Blockchain, AI and enter Digital Twin. The latest hype. Is there a real-life use case?
Digital Twin is a model of the real thing, an accurate virtual representation of your project. Digital Twins are 2D and 3D models of a real-world asset such as buildings, machinery or natural resources. They can be created from either a scan of the real thing using drones or photogrammetry, or using traditional methods like Computer Aided Design (CAD).
They have many benefits over traditional drawings, including enabling teams to stay on the same page during construction or operation. This prevents design errors that could delay completion or result in operational costs being higher than necessary. Digital Twins can also quickly go from 2D to 3D – so you can see how it works in detail before it’s built or takes effect for example, you can easily “fly through” your design plan before implementing it digitally and then physically building it. Being digital means it is easier to distribute and share with stakeholders at all levels.
What are its three main uses? How will this prove useful in AEC projects?
Digital Twins are creating a new way for overall communication throughout projects, from contractors and subcontractors down to suppliers and printers. This level of communication helps reduce mistakes attributed to misunderstandings; they also enable each stakeholder to see various licenses up-front covering intellectual property, sourcing materials and quality control checks, which reduces time wastage later when budgets are already overspent (these things take time but can generally be avoided). They also make the sharing and verifying of paperwork far easier too – ensuring no paper has been lost in the process… Another benefit is they facilitate decision making when situations arise way ahead of time, avoiding last minute issues that could otherwise set back schedule by days. It also helps reduce unnecessary overhead in terms of having multiple copies lying around or incorrect ones being held onto due to human error!
With all these advantages, why isn’t Digital Twins aren’t used widely?
Money is always an issue, so if companies aren’t convinced Digital Twins might be a worthwhile investment. Without addressing this at head level immediately, Digital Twins may struggle to achieve adoption within AEC even if it does prove useful once used.
Another obstacle is technical barriers led by senior staff who believe these models are too complicated or cannot be understood by most employees, which is often true in our experience. Most employees are not trained in Revit or BIM environment. There is a steep learning curve to get the best out of these platforms. Most employees can’t afford to spend hours or days learning new skills, even though they might benefit in the long run.
Once the digital twin has been handed over, the Facilities Management team need to manage the model throughout the lifecycle of the building. Buildings are not static, walls, floors, ceiling often change to suit tenants needs. Facilities Management is often focused on putting out day-to-day fires. Updating a model is often the last thing on their mind. The other solution is to pay a consultancy to manage the model, adding an another set of costs to the shoe string budget.
Million-dollar question? What is digital twin giving us what we currently don’t have.
Our opinion: nothing. Our view is a capable Building Management System integrated with all other systems will do just the trick. We believe a highly analytical Building Management System integrated with Machine Learning to learn the building dynamics will be give the Building Owner a quantifiable Return On Investment