ICT Group is a technical automation company that operates across the board within the infra. The company is specialised in realising the digital control of physical assets such as bridges, locks and tunnels, and will present the Physical Twin at InfraTech 2023. Herman Kraaij, Business Development Infra, provides us with a sneak preview.

ICT Group brings people, technologies and ideas together. "We are specialised in the automation of the technical domain, across the full breadth of the market: from manufacturing and automotive to food, pharma and infra," Kraaij clarifies. "We do this with 2,000 employees worldwide, 1,000 of whom work in the Netherlands. This makes us the largest technical automation company in the Netherlands. Within infra, we are active on the passenger side (transport operators, municipalities, provinces, ProRail, etc.), but we are also involved in the operational aspect, which includes the hard and critical infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels and locks as well as the railway infrastructure. In the case of the hard infrastructure, we take care of the entire range if required: from planning studies and preliminary design to realisation and maintenance. In doing so, we frequently make use of the knowledge and expertise of INNOCY, our in-house engineering consultancy."

Good flow-through

According to Kraaij, the biggest challenge for the next 20 years in infrastructure is the large-scale replacement and renovation (V&R) task of Rijkswaterstaat, provinces and municipalities. "The bulk of the engineering structures were built in the period between the 1960s and 1980s, and now they are in need of renovation. A lot of work has to be done in a relatively short period which is characterised by shortages of personnel and materials. The tightness within the labour market is perhaps the biggest challenge," Kraaij believes. "Moreover, the infrastructure domain is very domain-specific and the critical infrastructure also comprises structures such as bridges, locks and viaducts. The Van Brienenoord Bridge, for example, is located in one of the busiest connections in the Netherlands, for both road and waterway traffic, but the bridge has been nominated for renovation. In short, the primary focus of the V&R projects has to be on maintaining a smooth flow of traffic in the Netherlands."

Reducing downtime with Physical Twin

The phase of testing and demonstrating that a renovated structure meets all (safety) requirements and functions properly is something you want to carry out in the shortest time possible, Kraaij states. "We have developed a solution for this very purpose: the Physical Twin. "Basically, we recreate a structure such as a bridge, lock or viaduct to scale. This allows us to test the integration of the control system with the electrical system off-site, without the need for on-site stoppages. Naturally, the aim is to keep the period of on-site integration and commissioning as short as possible. The entire application has already been tested and demonstrated before it is implemented on-site. The additional benefit for the client, operators and other users is that they can gain knowledge without burdening the actual object. What’s more, because the testing and validation phases proceed much faster, you also save on effort. This is a great bonus in the current times of huge labour shortages." ICT Group will exhibit a Physical Twin of a bridge/lock combination at InfraTech.


According to Kraaij, the Physical Twin not only allows you to test desired behaviour extensively and intensively, but it also allows you to simulate and demonstrate any undesired behaviour of the system. "For instance, what happens if the barrier of a bridge/lock combination fails to close unexpectedly? In that situation, the bridge must not be allowed to open. You can test and demonstrate this with the Physical Twin, and it is part of the validation. We combine this with the HoloLens and our HoloNXT platform in order to visualise a situation that emulates a control room from which you really open a bridge by simply pressing a button. Because this all takes place off-site, it significantly reduces the conversion time on-site, including the acceptance tests before handover and validation. In short, less disruption, less energy consumption, no long waiting times, no safety issues and no unnecessary wear and tear on moving parts." ICT Group was named the Netherlands' best Digital Transformer in the Software, Development & Platforms/Enablers-Overall category by entrepreneurial platform MT/Sprout. "This means that we are THE party for the V&R task having domain knowledge of the operational environment and knowledge of robust software architecture."   

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