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Under the banner ‘ Brit-twin: Towards a national digital twin ’, the creation of a digital twin of Britain’s entire infrastructure was discussed at a conference in London in January. Companies and government agencies, from rail through highway operators, explored the options. One thing was clear for all participants: A project on this scale can be successful only if companies and independent organizations cooperate closely. Sarah Hayes, the representative for the British National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), also estimates that it will be 10 to 15 years before any initial results are available.

It should then, however, be possible to make the country’s infrastructure more efficient and be able to respond to problems, such as damage to bridges and flooding, faster. The NIC presented relevant recommendations in a report back in 2017. The regulatory authority for the privatized water and sewage industry in England and Wales, for example, wants to reduce the volume of drinking water lost through leaks by 15%, or 170 billion liters of water. Highways England has set the goal of improving the air quality around the United Kingdom’s road network.

Participants at the conference saw the collection and correlation of the necessary data as the main problem. For example, many infrastructures dating from the Victorian era have not yet been recorded in digital form and as a first step would need to be surveyed using modern methods.