Italy needs a publicly-accessible digital twin for the Morandi Bridge replacement

September 19, 2018

Last week the Peaxy team was invited to Genoa to meet with a number of leading Italian engineering companies on the subject of replacing the Morandi Bridge, which collapsed last month. We also had the opportunity to visit the “red zone” near the bridge. The scene is both tragic and surreal.

In our meetings, we floated the idea of creating a cloud-based, “digital twin” for the new bridge — a dynamic simulation that can incorporate both strain gauge telemetry and accelerometer sensor data. We also proposed a “digital dossier” of the future bridge that curates all critical geometry data (engineering drawings), simulation data and maintenance records, so that a complete repository of all critical bridge data is readily accessible for decades to come.

To rebuild the public’s confidence in critical infrastructure of this type, we strongly believe this data should to be in the public domain, so that engineers, researchers, and the general public can provide independent oversight of the new bridge’s condition. An open API should provide both historical and real-time bridge data so that anyone with an interest can run their own analyses. Students could use the data as a proving ground for their machine learning projects, competing to build the best predictive analytics tools. The effectiveness of maintenance regimes could be transparently compared to costs.

Over the past decade, several countries have pioneered the notion that tax-funded projects have an obligation to be accountable to their stakeholders, the taxpayers — notably the UK, US, and Sweden, all of which have open data portals and APIs. Now is the opportunity for Italy to raise the bar on how future taxpayer-funded civil engineering projects earn public trust and support — via a ground-breaking “open digital twin”.

While we have fit-for-purpose solutions that deliver these capabilities, we believe so strongly in the concept of an open digital twin and an open digital dossier that we’ve decided to place these ideas in the public domain, to encourage their consideration.