Mark Enzer, Chief Technical Officer at Mott MacDonald, discusses the importance of data sharing for improving infrastructure.
It is very apt that this year’s EIC conference should bring together two of the most significant themes not only for the built environment, but also for wider society: ‘green data’. ‘Green’ because the climate emergency is real and ‘data’ because digital transformation is happening whether we like it or not. But, if we apply Industry 4.0 thinking to infrastructure, there is a much more positive connection between ‘data’ and ‘green’ because, quite simply, cyber-physical solutions are better, greener solutions.
From how we travel to how we communicate, the use of data now underpins efforts to improve great swathes of our daily lives but, excitingly, we have only just begun to scratch the surface of what we can achieve when we unlock the value of data in the built environment. So, we need a long-term view of how we can deliver better outcomes for people by making the most of our infrastructure data. And that is where the National Infrastructure Commission’s ‘Data for the public good’ report comes in: it’s visionary, not just in recognising the critical importance of data sharing for improving infrastructure performance, but also in recommending that we move towards having a “National Digital Twin”, which would help us to understand, manage and plan our infrastructure better.
The vision is not that the National Digital Twin will be a huge singular digital model of the entire built environment. Rather, it is envisaged to be an ecosystem of Digital Twins, connected via secure resilient data sharing, which will enable better decision-making in the use, operation and maintenance of infrastructure (yes, and in financing, delivering and insuring it too). Connected digital twins will be key tools in the complex systems-level decisions that will be needed to drive better social and environmental outcomes from infrastructure in the 21st century, and to facilitate the unprecedented transformation of infrastructure needed to achieve the UK’s new ‘net zero’ emissions target.
We now find ourselves in a place where the vision of effective information management across infrastructure is no longer an impossible dream. Effective digital twins are becoming a reality and secure, resilient data sharing between organisations is entirely achievable. This will revolutionise infrastructure and deliver better greener outcomes per whole-life pound for people in the UK. The EIC conference will provide a great opportunity to explore these themes.
For more information about the Green Data Conference on 9 October, please visit the event page.