Sarah Hayes: If we fail to share on climate risk, we’re sure to fail

Climate change is the biggest challenge we face, but we are far from ready to deal with extreme weather events caused by the changing climate, says Connected Places Catapult’s new Affiliate.

Practical steps must be taken by infrastructure professionals to make their systems more resilient against the backdrop of an uncertain future. These include being prepared to share data and collaborate with others across sectors through the use of connected digital twins. This promises to increase the resilience of critical infrastructure in the face of changes such as rising sea levels or an increased likelihood of flooding.

Having a thorough understanding of how different infrastructure systems work together and rely on each other through using such tools can help utility providers and local authorities to co-ordinate strategic resilience planning, and invest more strategically to guard against the devastating impact of extreme weather events.

Sharing information is fundamental to human survival and – right now – is fundamental to the sustainability of the planet. If we fail to share, we’re sure to fail.

Connected Places Catapult hosts the Digital Twin Hub, a community of digital twin practitioners whose motto is ‘Learn by doing, progress by sharing’. Since we took over the running of the hub three years ago, we have stressed the need to share data to help everyone understand how their systems affect the bigger picture. Great progress is made when we demonstrate real use cases.

These include the Climate Resilience Demonstrator (CReDo) – a digital twin that can predict how a major flood event could impact the supply of power, communications and water. In CReDo, we work with Anglian Water, UK Power Networks and BT to show how sharing information through a digital twin encompassing water, energy and telecoms networks can help to improve climate adaptation and resilience, by providing a system level view of the impact of extreme weather events.

Due to technical, cultural, economic, financial, commercial and legal barriers to sharing data we need a robust data sharing infrastructure, to enable seamless and secure data sharing. This was one of the recommendations in ‘Data for the Public Good’ published by the National Infrastructure Commission in 2017. Work is on going through the National Digital Twin Programme and sector initiatives to develop this data sharing infrastructure.

A seamless and secure data sharing vision could then be realised across all sectors if we harness our best approaches to data sharing, and make them open and accessible to all.

A year ago, I set up a voluntary data sharing discussion group to help work out who is doing what in the data sharing space, understand some of the pain points and outline the best approaches to taking action. By getting together once a week, we are able to share our ideas and concerns and agree what we want to work on together.

We produce assets such as a ‘Data sharing architecture template’ to help explain the need for a data sharing architecture, and host workshops to contribute to the thinking of the DT Hub Standards and Interoperability Working Group which presented its findings at the recent Connected Digital Twins Summit, hosted by Connected Places Catapult.

We are currently focused on the issue of digitalisation governance for the energy sector and the wider economy. Input is welcome from other disciplines, so if you are keen to get involved in this discussion, please get in touch.

If you’re interested to participate in the wider community discussion on digital twins, please join the DT Hub Community Gemini Call which takes place every Tuesday between 10:30 and 11:00. The Gemini Call is an excellent way to keep on top of the latest thinking in digital twins and share your progress. or

* Sarah Hayes is an Ambassador for Connected Places Catapult and is one of 31 new Affiliates appointed this summer to help deliver on its strategic objectives.