Apollo Protocol paper calls for common language across digital twins

28 September 2022

How can the built environment, manufacturing and technology sectors break the divide and unlock the benefits of digital twins?

That is the focus of a new white paper, published by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), alongside the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult and other leading organisations, calling for a common language across digital twins – which currently doesn’t exist and means sectors are working in silos.

The paper, named The Apollo Protocol: Unifying digital twins across sectors sets out the need for the creation of The Apollo Forum to investigate and promote cross-sectoral learning and provide a penned protocol for digital twins – which are virtual representations of physical systems created using real-time data - and explore the opportunities they would offer.

Prof Rab Scott, director of industrial digitalisation at the AMRC, who contributed to the paper said: “The AMRC, as part of the HVM catapult, published its first report on digital twins in 2018. Since then, interest in the concept has exploded not only in manufacturing, but across many other sectors.

“This is what makes the Apollo Protocol so timely. As we move forward and digital twins cross sectoral boundaries, it will be key to have a common language if the UK is to fully deliver the potential that digital twins could provide in terms of value for productivity and sustainability.

“I am proud to be part of the team that has pulled this white paper together, leading the way in bringing together different sectors to help deliver this digital methodology for the future.”

Currently, the manufacturing and built environment sectors are developing digital twins separately using different language and business models, yet many of today’s challenges, such as net zero, require them to work together.

Therefore, the paper provides a vital tool to detail this need for a common framework for developing digital twins so that each sector can unlock their potential. The Apollo Forum will explore four key themes that the manufacturing and built environment sectors share, developing solutions and encouraging cross-sector learning.

These include:

  • Aligning the value chain
  • Circular supply chains
  • Performance optimisation
  • Human capital management

Rick Hartwig, IET built environment Lead, said: “Digital Twins offer huge benefits for society, but only a coordinated approach to the language used will allow those benefits to be realised. There are many steps to improving information management, for example, from the manufacturers and their product information and frameworks to technology companies producing in the Digital Twin space who need the availability of data to construct models.

“It goes much further than just the manufacturing, built environment and technology industries – policy makers will only meet their sustainability goals if they can provide clarity during procurement for the market to respond effectively, so it will take a whole system approach."

Read the white paper here. 

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