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Agile abstracted data services for Digital Twins

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

By Merrick Spain | CEO, Civic Analytica

In recent years, the concept of ‘Digital Twins’ has garnered significant and increasing attention having largely emerged from the Geo-Spatial and Building Information Management (BIM) spheres. Unsurprisingly the natural emphasis has been on visualisation, dynamically augmented by a collection of data sources for the purposes of informing operational decision-making and performing modelling.

However, this emphasis on visualisation significantly limits the opportunity. Firstly, each data source which is utilised to provide the visualisation has much more potential value to contribute beyond just the visualisation, and that value can be left uncaptured. Moreover, the decisions that the data informs here can still be largely subjective because visualisation still requires subjective interpretation potentially negating much of the evidentiary value of the data.

In addition, the point of a Digital Twin is to accurately represent an element of reality, but the real world is most often far more complex than what an organisation can represent with just the data they have easy access to. The real world reflects deep interdependencies between domains and variables, and changes in these relationships over time. The objectives for simulating reality can themselves change thereby necessitating an evolution of the scope of the visualisation. Visualisation needs to be able to adapt and scale geographically and chronologically, and in response to changing organisational imperatives. The implication is that a Digital Twin needs to be Agile – be served by Data Services that emphasise the nascent value of the data and enable the Twin to be adapted to changes in scope and focus.

Being Agile also implies that a Digital Twin must cater for a large, expanding and diverse ecosystem of data contributors. No one organisation has dominion over all the data that is required to make the Digital Twin Agile. This requires an ecosystem perspective, where previously unaddressed issues relating to the availability of disparate and growing data sources must be considered. We’ve spent significant time in that space, thinking about effective “data collaboration”. The reality is that bringing an ecosystem of disparate organisations together is complex and challenging, and frankly not something organisations in any sector have done very well. This is especially true when these collaborations cross sectoral boundaries where public, private and third sector mindsets are so different, without even mentioning the significant differences within sectors including competitive tensions.

Without getting deep into the science of digital collaboration, it suffices to say that ecosystem collaborations must be designed to maximise the value for every participating organisation in a distributed way. Thinking that organisations will just hand over their data to enable you to build a Digital Twin when the value in it for them is limited to being able to use that Digital Twin is wishful at best. For this reason, the Data Services must be Abstracted from the Digital Twin they inform. This abstraction provides an effective and efficient distributed way of leveraging the ecosystem of data for an unlimited number of use cases (over and above the Digital Twin and including other Digital Twins) to maximise the individual and collective value for everyone.

When you build the invitation to participate in providing data for a Digital Twin on an offer for an organisation to access these Abstracted Data Services to better leverage its own data assets and to access the significant, diverse and expanding universe of data from other participating organisations on-demand you have the gravitas necessary to entice participation. That provides an underlying set of data services that are available (subject to the entitlements set by each data owner) to allow each organisation to easily and spontaneously access all the data they need for analysis, interrogation and cross-correlation on an unlimited number of use cases and in collaboration with any other participating organisation/s in the ecosystem.

Agile and Abstracted Data Services must be the emphasis for a Digital Twin to maximise the value creation opportunity, and thereby fulfil the core capabilities for the Digital Twin to Connect, Integrate, Analyse, Simulate and Visualise data. Any other approach is a lost opportunity.

Merrick Spain | CEO, Civic Analytica (

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