The answer is that Digital Twins do have an important role to play. In a new publication by the IET – co-written by Chris Cooper from KnowNow, as well as Cristina Savian from Be-Wise, Allan Burns from Telemental and Simon Evans from Atkins; a suggested sustainable and considered approach to Digital Twins is outlined.

The starting point is understanding the purpose of your Digital Twin. Next, identify the data required to deliver that purpose. Finally, realise that you are on a journey that will take time, effort and a lot of collaboration.

Maturity Framework

To that end, the IET is promoting this maturity framework. Originally an Atkins concept now gifted to the community. The maturity model is very relevant when it comes to understanding Digital Twins and Smart Places.

The Digital Twin Maturity Framework

The reality is that most places will be hovering around Element 0 to 1. The concept of having a digital planning, digital interaction that takes into account time and cost (Element 2) is limited to district projects. However, as more places use BIM and create live Digital Twins from masterplans, then Element 2 will become more common.

The reality is that most places will currently be hovering around Elements 0 and 1. The digital interaction required for Element 2 (taking into account time and cost) is limited to district level projects at this time. However, as smart places engage with the IT required to derive digital twins from conventional places, Element 2 will become common across cityscapes.

Odd exceptions to this (like intelligent transport systems) are already using data to drive broad operational efficiency, but these tend to be single-mode, service provider/asset focused. They are not really at Element 3, yet.

Element 4 is a step away from being truly smart. These places are starting to be thought of and even a few would consider themselves to be on a pathway to achieving this level. An example of this would be the latest 5G testbeds.  This new infrastructure provides a two-way data channel and the opportunity to automate decisions based on mass data acquisition that a 5G network will enable.

Nirvana is the realisation of Element 5. Self-governing smart places ruled by principles and desired outcomes that have been agreed upon and set by citizens. When this happens, places will be interactive, sustainable, citizen-centric and outcome-focused. 

Using data to drive operational efficiency, ironically in some areas of a cities operations already occurs. Think Intelligent Transport Systems. However, these tend to be single-mode and not citizen-centric, but service provider/asset focused. Therefore, they are not really at Element level 3. Yet.

The Digital Twin will be a showcase of the place’s capability.

Digital Twins and Standards

The alignment with Smart City Standards is close. The Elements targeted can be set as goals for a PAS184 assessment. The outcomes a Digital Twin derives can be fed into the Information Marketplace (ISO37106). In fact, the Digital Twin for a place can help educate and inform the citizens. It will be part of the places DNA.

Call to Action

If your building, district, place (even city) wants to have a Digital Twin then get in touch. KnowNow can help define where your project sits on the Element maturity scale and then work out your roadmap to adopting a Digital Twin