This month, the London Digital Twin Research Centre (LDTRC) was launched at MDX with a workshop featuring talks by international academic and industry specialists on the potential of digital twin technology and its benefits to businesses.
Digital twins are digital representations of physical objects or systems. They take real-world data as inputs using Internet of Things sensors and then simulating how that object or system will be affected by different factors. The technology helps model performance and predict problems, or could be used to develop prototypes. It has applications in a wide range of sectors including manufacturing, construction, healthcare, the oil and gas industry and 5G.
MDX is leading partner on a digital twin research project, generously supported by British Council-managed Newton Fund Institutional Links, in collaboration with Vietnam's University of Transport and Communications on early detection of infrastructure damage. The research focuses on the development of Digital Twins and prediction systems to enable continuous monitoring of bridges. A further area of work is a UK-India Education and Research Initiative-funded project in Digital Twin for Industry 4.0, led by MDX in partnership with the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Sri City, with the aim of developing more sophisticated tools to enable high productivity, lower running costs, improved product quality improvement and minimized maintenance and shutdown. Presentations of these exciting research initiatives opened the workshop.
The MDX Research Centre is also developing modelling languages and environments as a foundational basis for Digital Twin technology, in collaboration with Aston University and TCS Research Labs, India, overseeing research collaborations in a multi-disciplinary context, and participating in knowledge transfer of Digital Twin research capability through the Connected Curriculum project in partnership with Siemens and Festo.
Speakers at the workshop included Stephen Douglas from networks, devices and security specialists Spirent Communications, Dr. Raja Vara Prasad from IIIT, India, Dr Veronica Martinez from Digital Built Britain at the University of Cambridge and Cambridge Service Alliance, Professor Guido de Roeck from the University of Leuven, and internal MDX speakers, Prof Balbir Barn and Prof Mehmet Karamanoglu. Dr Andrew Parry and Dr Viet Tung Nguyen of oilfield services company Schlumberger spoke over Skype from the firm's Paris HQ because of coronavirus travel restrictions. The full programme for the workshop is here.
Professor Steven Niederer, a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at King's College London who is working on developing digital twins of the heart, said the research centre is a useful way to share ideas and expertise - "my interactions are very user-focused - talking to doctors, radiologists and medical device companies. There are lots of challenges that other areas of engineering are much better at".
Dr Martinez - whose research for the Centre for Digital Built Britain involves creating a twin for the infrastructure of a whole region of the UK - said she welcomed the scope of the MDX Research Centre's work being "fundamental research that empowers the architecture of digital twins", rather than focusing on any one sector. Professor de Roeck, whose expertise is in digital modelling and whose research on the environmental impact of transport has included studying the effects of Tube trains on the Bakerloo Line, says he hopes intensive co-operation in European research networks will continue to include UK academics after Brexit.
Prof Huan Nguyen, Director of the newly established London Digital Twin Research Centre says: “This one-day dissemination workshop brought many fantastic speakers and experts from industry and academia to share the latest research outcomes on digital transformation for smart manufacturing, 5G, infrastructure, healthcare, bi-engineering and transportation using concepts and technologies from the notion of a 'Digital Twin'. There was great engagement and discussion from different angles, ranging from the technology to the business models to many potential use-cases and applications of Digital Twins.
"The launch of the London Digital Twin Research Centre during the event, one of the very first of its kind in the UK, reaffirmed the commitment of Middlesex University to embrace the latest technology for the global digital transformation.
"Apart from the two ongoing projects funded by Newton Fund Institutional Links and UKIERI (and delivered by the British Council), on Digital Twin for Industry 4.0 and Structural Health Monitoring, the Centre also emphasises research on Digital Twin for 5G, agent-based technology, Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the Connected Curriculum. The Centre aims to be a leading UK research hub for the new technology of Digital Twin in this data-driven digital transformation era”.