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15 Oct 2020 | Industry Insights

How Digital Twin technology can become a successful UK export

Digital Twins may seem like a relatively new phenomenon however they have been around since the early 2000s. It is only now that they have become an essential tool for the infrastructure sector. Their ability to increasingly draw on detailed real-time data has made them extremely valuable for business as they bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds. They help to provide key analytical insight for engineers, urban planners and policymakers.

A recent webinar hosted by British Expertise International went into depth on digital twins and offers the opinion that the technology works best when there is clear direction towards a practical objective.

A good example of digital twins in action for urban planning is in New Zealand. Water pollution was a huge problem for beachgoers as they did not know whether they could swim safely in some parts. Auckland Council then created a digital twin of local beaches leading to a public platform named ‘Safeswim’. This mapped real-time data from the beaches enabling users to check whether it was safe to go.

Understanding and engaging regularly with users is critical to how successful digital twins can be. This is especially true in the case of Auckland’s beaches as it was a new and exciting way of engaging with digital twin technology. Phil Christensen, senior vice-president for digital cities business development at Bentley Systems said “the purpose of city-scale digital twins is to make the city a better place to live in. If someone can explore a project from their apartment window and provide live feedback with context, they will feel more engaged”.

There is a virtual revolution ongoing in the UK. The National Digital Twin project is driving the implementation of digital twins for urban infrastructure. The project is one of the first of its kind in the world and is led by Cambridge’s Centre for Digital Built Britain. The aim of the project is to create an ecosystem of connected digital twins to benefit society, business and the environment.

The Centre for Digital Built Britain also developed the ‘Gemini Principles’ in 2018, which set out ethical parameters for the use of digital twins. Functionality, transparency and value are to be at the heart of the digital twin agenda in the UK ensuring that the technology will only be used for good.

The UK is at the forefront of making the most of this emerging technology, improving the capabilities of the global infrastructure sector is something high up on the agenda. A survey carried out by Mott MacDonald in 2018 showed that 60% of asset owners made decisions based on instinct and experience rather than being based on evidence. This proves that policymakers and industry leaders could definitely benefit from the adoption of digital twins.