How Digital Twins Can Help Improve The Built World

For those of you that don’t know,

Digital twins are digital versions of a physical object, a dynamic, up-to-date digital replica of a built asset or environment.

You might be thinking to yourself: “Why would a digital replica of a real-life object have any significance on the world.”

And let’s demonstrate how digital twins can help improve the built world with an example.

Imagine that you’re a construction manager for a huge firm that builds those huge Chinese skyscrapers.

Imagine you’ve built the Shanghai tower, a 128-story mega tall skyscraper in Lujiazui that’s over 2000 feet tall.

The damage that could happen if that building were to crash and fall would be tremendous.

And unless you do a daily check-up on every single pipe in the building, it’s possible that with the degradation of time, such a disaster could happen.

Now I want you to imagine that the building had sensors on the most important parts of the building.

Pipes, infrastructure, corridors, staircases, heating systems, elevators, and so on.

If you constantly get real-time data on the performance and health of these systems. It would be almost child’s play to deduce and find errors that could lead to disasters in the future.  

Compare that to the number of person-hours needed to check everything manually, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

This is just one example of what's possible with digital twins.

We’ve managed to help our clients achieve tremendous results with digital twins.

From improving warehouse productivity to helping an agriculture client select the right type of plants and weeds, we’ve done it all.

Agriculture computer vision simulation

How are digital twins built?

Digital twins are made with the help of bim (building information modeling), machine learning, artificial intelligence, and IoT (internet of things)

Data from the original asset is used to build and improve the digital twin.

By providing a precise, up-to-date model of its original, a digital twin can help designers, engineers, manufacturers, and decision-makers create more efficient structures.

Digital twins can help with everything from planning design and construction to operations and maintenance.

Consider a hospital that’s already been designed and constructed; imagine there’s a digital twin of the entire facility.

How would you use a digital twin to improve hospital infrastructure and productivity?

Well, just like before, you could use the digital twin to check for leaky pipes, faulty heating systems, and so on.

But what if you could also identify where stoppage of work happens and what cause of action leads to accidents. 

For example, you might determine that it takes a nurse too long to get medication from the cabinet for patients who desperately need it. If you saw this, you might move important medication closer to patients.

Digital Twin Example of A Robot Learning the Hospital Layout

This is just one of a thousand micro improvements you could do within your hospital. 

Just as a 1% performance improvement lead British Cycles to win the Olympic gold medals, many 1% improvements could place your hospital at the top of the charts. [Source]

On a greater scale, multiple digital twins can be integrated into an entire ecosystem.

Digital Twins Interconnected

A Short History of Digital Twins

Digital twins first appeared in the 1960s. 

Nasa was one of the first agencies to use mirroring technology to replicate systems in space,

notably, Nasa created a replica of Apollo 13, which became critical amid its challenging mission.

Engineers were able to test solutions on the replica to avoid further disaster. 

Later on, in 2002. Dr. Michael Greaves, chief scientist for advanced manufacturing at the Florida Institute of Technology, introduced the concept of the digital twin at an American society of mechanical engineers conference in 2002

He proposed a product lifecycle management center that contained the elements of a digital twin.

The physical space, the virtual space, and the flow of information between the two, and the manufacturing industry quickly adopted digital twins.

Architecture engineers and construction industries follow suit.

Digital Twins Today

With the help of technological advancements like bim (building information modeling), today, digital twin technology plays a massive part in the digital transformation of several industries, 

Some of those industries include:

  • Medical industry
  • Engineering 
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Agriculture
  • Etc…

A digital twin starts with knowledge of the assets and spaces that make up a facility.

This type of descriptive twin is a live editable version of design and construction data, such as a visual replica of assets or facilities.

An informative twin has an added layer of operational and sensory data. 

As more and more data is added, the twin becomes richer and richer and more strongly linked to its physical counterpart.

Predictive twins can leverage this operational data for insights, while comprehensive twins simulate future scenarios, and consider what-if questions.

in the future, twins will become autonomous able to learn and act on behalf of users because digital twins can gather key information about things like population growth, natural resource supply levels, and historical data on environmental disasters; they can help build more resilient cities and infrastructures as the world changes.

eventually, an entire ecosystem of digital twins will help industries respond to global challenges with powerful simultaneous changes.

right now, digital twins are helping operations and facility managers respond faster by removing the need for complex and time-consuming maintenance documents.

owners can gather information from the design and build phases to make faster business decisions lowering operational and maintenance costs.

professionals on-site can predict material and labor cycles, reducing waste and enhancing safety.

by helping professionals gain more insight into the inner workings of the world, digital twins are becoming partners in building a better future.

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