Digital Twin - Philosophy for the new digital revolution

Half of those who read this article were born with technology in their hands, accustomed to a digital transformation as a given. In the other half we are those who witnessed how the computer age arrived without asking for permission; kicking in the door and turning what we did into books, paper, or primitive computer terminals that could barely respond to alphanumeric records and line graphs. What the BIM-focused software currently does, with real-time rendering, connected to a geospatial context, responding to processes attached to a business model and interfaces operated from mobile phones, is evidence of the extent to which the industry offer could interpret the user need.

Some terms of the previous digital revolution

PC - CAD - PLM - Internet - GIS - email - Wiki - http - GPS 

Each innovation had its followers, who attached to a model transformed different industries. The PC was the artifact that changed the management of physical documents, the CAD sent to the warehouses the drawing tables and a thousand artifacts that did not fit in the drawers, the electronic mail became the default digital medium to communicate in a formal way; all of them ended up being governed by standards with global acceptance; at least from the provider's point of view. Those transformations from the previous digital revolution focused on adding value to geographic and alphanumeric information, which separately powered most of today's businesses. The model on which these transformations navigated was global connectivity; in other words, the http protocol that we have not been able to get rid of until today. The new initiatives took advantage of the information, the connectivity conditions and turned them into new cultural customs that we see today as Uber, Airbnb, Udemy, Netflix.

But today, we are at the doors of a new digital revolution, which will tarnish all this.

New terms:

Block Chain - 4iR - IoT - Digital Twin - Big Data - AI - VR 

While new terms seem to be just acronyms for hashtag fashion, we cannot deny that the fourth industrial revolution is at the doorstep, materializing separately in many disciplines. The Internet this time promises to be much more; taking advantage of everything achieved to date, but breaking paradigms that are not up to the level of a market that no longer only connects computers and mobiles; rather, it connects activities of human beings in their contexts.

There is not a single oracle that can guarantee what the new scenario will be like, although the voice of key industry leaders suggests a lot to us, if we adopt a pragmatic stance and conscientious evidence of maturity. Some visions, scope and opportunities of this new revolution have the opportunistic bias of those who hope to sell today. Governments, in the limited eye of their leaders, usually see just what a business or reelection of their position could represent in the short term, but in the long term, ironically, it is ordinary users, interested in their needs, who have the last word.

And while the new scenario promises better rules of coexistence, free code coexisting with the exclusive, environmental sustainability, standards resulting from a consensus; Nobody guarantees that actors such as government and academia will be up to their role in the right time. No; no one can predict what it will be like; we only know what will happen.

Digital Twin - The new TCP / IP?

And since we know that it will happen in such a way that we may not perceive the gradual changes, it will be necessary to be prepared for this change. We are aware that on this occasion prudence and consensus will be unavoidable for those who understand the sensitivity of a globally connected market and where added value not only appears in the indicators of stock values ​​but also in the response of an increasingly influential consumer in the quality of services. Standards will undoubtedly play their best role in ensuring a balance between the creative supply of the industry and the demands of the end users.

The Digital Twin aspires to position itself in the philosophy of this new digital transformation.

What does the new protocol aspire to?

For the http / TCIP to become the standard communication protocol, which remains in force today in the face of the evolution of technology and society, it has had to go through a process of governance, updating and democracy / tyranny that the user common unknown. On this side, the user never knew an IP address, it is no longer necessary to type www, and the search engine replaced the need to type http. However, despite the industry questioning the limitations of the elders behind this standard, he remains the hero who broke the paradigms of global communication.

But the new protocol goes beyond connecting computers and phones. The current cloud services, rather than storing pages and data, are part of the daily life of citizens, governments and businesses. It is precisely one of the reasons for the death of the original protocol, based on IP addresses, since now it is necessary to connect devices ranging from a washing machine that needs to send a message that it has finished spinning the clothes, to the sensors of a bridge whose Real-time monitoring should report your fatigue status and need for maintenance. This is, in a version for the ignorant, of what we call the internet of things; to which a new protocol must respond.

The new protocol, if it wants to be standard, must be able to interconnect more than information in real time. As a scope, it should include the entire existing and new built environment, as well as the interfaces with the natural environment and the service provided in social, economic and environmental aspects.

From a business perspective, the new standard should look a lot like a digital representation of physical assets; like a printer, an apartment, a building, a bridge. But more than modeling it, it is expected to add value to operations; so that it allows to make better informed decisions and therefore to better results.

From the perspective of a country, the new protocol needs to be able to create ecosystems of many connected models; like all the assets of a country, in order to release more value by using that data for the public good.

From the productivity point of view, the new protocol needs to be able to standardize the life cycle; simplified to what happens to all things, materials such as a road, a plot, a vehicle; intangible such as a stock investment, a strategic plan, a gannt diagram. The new standard should simplify that all of them are born, grow, produce results, and die ... or transform.

The digital twin aspires to be that new protocol.

What does the citizen expect of the new Digital revolution.

