Digital Twins- What are they and how can they benefit us?
The Institute of Civil Engineers describes it like this, “A digital twin is a digital representation of something physical, such as a building, a bridge, or a stretch of motorway.”
Meaning, in its simplest form, a digital twin is an up-to-date CAD drawing, as this represents the physical world digitally.
Moving on from basic CAD, we can utilise Building Information Modelling (BIM) techniques to enrich the data set of our Digital Twin. The addition of BIM models will incorporate the plethora of variables that are embedded within these. This will, for example, take a digital twin from simply showing the presence of a window to also displaying the individual components of it, as well as their thermal properties, part numbers and various additional pieces of information.
At this point, we have created a realistic three-dimensional representation of our asset, with a rich level of detail authored during the design stage and regularly updated throughout its construction phase, to provide the owner/operator with an up-to-date, accurate, digital twin of their asset.
One might think that this is the pinnacle of a digital twin, however, this would be a mistake.
We can take this one step further by integrating IoT devices and information into our digital twin in order to not only have an up-to-date model, but also an active live link to the real world. This can take the shape of simple things such as heat sensors, which then allow for automated remote control of air conditioning to provide an optimal environment, as well as reducing costs and emissions.
How does this benefit us?
Throughout the construction process, the digital twin allows us to perform various types of simulations and tests, ranging from clash detection to heat and airflow analysis, to computational fluid dynamics, all of which allow for the testing, simulation and analysis of an asset in its digital form, in order to reduce the potential for errors throughout the building process and allow a reduction in costly re-design and re-work.
Post construction, the integration of IoT devices can add even more potential for adding efficiencies, cost savings and reducing environmental impact. An example of this would be temperature sensors being used to dynamically manage the heating and cooling of a building, therefore, reducing energy costs and reducing the environmental impact of excessive heating or cooling of buildings.
These are some of the most common uses of digital twins, but as technology and the field advances, new ways of creating and using digital twins may also appear.