The language barriers of digital twins

19 October 2021

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is joining leading voices from the construction sector and beyond to explore the ‘language problem’ with digital twins that arises from a lack of coordination and consistency between sectors.

The AMRC and five partners have launched the ‘Apollo Protocol’ which aims to help different industries to communicate more effectively, reducing silos and improving co-ordination for more collaborative and sustainable outcomes.

Professor Rab Scott, Head of Digital at the AMRC, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, said: “We have built a unique team that brings together the manufacturing, technology and built environment sectors together in a way never seen before.

“We want to ensure our sectors are being proactive in meeting the challenges ahead of us in terms of climate change and ensuring resilience of products that operate in the built environment.”

At present, the manufacturing and built environment sectors are developing their concepts of digital twins separately. The Protocol is to investigate the language barriers between the digital twins of different sectors and to develop recommendations to increase the interoperability between sectors.

We have built a unique team that brings together the manufacturing, technology and built environment sectors together in a way never seen before.

The AMRC will work alongside the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) as a partner in the Construction Innovation Hub, techUK and The Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.

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 – 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.”

Neil Thompson, Co-Chair, Built Environment Panel of the IET said: “I’m excited to embark on the next phase of our transformation journey as a sector. Building an internet of twins that integrates seamlessly into our built environment is a challenging but worthy cause. We realise that we cannot do this alone and depend on our digital connections to the manufacturing and technology sectors.”

The project team will bring together experts in the field and intends to publish a white paper in the Autumn identifying some of the challenges. For more information, contact sep@iet.org with the subject ‘The Apollo Protocol’.

To find out more about the AMRC's digital twin capabilities click here and read the AMRC's 'Untangling the requirements of a Digital Twin' white paper here.

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