The Government has announced plans to launch three data initiatives, which will help to set common standards for data relating to infrastructure across the fields of energy, transport, water and telecommunications.
On a visit to the Centre for Digital Built Britain in Cambridge, exchequer secretary Robert Jenrick announced that the Government would be adopting new data plans based on three of the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) four recommendations in its, Data for the Public Good.
The three initiatives:
1) The Government has asked Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) to establish the Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG) which should set out a roadmap to a digital framework for infrastructure. The roadmap should set out: where data sharing can provide the greatest benefits; who holds this data; what standards are needed to enable greater sharing; how a framework would be implemented; and the role of government and the private sector in delivering this.
The DFTG should report to government by October 2018 to inform decisions on how best to design and deliver a full framework.
2) Work to bring together organisations from across the industry to identify opportunities to make data available and reduce unnecessary use of commercial confidentiality. The Government has asked the Infrastructure Client Group to lead this work, aligning it as appropriate with its recently launched digital transformation initiative and provide a progress update by the end of the year.
3) Work between the Digital Framework Task Group, the UK Regulators Network and Government departments to review and strengthen the role of economic regulators in improving the quality and openness of infrastructure data.
The missing initiative
However a fourth recommendation from the NIC appears to have been somewhat sidelined by the Government. This was a call to support the development of a ‘digital twin’ – ‘a digital model of the network spanning transport, energy, water and telecommunications, with predictive capability which could improve how infrastructure is managed, maintained and planned’.
The NIC feels that the Digital Twin could be used to improve how assets are managed, maintained and planned – and could be an immediate step the Government could take to support the artificial intelligence industry, following the signing of a Sector Deal earlier this year worth nearly £1bn.
Chairman of the NIC Sir John Armitt said: ‘By taking steps to make better use of our infrastructure data, we can improve the lot of users, whether they’re heating their homes, getting to and from work or keeping in touch with loved ones online and on the phone.
‘I would now urge the Government to consider the next frontier for infrastructure planning – the development of a digital twin. Following the Sector Deal signed earlier this year, this would be a further, welcome shot in the arm for our leading technology industry and help the UK to become a world leader in the field.’
In its response the Government said it ‘agrees there is potential value in digital twin models with predictive capability in the UK’.
‘As part of the roadmap, government has asked the CBBD and the DFTG to consider what programme of work is needed to enable the development of digital twin models and how government and the private sector can support this work. Different pilot studies may be needed to explore the potential of digital twin models to improve the productivity of UK infrastructure.
‘The roadmap should identify how digital twins can contribute to infrastructure models that can support decisions on what to build, where and how, to minimise cost and maximise whole life performance and benefits. The DFTG should work with infrastructure clients to identify opportunities to test predictive models.’