Exploring the use of digital twins to manage critical infrastructure.

This project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research.

The Horizon 2020 project PRECINCT (Preparedness and Resilience Enforcement for Critical INfrastructure Cascading Cyberphysical Threats and effects with focus on district or regional protection) wants to establish an ecosystem platform for connecting stakeholders of interdependent critical infrastructures and emergency services. The goal is to manage security and resilience collaboratively and efficiently by sharing data, critical infrastructure protection models and related new resilience services encapsulated in digital twins. It started in 2021 and will last for two years.

EU Critical Infrastructures (CIs) (e.g. power grids, traffic infrastructure, information and communication systems) are increasingly at risk from cyber-physical attacks, natural hazards and hybrid threats including fake news. Research and emerging solutions focus on the protection of individual CIs. However, the interrelationships between CIs have become more complex, and managing the impacts of cascading effects and enabling rapid recovery is becoming more pertinent and challenging.

Comprehensive and installation-specific approaches

The PRECINCT project will provide a model-driven collaborative and unifying cyber-physical security and resilience management platform.

CI actors most urgently need support and help in advancing state-of-the art thinking and tooling to address the area of connected, interdependent CI installations, plants and associated complex systems.

This advanced state of the art in security tooling will help CI private and public actors with comprehensive and installation-specific approaches to secure existing and future connected and co-dependent installations. To achieve this target, the PRECINCT project will operate in a multi-faceted way:

  • Understanding: to achieve a more fundamental understanding of interdependent CIs, PRECINCT leverages SOTA modelling techniques. The goal is to accurately discern the current and future risks in territory-based interdependent CIs in a variety of multi-hazard conditions and configurations.
  • Improving: the digital twins will help to improve accuracy and automation in identification, remediation and threat elimination. In this way, the above models can be advanced towards more detailed models in the context of specific hazards. The application of digital twins to multi-hazard risk management yields a circular process of anticipating, preventing and protecting events, responding during the events, and recovering and learning after events.
  • Sustaining: modelling CI interdependencies to identify, forecast or simulate potential cascading effects has limitations in identifying vulnerabilities in complex and co-dependent CI threat contexts. The project takes an innovative approach in the use of 'serious games' as promising vehicles to motivate and incentivize the collective pursuit of enhanced security. This specifically applies to vulnerabilities detection. A key component of the gameplay dashboard will be the inclusion of a real-time resilience score using the above modelling framework.

Digital twins, serious games and AI technologies

The PRECINCT Ecosystem Platform will connect stakeholders of interdependent CIs and emergency services to collaboratively manage security and resilience exploiting digital twins, serious games and AI technologies. The objective is to improve CI protection for specific installations from vulnerabilities arising from interdependencies and cascading effects.

The validation scenarios are based in four European large-scale living labs, which have a different threat focus and impacted critical infrastructures (CIs):

  • Antwerp: flooding and global warming, water CI, transportation CI
  • Ljubljana: bomb attack, cyber attack, DDoS, energy CI, telecommunications CI, transportation CI
  • Athens: cyber attacks, terrorism and earthquakes, transportation CI
  • Bologna: cyber-physical attacks, fake news, transportation CI, telecommunications CI

Furthermore, there are three transferability demonstrators, which will result in ready-to-use tools by the end of the project. Increased automation and accuracy in security and resilience management will reduce costs and increase efficiency for CI management. The main societal benefits include:

  • Enhanced overall physical security
  • Safety levels
  • Data protection for personal and organizational information

The transferability demonstrators are based in:

  • Luxemburg (energy CI, telecommunications CI)
  • Dublin (transportation CI, energy CI)

Uruguay (water CI, energy CI, telecommunications CI)

Living Lab Antwerp use case

Living Lab Antwerp will contribute to the PRECINCT reference framework models to establish a dependencies map between CIs in the Antwerp region, using the Multidisciplinary Emergency Operational Command Post (CP-OPS). The CP-OPS coordinates the action between the different emergency services and prepares situational reports, while informing relevant authorities about the event and advising authorities. The CP-OPS will organize the use of the serious games to specify threat scenarios. These will be used to specify new information-sharing processes between key CI operators.

The threat focus within the Living Lab Antwerp use case is flooding and disastrous consequences of global warming with cascading effects on the water CI and its impact on the traffic CI. Antwerp is experiencing an increasing number of flash floods due to heavy rainfall.

Within the project, imec is jointly responsible for a digital twin platform. This platform is designed to use available tools and technologies with the focus on interoperability. The main objective of the Living Lab Antwerp digital twin is to interconnect the water and transportation CIs to support decision making by the police and emergency services of Antwerp, more specific to:

  • Alert CI Operators and Coordination Center to improve operational response and increase Resilience.
  • Model what-if scenarios and their impact on cascading effects and resilience.

In addition, imec trains the four PRECINCT Living Labs (Ljubljana, Antwerp, Athens, Bologna) in the scoping process of the Digital Twin solutions. This process follows the FACTS approach: FOCUS, ANALYSIS, CO-CREATE, TEST and STUDY. A threefold assessment of the use cases is made to maximize the potential impact of the resulting solution: feasibility (is the solution technically possible), desirability (does the solution meet the needs of key stakeholders and users) and sustainability (can the solution be implemented within a reasonable timeframe and budget).

During this process, imec's Innovatrix digital Innovation Management platform is used to track all assumptions and their (in)validation during the scoping sprint phases. The Living Labs use the specifically developed Digital Twin Canvas to map the most critical elements of the current state and of the future state (= the digital twin solution). The canvas provides structure to describe, discover and validate the stakeholders' requirements. At the end of the scoping process, each Living Lab should be able to specify and prioritize the requirements for their Digital Twin as user stories

This project has received funding from the [European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program] [European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program] [Euratom research and training programme 2019-2020] under grant agreement No 101021668.

Want to know more?  

Want to learn more about the PRECINCT-project? Visit the project website.