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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Applying ‘Digital Twins’ to Infrastructure: Potential and Pitfalls

There is currently great interest in applying the full digitisation of ‘Industry 4.0 to infrastructure systems ‘Digital Twinning, an application of ‘Industry 4.0involves digitally representing infrastructure systems in order to support better decision-making processes for future developments as well as better understanding of issues with current assets. However, there is a lack of research on applying the state-of-the-art of digital twining to the resilience of water infrastructure systems. This study is based on a synthesis of the literature on digital twin applications in infrastructure resilience generally and the water sector specifically. 

Thus, this study firstly outlines the research that has been done on digital twins in infrastructure generally to reach concise definitions, purposes and aims. Then it discusses and critiques resilience and how the resilience level of any system can be assessed based on some of the latest resilience measurement strategies published in 2020. The study then focuses on the issues with current water systems and the practices that have been used to address these issues. Actual examples of flood events, hurricanes and earthquakes in a combination of developed countries (United States, Portugal) and developing countries (Sudan and Nepal) are discussed with a critical review of the damage to water systems after these disruptions. The capabilities of digital twins to enhance water system resilience are discussed, as well as the precautions that should be considered when deciding on their use. Based on this synthesis, conclusions and recommendations for future research are provided. 


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.