Te Waihanga/ the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission has recommended that investigations into city, region and nation-wide digital twins be accelerated so the technology can be embedded as a tool of choice for spatial planning development.

Digital twins are digital models built to accurately represent assets, processes and systems. They use real-time data and can help organisations, cities and countries better plan for and manage their infrastructure. While digital twins have been around for some time, the technology now available is revolutionising both their scale and impact.

This technology has significant potential to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our infrastructure planning, delivery and asset management practices. To leverage this opportunity, industry and government will need to come together to set the direction for the technology, the data it uses and the culture that will enable it to provide meaningful productivity benefits.

Victoria’s Digital Twin
Across the Tasman, Land Use Victoria is leading a A$37.4 million digital twin, which builds on the success of the state’s Fisherman’s Bend digital twin. The model recreates Victoria virtually so that government, industry and the community can collaborate through shared open data to benefit infrastructure, building and planning projects.

Digital twin technology eases consenting processes through coordination of data, enabling the state government to be a better customer for the private sector. The model has already allowed for faster subdivision registration and automated approvals for affordable housing, alongside a range of other applications, including in emergency response management.

To support this work, Victoria developed the Victorian Digital Asset Strategy which mandates digital engineering and building information modelling across the entire lifecycle for all infrastructure assets.

The state has partnered closely with its building and infrastructure sector to co-develop the twin’s applications with the private sector and conducted testing with a range of stakeholders.

The journey towards a National Digital Twin for New Zealand
Twin technology has a lower level of maturity in New Zealand. Most models are currently custom made for organisations for specific assets and are some way from being sufficiently interconnected across cities or regions.

INZ welcomes The New Zealand Infrastructure Commission’s recommended acceleration of investigations into digital twin technology and notes that industry and Government will need to collaborate in an improved digital twin ecosystem to leverage the technology’s productivity potential.

Delivering a national digital twin will require significant improvement to the quality of the data that underpins this technology, as well as our sector’s willingness to share it. We can learn from Victoria’s experience as work progresses towards a larger scale twin.

Ahead of the publication of the Digital Strategy for Aotearoa this year, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the Government’s role in shaping data standards to accelerate the productivity potential of digital twin technology. At present, legislation lags behind. The sector needs a coherent strategy to bring fragmented work together and to set the direction on how we scale the exemplar projects we have.

In addition to updated data standards, a successful digital twin ecosystem will rely on collaboration across industry, government, the research sector and the community. To deliver a national digital twin, industry will need to lead the way through organisational cultural change and greater collaboration in data-sharing and coordination to avoid unnecessary effort duplication.

Writing expected data standards into contracts would allow industry to get out in front of legislative change. We will be most effective in developing a ‘shared language’- where data can be multi-use, contributed from multiple disciplines and platform agnostic, if industry is able to effectively partner with government to progress digital twin technology.

The journey towards a national digital twin will mean bringing together currently siloed data and digital models alongside industry, government, and community players. To do that, the Government will need to support industry to develop smaller scale digital twins which will serve as the foundation for a national twin. Data standards that are fit-for-purpose will underpin this work, alongside industry level progress that centres collaboration and an open and rich data commons.