Digital twins are the big new thing – design and build a product digitally from a single digital master plan, then operate it and maintain it using the same digital twin. What could possibly go wrong, asks Michael Haines.
While it rarely seems to be discussed in the context of ‘Digital Twins’, if we are to realise the benefits of virtual manufacturing, logistics, construction, and operation, we are going have to take security in the virtual world very seriously.
The reason is simple. In future, 3D models will not only represent the physical attributes and spatial coordinates of each object and their surrounds – above and below ground, inside and out, on all scales required for decision-making.
They will also be the ‘portal’ through which all data and information about the object can be accessed.
It will mean that as well as searching for data and information semantically as we now do, we will simply locate a model object in its spatial context using VR, or a real object using AR.
If authorized, we will be able to access every bit of information about it – what it is made of, its cost, where it was purchased, when and from whom, how it works, operating instructions, any warranty, who services it and their contact details, as well as its maintenance history, who owns and controls and insures and finances it, and the terms of any agreement relating to it, and anything else about it!
These models will also be dynamic, simulating the physical properties of the objects, as well as the flows of energy, materials and people that they model.
Most crucially, they will have direct links to the real time data flowing from the real object that the model represents. They will have the ability to control the real object through the model, including all manner of plant and equipment in every building and factory, as well as our power, transport, communication, water, chemical and sewage networks.
On the upside, it means we can manage the built environment ‘proactively’ rather than ‘reactively’, cutting costs and time and improving quality.
The downside is just as massive. If we think we are at risk from cyber-crime, terrorism and warfare today; we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
Michael Haines has had 40+ years in management and consulting roles including at CEO and board level across government, telecommunications, brewing, construction, consumer goods, car manufacturing, and transport and logistics. He was a Board Member of Australian Logistics Council and in 2011 established VANZI, a ‘not-for-profit’ Initiative to broker development of the Digital Built Environment.
Picture: Michael Haines
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