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Infrastructure blog

This Summer help us to build the Information Management Framework Tent!

24 July 2020

Sarah Hayes is the Change Stream Lead for The Centre for Digital Built Britain's (CDBB) National Digital Twin programme. In this blog, she outlines the benefit of the National Digital Twin programme and calls for inputs to the recently published Pathway to the Information Management Framework Consultation.

This Summer help us to build the Information Management Framework Tent!
Pathway to the Information Management Framework Consultation publication

I imagine this summer, some of us will spend a fair amount of time putting up tents. And taking them down, and putting reinforcements in. Sometimes it will be too hot or most of the time we’ll be hoping the wind doesn’t blow the tent over. And we’ll really wish we’d repaired those holes before the rain leaks in. Oh British summertime!

I’d like to make sure you know about one tent that is currently being erected and we’d like your help. Teamwork puts the tent up fastest. The tent I’m talking about is the Information Management Framework being developed by CDBB’s National Digital Twin programme to enable the sharing of data across infrastructure and the built environment.

This is a framework that will enable us to share information vertically within an organisation or horizontally across organisations. So when all these labels go into the data models, they mean the same things to us all so we have a shared language to describe the built environment and allow us all to enrich the information we have at our fingertips to aid our decision making. We first talked about the National Digital Twin at ICE HQ in London in December 2017 when the NIC’s Data for the public good report was launched and the National Digital Twin programme has progressed to the point of setting up this information management framework and needs to do so with the continued input of ICE.

The framework is a tent because it offers room for all to share data within the same space to overcome issues of inter-operability, security and legality. If a business operates outside of the tent, it may not be able to share data with organisations inside the tent. If you go and put your own tent up on the other side of the hill and invite others to join your tent rather than the main public tent which is free, you and your fellow campers will be restricting your opportunities to share data and connect your digital twins and may not be able to achieve the resulting reduction in costs, improvements in productivity and carbon reductions that digital twins can deliver.

The Centre Digital Built Britain is leading the charge with the support of BEIS to develop this framework and has published the Pathway to the Information Management Framework and the supporting explanatory introduction for a slightly less technical summary. The Pathway is the more detailed technical guide to putting up the tent, whilst the summary is the version you might read if you don’t generally enjoy reading the full instructions to putting up tents! Or if it’s raining and you know you need to get inside that tent asap!

The Pathway proposes three building blocks to form the framework:

  • Foundation Data Model (FDM): A consistent, clear ontology for the digital twin ecosystem: a structure for sharing and validating data
  • A Reference Data Library (RDL): Common references, or vocabulary that enable the secure sharing of high-quality data: the common language for describing digital twins
  • An Integration Architecture (IA): Design and build of the digital systems that manage the connected digital twins: the glue that can link twins together

We might get to a National Digital Twin eventually with many different approaches and networks but we will get there faster and more cheaply with one information management framework. The Information Management Framework will bring together the standards and data exchange protocols to allow this ecosystem of connected digital twins to be created. Rather than having competing digital twin networks which can’t interconnect, this framework will enable all digital twins to connect. But to realise this vision requires participation.

This is a consultation and if the final tent that we all gather in is to be robust, we need further input from ICE members. The instructions need your feedback. CDBB is leading a collaborative approach to co-create the information management framework to enable sharing of data and the advancement of connected digital twins. If we are to co-develop a safe way to share data about infrastructure and the built environment, we need the widest participation possible to make sure it meets the needs of asset owner and operators, architects, builders, engineers, designers, project managers, software developers, data scientists, information managers, the list goes on.

The CDBB consultation is open until August 31, so this summer is a great time to examine how the approach can work for your organisation and to offer suggestions on any changes you think might be necessary. Now is the time to shape the way we share our data and the future of digital twins.

  • Sarah Hayes, Change Stream Lead, The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB)