The Elephant in the Circus

All of us construction professionals are elbow fighting to get tickets to the biggest and most spectacular show ever been staged that has been touring around the construction industry world.


Who knew that I would have unintentionally bought myself a front-row seat to this promising jaw-dropping sensational show precisely three years ago? I did not particularly enjoy circus acts when I was a child; however, attending this new type of circus has been a fascinating and often nerve-wrecking experience.

Are you still hesitant and questioning whether to get that ticket? For the last few years, I have been answering whether the show is worth the money, journey,  time, seat options available and what view is the more enjoyable, so I want to provide you with my expert critical review of this new beautiful show and give you some of the highlights so that you can make a more informed decision.

At the circus, you can find all sorts of animals currently used to describe different species, from 3D laser scans to 3D models, BIM models to sophisticated IoT, AI, ML dashboards, to AR/VR unicorns across the entire circus ring/construction lifecycle. There are too many species to name them all and to avoid embarrassing confusion, we all called them animals/digital twins.

Yes, I know there are unicorns? I did not even know they existed! Nobody knows for sure, but all spectators agree, they are real. I wonder if they are horses with a single large spiralling horn projecting from their forehead, but I do not want to upset the kids, so I keep it quiet.

The show is full of lions/exiting tech companies, grunting showing off their crests, roaring, flaring and shaking their manes, mock-charging each other, and slapping paws showing their dominance. The act is constantly disrupted by many monkeys/start-ups annoyingly hopping around the room, disrupting the lions organised well-rehearsed parade. Warning; occasionally, lions step and injure the monkeys.

You can also find high flying trapeze artists in innovative adagio-influenced death-defying, dazzling aerial acts performing the “Gartner Hype Cycle curve of disillusionment” impeccably.

World-renowned magicians/academics make several appearances throughout the show, showing their talent in innovative magic tricks, from card tricks to pulling out a never-ending long string of handkerchiefs/papers from their pockets.

For me, the star of the show is the elephant, “Orderly Evidence”, the oldest living largest existing land animal. The elephant makes its graceful appearance by tiptoeing around the circus ring in a structured manner, bouncing thousands of coloured balloons/data in and out the circus ring with its proboscis and the crowd, adults and kids stand up, fight and shout in an attempt to catch and bounce those balls back. But the most outstanding act is when the elephant starts balancing on the top of an inflatable earth ball. How can an elephant do that so gracefully?

Skilful clowns, unicyclists and jugglers/CONTENT CENSORED entertain the international crowd in their flamboyant costumes performing comedy in a state of open-mindedness, engaging the public, especially the children; those laughs are so loud that they make the entire tent shake. I often get distracted by the rumbling noise of the tent structure, as it often seems ready to collapse on us, dimming lights flicker throughout the show, sometimes leaving all of us in the dark for a few minutes. Probably many think it is intentional, but I wonder on the day if the generator will leave us all in the dark? And the northeast seat area, I would avoid getting tickets in that section, as it gets flooded when it rains. The northwest area instead is brand new, it was destroyed by fire, but it was rebuilt in no time.

As I get distracted, the ringmaster invites me to join him to be a part of the next act. And me very hesitantly I look around puzzled and wondering what exactly the next act is about? Is this a magic act? Are they going to put me in a box, cut me in half or make me disappear? Hold on, Are those horses in the background? I am not entirely sure if I should say yes/no. Will it be embarrassing?

I hope this short article has been as amusing as informative, and I got your attention for the message I am eager to get across;

The future of our built environment lies in the ability of the elephant to perform its balancing act gracefully across the circus ring/construction lifecycle. Amidst the action and excitement, without a doubt attending “The Digital Twin Circus” is an entertaining and one in a lifetime experience but we should not get too distracted by all the excitement and folklore of the acts and focus on the purpose of our visit and the enjoyment/value we want to get from attending. Identify the most appropriate seat/use-cases, the type of data required to be collected, maintained and analysed. Evaluate the kind of journey and process to use to get to the circus, the type of technology that is most applicable and what partners we want to make the journey with.

And ultimately, the most challenging task is keeping the weight off the elephant; there is only just enough data that can be collected, created and maintained throughout the construction lifecycle sustainably. Producing just enough of what we need and structuring it appropriately will underpin the successful creation, operation and more efficient use of our built assets throughout their lifetime. As construction professionals, we have a duty of care to leave a more efficient, productive and sustainable built environment to future generations. Digital Twins presents the biggest opportunity to digitise and improve the most important industry at the base of our society and to do that successfully.


P.S. Buying a ticket and telling people you have been there it is NOT as enjoyable and rewarding as you may think, you must attend the full show to gain any benefits 😀

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