The best scenarios of how it will be in these new conditions, is not to think about what Hollywood announces to us, of the people inside a dome governed by an elite that controls the activity of survivors of the post-apocalyptic world where it is no longer possible to determine the augmented reality of induced simulation; or at the other extreme, a fantasy setting where everything is so perfect that the emotion of human entrepreneurship was lost.

But something must be imagined of the future; At least for this article.

If we see it in the aspiration of the two large users in a front-back office scheme, whom we will call Stakeholders. A stakeholder who needs to be well informed to make better decisions, and a citizen who requires better services to be more productive; remembering that this stakeholder can be a citizen individually or in a group acting from a public, private or mixed role.

So we talk about services; I am Golgi Alvarez, and I need to build an extension to the third floor of my building; that my father built in 1988. For now, let's forget terms, brands or acronyms that litter this scenario and let's just keep it simple.

Juan Medina occupies that this request be approved in the shortest time, at the lowest cost, with the greatest transparency, traceability and with the least amount of requirements and intermediaries.  

The authority needs to have enough information to approve this decision safely, so that it is traceable who, what, when and where is submitting a request: because once this decision is approved, it must have at least the final status of the change made , with the same traceability that it offered. This responds to the premise that “The Convergence of intelligent infrastructure, modern construction methods and the digital economy present increasing opportunities to improve the quality of life of citizens".

 The value that data takes in this scenario, goes beyond having a single ultra-detailed virtualized model of the entire physical world; rather, we talk about having connected models according to the purpose of the workflow intervenors:

  • The citizen that what he needs is an answer (a procedure),
  • who authorizes needs a regulation (geospatial zoning), 
  • the designer responds for a design (Model BIM to be), 
  • a builder responds to a result (plan, budget, plans), 
  • the suppliers that respond to a list of inputs (specifications), 
  • the supervisor that responds to the final result (BIM as built model).

It is clear that having interconnected models should simplify intermediaries, being able to automate validations that in the best of cases are self-service for the end user; Or at least, transparent and traceable, reduced to the minimum steps. In the end, what the citizen needs is to have the authorization and build; while the government approve according to its regulations and obtain the information of the final state. So, the connection between the front-back office models is only in these three points, which add value.  

The owner carried out the construction he expected, the Government guaranteed that the work was carried out in compliance with the regulations and without any major effort guaranteed to keep his information updated. The variant is only on purpose.

Although for the executor, designer and supplier of materials the added value are other aspects; but in the same way those relationships should be simplified.

If we see it from a model perspective, this application that we have made to a construction could be standardized for similar procedures: a property sale, a mortgage, request for a loan, a business operating license, exploitation of natural resources, or updating of an urban planning plan. The variants are in aspects such as scale and approaches; but if they have the same domain model, they should be able to interconnect.

Digital Twins, aspires to be the model that allows to standardize and connect multipurpose representations, with different spatial scale, temporal scale and approaches.

What can we expect from the Gemini Principles.

The previous example is a simple case applied to a management between a citizen and an authority; but as seen in the final paragraphs, different models need to be interconnected; otherwise the chain will break at the weakest link. For this to happen, it is necessary that the digital transformation includes the entire built environment in a general way, so that better use, operation, maintenance, planning and delivery of national and local assets, systems and services is guaranteed. It must bring benefits for the whole society, the economy, companies and the environment.

For now, the best inspiring example is the UK. With its proposal of fundamental Gemini Principles and its roadmap; But before we label friends for always going against the current and their historical habit of queer always doing everything in a different but ceremoniously ordered way. To this day, British Standards (BS) have had a high impact on standards with an international scope; where the work of current initiatives such as i3P, ICG, DTTG, UK BIM Alliance is respectable.

In consequence with this particularity of the United Kingdom, we are surprised by what the Digital Framework Working Group (DFTG) is launching, which brings together key voices from government, academia and industry to reach a consensus on fundamental definitions and values Guidance necessary to shore up the digital transformation. 

With the presidency in charge of Mark Enzer, the DFTG has signed an interesting effort for the creation of the Framework that guarantees efficient management of the information in all the built environment, including the secure exchange of data. This work, to date, has two documents:

The Gemini Principles:

These are a guide to the “awareness” values ​​of the information management framework, which includes 9 principles grouped into 3 axes as follows:

Purpose: Public good, Value creation, Vision.

Trust: Security, Openness, Quality.

Function: Federation, Healing, Evolution.

The Roadmap.

This is a prioritized plan to develop the information management framework, with 5 streams that keep Gemini principalities in a transfer way.  

Each of these streams has its own critical path, with activities linked but interdependent; as displayed in the graph. These currents are:

  • Scope, with 8 critical and 2 non-critical tasks. Key because its definition is necessary to activate the enablers.
  • Governance, with 5 critical and 2 non-critical tasks. It is the stream with the least dependencies.
  • Common, with 6 critical and 7 non-critical tasks, it is the most extensive.
  • Enablers, with 4 critical and 6 non-critical tasks, with a lot of interaction with change management.
  • Change, 7 critical and 1 non-critical tasks. It is the current whose critical path is a conductive thread.

