Digital Twins: Picking Up Where BIM Leaves Off—and Rushing Straight into the Future

My Arcadis colleague Frank Goossensen in his Sept. 21 blog post accurately described the causes and consequences of disruption in the Real Estate world. You might recall that Frank discussed at some length digitization as the remedy for disruption. His prescription is the right one, in my opinion. Missing from his overview article was a look at what I am convinced is the ultimate high-technology tool for Real Estate. It is known as the digital twin.

Digital Twins

A digital twin is a computer-generated representation of something that exists in physical space and time. In the case of a Real Estate asset, a digital twin is an extremely detailed onscreen replica of an actual home, office, factory, school, parking structure, plaza, bridge, airport, transportation system, business complex, business district, even an entire city. Pick any Real Estate asset and you can create a digital twin of it.

Why would you want to create a digital twin of a Real Estate asset? The answer is to be able to learn things that will help you improve the asset’s operations—and desirability (along with the desirability of future assets like it).

A Digital Twin in Action

Here’s how a digital twin works. First, you must generate the onscreen representation. You can do this easily enough with your favorite BIM system. Initially, the digital twin you’ve created will be very rough around the edges. That’s because there hasn’t yet been the addition of real-time data to breathe life into it. Those needed data will come from sensors you install in the actual asset.

The sensors collect information about the operation and performance of the building’s systems—heating, air conditioning, ventilation, lighting, water consumption, electricity use, elevator activity, foot traffic, and much more. These data are then processed and analyzed, all typically in the cloud (which is tech-speak for a worldwide server network that functions as one gigantic computing ecosystem). The breakdown of information that comes back to you reveals many things that might otherwise be overlooked. Also, the more sensors installed and the longer you collect data, the more precisely your digital twin resembles your physical asset.

The revealed insights about your asset allow you to then create and play around with “what if” scenarios. These scenarios let you see what will happen if you do or do not take a particular action involving the asset. You introduce unlimited variables to aggressively challenge your proposed actions. Only when the digital twin performs according to your wishes do you initiate those actions for real. This gives you an excellent way to safely—and without consequences—test your ideas and theories. Those that you actually implement should result in an optimized asset. If your asset is optimized, it will operate more efficiently and almost surely at a reduced cost. Translation: you can expect an improved return on investment.

Digital Twins Help You Be More Competitive

You can also use the insights supplied by a digital twin to predict maintenance requirements and so be able to more reliably keep systems up and running. The digital twin will even permit you to conduct remote virtual inspections of the physical property—no need to go onsite to perform that task. This bigger, brighter picture of everything that’s happening with your asset will as well afford you better support for your decisions concerning future improvements. For example, say you want to renovate. With a digital twin, you can easily evaluate whether or not it makes sense to reuse materials from the demolition process.

Another excellent reason to use a digital twin is it makes you and your ecosystem partners more competitive. Not just because you can make decisions and perform management tasks more efficiently and cost-effectively. But also because a digital twin enables you to be more creative, for the digital twin is above all a tool to boost innovation. If you are engaged in more innovating, you are likely more competitive.

Part of the reason for your increased competitiveness is that the innovations you bring forth tend to spark greater satisfaction among your end-users. Your innovations are satisfying to tenants, occupants, and visitors because the things you come up with for their benefit are no longer created in a vacuum. Rather, they are inspired by your knowledge of what it is that end-users want and need from your asset.

On the Forefront of Digital Twin Use: Arcadis

I am convinced that the Real Estate sector is poised to embrace digital twins in a big way. It won’t happen overnight. But step by step, investors and portfolio managers will cross over from use of BIM alone to digital twin technology. The attractiveness of this tool is simply too great to resist, I believe.

Arcadis is a leading proponent of digital twins. We enthusiastically promote it because we perceive this technology to be a source of enormous opportunity for our clients. If you would like to learn more about digital twins and how Arcadis can help you adopt this essential technology to make your assets perform far better than you might have imagined possible, then please give us a call or send us an email. Tell us what you’d like to accomplish. We’re very sure that digital twin technology is a key part of the answers you’re looking for.

Dr. Manoj Gupte

Director Strategy & Special Projects +49 151 17142969 Ask me a question
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