Transforming infrastructure through smarter information: a rail industry case study

Despite the potential benefits of effective information management to optimize digital opportunity, many organizations still struggle to identify what information should be collected to support the efficient management of assets throughout their whole life. The right data to the right people at the right time is a crucial component to developing an effective digital twin. A digital twin is a novel concept of having a realistic digital representation of assets, processes or systems in the built or natural environment1. Typically, existing legacy data systems have been tailored independently to meet specific technical requirements, leading to disparate information systems unable to effectively support a modern digital environment.

Exploring this challenge, a detailed research study was recently conducted in collaboration with our client, Network Rail, to test a method adapted for the rail industry. Jacobs partnered with Network Rail and the University of Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction - an innovation and knowledge center that feeds into the Centre for Digital Built Britain - to successfully trial and further innovate leading-edge research on digital twins, establishing a method to identify information requirements that are appropriate, relevant and effective. The research paper explores, through industry application, a robust library of information requirements that determine what data the organization should be collecting and why these are necessary through design, construction, operation and disposal, establishing a solid foundation to develop an effective digital twin. Jacobs refined the approach with four modifications so that the research can be more easily applied in industry. The resulting paper: Informing the information requirements of a digital twin: a rail industry case study was published by ICE Proceedings.

The study concluded that integration of the method can help ensure that the rail industry is well positioned for digital transformation. However, industry integration of the method is a significant undertaking given the amount of information that needs to be considered throughout the process, and so further research is required to develop its scalability.

The University of Cambridge published project outcomes in the CSIC Annual Review (Pages 18 and 19).

1 CDBB (Centre for Digital Built Britain) (2019) The Gemini Principles, Cambridge, U.K. See