As can be identified in this scope, it is not merely intended of the UK as its own digital transformation Brexit, or its liking for left-lane driving. If you want to promote a model for connecting digital twins that has national scope, you need to propose something that can align the industry, especially in terms of standards. The following elements stand out in this regard:

  • 1.5 Alignment with other initiatives.

The acronyms of this element are more than enough, to respect this bet; ISO standards, European standards (CEN), alignment with Innovate UK, Building SMART, W3C, BIM UK, DCMS, i3P, DTTG, IETF.

  • 4.3 International reach.

Here we talk about identifying and managing a lobby with programs, initiatives and opportunities in the international context with synergies. Interesting, that they have in their consideration the learning of good practices of countries that are already trying; including the possibility of consolidating an international knowledge exchange group, including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Canada.

The hembrional document called the Gemini Principles, if it achieved the key consensus among the main industry leaders, would become what was “Cadastre 2014” in the late 2012s, which established philosophical aspects for land administration, which later doe Consensus work with initiatives such as INSPIRE, LandXML, ILS and OGC, became the ISO-19152 standard in XNUMX, known today as LADM.

In this case, it will be interesting to see how great leaders in the technology industry who have brought their own models achieve consensus; In my particular point of view, they are key:

  • The SIEMENS group - Bentley - Microsoft - Topcon, which in a way make up an almost complete scenario in the Geo-Engineering cycle; capture, modeling, design, operation and integration.
  • The HEXAGON group - which has a set of quite similar solutions with an interesting scope in a portfolio that is segmented in agriculture, assets, aviation, conservation, defense and intelligence, mining, transport and government.
  • The Trimble group - which maintains an equivalent to the previous two, with many advantages of positioning and alliance with third parties, such as ESRI.
  • The AutoDesk group - ESRI that in a recent effort seek to add portfolios of markets in which they are predominant.
  • Also other actors, who have their own initiatives, models and markets; with those who need to clarify their participation and consensus. Example, General Electric, Amazon or IRS.

So, like when my father took me to the rodeo to see how the cowboys dominated the bull, from our pen we have no choice but to notice what we visualize. But it will surely be a great tournament, where the one that achieves consensus is bigger, where being aligned adds more value than the points of shares in the bag.

The role of BIM as Digital Twins

BIM has had a high impact and continuity in a considerable period, not because it facilitates the digital management of 3D models, but because it is a methodology that was agreed by the great leaders of the architecture, engineering and construction industry.  

Again, the end user is unaware of many things that happen in the backroom of the standards; as an ArchiCAD user who could say that he already did it before he was called BIM; partly true, but the scope as a methodology at levels 2 and 3 goes beyond managing interchangeable information, and aims at managing the operation and life cycles not only of infrastructure but also of context.

Then then comes the question. BIM is not enough?

Perhaps the biggest difference of what Digital Twins proposes is that connecting everything is not just connecting infrastructures. Thinking in interconnected global contexts implies connecting systems that do not necessarily have a geographic modeling. So, we are only in a new stage of context expansion, where no one will take away the role that it has played and will continue to fulfill the BIM methodology, but something higher up will absorb or integrate it.

Let's see examples:

When Chrit Lemenn sought to bring the Core Cadastre Domain Model to a standard for land administration, he had to strike a balance with the guidelines from INSPIRE and the technical committee on geographic standards. So whether we want to or not

  • In the context of INSPIRE, ISO: 19152 is the standard for cadastral management,
  • As for the topographic classes of the LADM, they must comply with the geographic standards of OGC TC211.

LADM is a specialized standard for land information. For this reason, although the LandInfra standard includes it, it breaks with the search for simplicity, since it is preferable to have a standard for infrastructure and one for land, and link them at the point where the exchange of information adds value.

So, in the context of Digital Twins, BIM could continue to be the methodology that governs standards for infrastructure modeling; level 2, with all the complexity of detail that design and construction need. But the operation and integration of level 3, will carry a more simplified trend for integration for added value and not whim that everything must be spoken in the same language.

There will be a lot to talk about; the value of the data, the breaking of barriers, the open knowledge, the performance of the infrastructures, the successful creation, operation ...

“The convergence of intelligent infrastructure, modern construction methods and the digital economy present increasing opportunities to improve the quality of life of citizens”

Who manages to group the key actors behind this philosophy, understanding the importance of the public good, the economy, society and the environment ... will have greater advantages.  

Golgi Alvarez

Writer, researcher, specialist in Land Management Models. He has participated in the conceptualization and implementation of models such as: National Property Administration System SINAP in Honduras, Management Model of Joint Municipalities in Honduras, Integrated Cadastre-Registry Management Model in Nicaragua, Territory Administration System SAT in Colombia . Editor of the Geofumadas knowledge blog since 2007 and creator of the AulaGEO Academy that includes more than 100 courses on GIS - CAD - BIM - Digital Twins topics.

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