Industry Insights

Spatial Digital Twins Assessment – the Current Situation

The assessment of the digital twin technology development level allows a clearer understanding of the challenges, trends, and capability and capacity for its deployment. Reliable insights on this help to better understand the challenges of this new technology to address them effectively. In brief, these are the aspects of the current spatial digital twin assessment covered in the World Geospatial Industry Council’s (WGIC) recently released policy report.

WGIC Secretariat September 22, 2022
Spatial-Digital-Twins Assessment-the-Current-Situation

WGIC’s blog series on spatial digital twins focuses on different aspects of this powerful technology. The first blog focused on defining digital twin technology and its benefits, while the second presented WGIC’s vision for spatial digital twins. This third blog discusses WGIC’s findings on the current state of affairs regarding the integration and implementation of spatial digital twins.

Digital twin assessment is fundamental to understanding the present level of advancement in deploying digital twins on different levels (e.g., company-level, city-level, country-level, and global level).   Eventually, the analysis of the assessment will aid in identifying the weak and strong points for businesses to optimize further, integrate deeper, and develop the technology for their benefit. With this in mind, WGIC conducted an engagement survey and interviews with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to receive feedback on the areas mentioned above and reflected on the results in its policy report “Spatial Digital Twins: Global Status, Opportunities, and the Way Forward.”  

Trends are shaped by the opportunities and challenges the geospatial industry faces while creating and integrating digital twins. One such challenge is standards. The fundamental importance of standards in any technology implementation is undeniable. WGIC’s research identified that four of five SMEs considered standards essential in spatial digital twin development. The good news is that the same study also found that accessing standards for spatial digital twins is reasonably feasible. 

Establishing standards is critical for collaboration, connectivity, and communication across people, assets, systems, and applications. In addition, standards should be flexible enough to be applied to multiple contexts and rigid enough to enforce data transfer and information exchange in meaningful ways. WGIC research showcased numerous organizations working on standards for spatial digital twins. One example is the National Digital Twin Initiative that United Kingdon (UK) implemented through the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB). CDBB developed standards on data sharing and digital twins. 

Though digital twin technology is already being implemented in many industries, it is still at a nascent stage of development and adoption. Considering this and the absence of unified standards, companies establish their ecosystems and frameworks in isolation. The other approach is establishing partnerships. In the short term, partnerships promote wider technology adoption, but when the standards-development processes don’t meet the client demand, it will cause industry misalignment. 

Assessment of Current Capability and Capacity  

Based on the feedback WGIC received from the engagement survey and interviews with SMEs, there are a few fundamental factors enabling access to digital twin technology. These factors include  

  • the industry, 
  • personnel, 
  • process maturity, 
  • the global region, and 
  • availability and access to technology. 

Considering the above factors, case-specific requirements should apply to designing and deploying a spatial digital twin across people, processes, and technology. WGIC’s research revealed two common themes behind every successful use case: understanding the clearly defined problem and high enthusiasm for the opportunities spatial digital twins provide. 

Unfortunately, there are also many technology adoption readiness challenges that many companies face. The biggest one is that some companies have a weak understanding of digital twins and confuse them with 3D models. Some lack appropriate data to use as part of the analysis and the digital twin value stream. Though others have a good understanding of the concept but lack the ability to develop, implement and maintain one.  

Spatial Digital Twin Use Cases tier-by-tier presentation

WGIC’s research, based on global scans, inputs from SMEs, and 27 use cases, revealed that in almost all use cases, spatial data is utilized in some way or another. For a bigger picture, WGIC identified four tiers of use cases based on their reliance on spatial data. 

The emergence of errors and challenges is natural. Digital twins are relatively new to this world. As much as we want to adapt them to serve our needs, we also need to get used to them and find a common language to utilize this technology to benefit the business and the end client. One thing to remember is that digital twins are an ever-evolving technology. The deeper it is integrated with our systems, the more errors might occur. However, that shouldn’t frighten us and shouldn’t stop development.

The original content of the blog post is sourced from the WGIC Policy Report “Spatial Digital Twins: Global Status, Opportunities, and the Way Forward.”

Editors of the blog: Margarita Dadyan and Bhanu Rekha from WGIC