The concept of “digital twins” grew out of the aerospace industry, explained Christopher Riddell, Director of Innovation at Applied Software and the game changer of the week in the June 10 AEC Game Changers virtual event. “NASA used something called pairing technology… which was a precursor to digital twins,” he said. “In effect, they needed to find ways where they could work and not be physically near the object, because they were up in space. A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset… it’s used to perform simulation and what-if analysis.”
Since we are very much in a data-driven world these days, we are learning that data needs to be treated as an asset. “Without that data and the understanding of it,” Christopher said, “we can’t apply technology to it.” Digital twins are able to capture real-time data in order to create predictive simulations and conduct analyses. Overall, the digital twin concept can have multiple areas of focus: capturing requirements, designing products, planning projects, reliability engineering, training, real-time decision making, decommissioning, and commissioning resources.
On the subject of commissioning, the discussion turned to the current state of the architecture, engineering and construction industry, where a digital twin is often mentioned as being an invaluable handoff at the end of a construction project. In practice, few building owners are receiving an as-built digital twin of the project model at commissioning because the exceedingly high level of detail required in the model is beyond the traditional scope of work for architects.
However, the use of digital twins could become the “backbone” of the construction industry. As Christopher put it, during construction “they tell you about what we’re building, whether we’re behind schedule, or the kinds of risks we face.” After construction, they tell you every detail that went into constructing the building. “There are two different ideologies about where we stand in the industry,” he said. “We have one side saying we don’t have enough data… and the other saying it’s the backbone for how we make decisions.”
Where a digital twin can be most successful is in its ability to track data across a project’s entire lifecycle. In doing this, its value increases exponentially as an asset to any building project. Creating an as-built digital twin is an undertaking, but if it helps streamline maintenance and get the highest possible use out of a building throughout its life, then it is well worth the effort.
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If you’re interested in learning more about Digital Twins, check out Bridging the Gap’s podcast interview with Carlos Catalan. Carlos and host Todd Weyandt discuss Digital
Twins, the necessity of collaboration, and Apollo 13.