Digital twins

The concept of a digital twin

– A digital twin acts as a virtual duplicate (or twin) of the real structure/system –
– It can be developed through the design phase and/or the life of the structure –
– It is a fusion of models and data that evolves over time –

Key attributes of a digital twin

Overall UK context

  • In November 2016 Philip Hammond commissioned the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to write a report on “on how new technologies can improve infrastructure productivity”
  • The report on ‘Data for the public good’ was published in December 2017 focused on “smart infrastructure” including the possibility of a “national digital twin”
  • Recommendations are civil engineering focused and delivery is tasked to:
    • The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) as lead in collaboration with,
    • The Alan Turing Institute (ATI) plus some others including MTC
  • Key recommendations/deliverables are based around “The Gemini Principles”
  • CDBB is receiving direct funding from government, and has distrubuted some funds to other groups
  • In Feb 2017 the ATI published an Insight article on “digital transition” including digital twin for aerospace – case study from Rolls Royce
  • Nearly all major companies in energy, manufacturing and transport have digital twin projects or programmes

Asset management example of a digital twin

Technology evolution: the hype cycle

Potential user benefits from using a digital twin


Robustly verified and validated designs enabling manufacturers to reduce costs, improve product longevity, efficiency and safety, via:

  • Reduced design times
  • Reduced uncertainty in the design process
  • Better testing of virtual prototypes

Asset management:

Improvements in efficiency that lead to more effective engineering systems, with improved resilience & reliability, reduced maintenance & operation costs, and better overall performance. Specifically:

  • Improved condition monitoring
  • Better scenario planning
  • Plant life extension, and managing the asset lifecycle
  • Integrate control, hardware-in-the-loop testing and online activities into asset
    management processes
  • Better decision support
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