Workplace Technology Assessment
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By Dave Clifton
The concept of a digital twin isn’t all that difficult to understand. Where most businesses get tangled up is in the practical application of one. The sea of possibilities for creating an intelligent building is overwhelming, and many aren’t sure where to begin. It helps to have a few digital twin examples to go off of.
What is digital twin? For those who need a refresher, a digital twin is the digital copy of a physical building. Digital twins create a dynamic, digital picture of the many systems operating within facilities. They tie together processes, information, and systems to create dynamic insight into the function of the building.
What are the types of digital twin examples companies should expect to roll out in their own facilities? Here’s five practical applications that fit every company, regardless of size, industry, or location.
1. Asset monitoring
Asset monitoring and maintenance are a critical function of digital twins. From capital systems to simple assets like desks and chairs, the digital twin serves as a central repository for information about these assets.
When’s the last time a repair tech serviced the HVAC system? What is the trend for capital maintenance expenditures every month? How many of your standing desks are more than five years old? Digital twins provide accessible information about all these variables and more. This allows maintenance teams, facility managers, and stakeholders to understand the best course of action when it comes to asset management.
2. IoT visualization
As buildings become more complex and intelligent, digital twins serve to wrangle the many data-generating IoT devices within them. The digital twin makes it easy to see devices not only for what they are, but for the role they play in your facility. The occupancy sensor in a conference room isn’t just another sensor—it’s hooked into the room booking system and the CMMS ticketing system, for example. This context enables broader understanding of the IoT and its impact on facilities.
Digital twins in IoT are especially important for companies with a growing IoT. The opportunity to coordinate a buildout by visualizing need is something that leads to better ROI. You’re not just investing in devices and systems—you’re investing in solutions.
3. Information modeling
Digital twin software represents a digitization of physical workplaces. This means it’s ideal for information modeling. Facility managers and other stakeholders can quickly identify trends and pose questions that lead to workplace improvements. For example:
- What percentage of total workspaces are individual workspaces?
- What’s the current occupancy of individual workspaces vs. group spaces?
- What is the cost per head for these spaces based on utilization?
This series of questioning—made possible through a digital twin—allows facility managers to model problems and solutions. If you increase the number of individual workspaces, does cost per head go down? Up? What does this mean from a workforce standpoint? Information modeling through digital twins enables constant opportunities for innovation.
4. Access control
While access control is a system all its own, it’s made even more effective and efficient via a digital twin. Instead of merely allowing (or blocking) access, digital twins turn access control systems into data generating features that paint a picture of workplace utilization. For example, it might show that employees on the fifth floor travel to different floors too often to use a conference room. These types of insights can alert facility managers to inefficiencies they might never have realized.
Digital twins also paint a more inclusive picture of access control at a user level. What areas do people in Group B have access to that Group A doesn’t? How many users are in Group F and what level of access do they have? These top-down access control insights make an already familiar system more efficient and useful within facilities.
5. Sustainability initiatives
Digital twins recognize the building as a collection of capital systems. This layered approach to looking at HVAC, plumbing, electricity, waste management, and other vital systems opens the door for both cost-saving initiatives and greener ones.
Through information modeling capabilities, facility managers can make improvements that center on sustainability. For example, instituting a recycling program may actually lower your waste management costs by $X. A digital twin helps model the benefits by showing historical data about waste management and incorporating cost data from the proposed plan. Stakeholders can oversee the recycling program through the digital twin in the form of assets and cost data fed into it through invoicing and maintenance logs.
Digital twins pave the way for innovation
Digital twins provide important insights when it comes to the design, planning, and execution of these core operational tasks. Maintenance managers can use digital twin data to inform a more proactive asset maintenance strategy. Facility managers can model new, more efficient workspaces. Companies can become leaner, greener, and more cost-efficient by looking at the data present within a digital twin. As a mirror of the physical space, a twin will inform the best course of action for optimizing it.
Keep reading: How to Use Digital Twin Software