Workplace Technology Assessment
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By Devon Maresco
Digital twins are growing in popularity as businesses digitize facility and asset management. Like most up-and-coming technologies, there’s a learning curve. The best way to get a digital twin up and running—and to use it effectively—is to understand the components of a digital twin framework. What, exactly, does it entail?
Like most workplace technologies, digital twins operate on a scale. They’re applicable for companies of all sizes, but their frameworks become more complex as they encompass more parts of the business’ ecosystem. With that in mind, let’s take a look at all the variables and factors that can theoretically comprise a digital twin framework. First, a quick recap.
What is a digital twin model?
Digital Twins: A Revolution in Workplace Management
- Represent the workplace and its assets in a digital space.
- Use the digital framework to run “what if” workplace scenarios.
- Take data from the digital twin to optimize the physical workplace
For example, a space manager might look at the digital twin to model a new workplace desking concept. Then, they’ll simulate that concept to understand how it affect the workplace. If it’s a smart change, they might deploy it; if not, they can continue testing. That’s the power of smarter workplace management.
The bottom line on digital twin models is that they’re a digital framework for quantifying the building and everything in it. When you’re able to turn the tangible office into digital data points, you’re able to explore new data-driven decisions about how to improve it.
How does digital twin work?
In its most basic sense, it’s a digital floor plan. It shows facility managers all the spaces in a building and the features that comprise them. With the help of IoT sensors and other inputs, that model can come to life with automations, which feed into other workplace data management systems.
For example, a motion sensor in a conference room can trigger the digital twin to show that room as “occupied.” The desk booking system that draws information from the digital twin will then show the room as occupied, to prevent anyone from reserving it at that moment. This simple example represents limitless workplace integrations, where the digital twin serves as the repository for real-time data about the building, people, and assets.
Speaking of these things, let’s look at what can comprise the framework for a digital twin.
The framework for digital twins
There are tangible and intangible parts to every digital twin: physical devices that generate virtual data and software that integrates with the twin. Here’s a look at the many elements in the framework of a digital twin.
These are the systems that feed data into the digital twin.
- IoT sensors: Translate real-world actions into digital data points. These can include always-on sensors, action-triggered sensors, threshold sensors, and more.
- Beacons: Hubs for sensor data and collection points for agile data. They paint a real-time picture of dynamic events throughout the workplace.
- Checkpoints: These can include access control or desk check-in kiosks. They record events in time at specific points in space.
- People: Facility managers and maintenance teams can interact directly with digital twins to input manual data and import records.
These are the systems that access the digital twin for data.
- Workplace software. Software like IWMS, CAFM, CMMS, and EAM integrate with digital twins to pull specific data they contextualize for decision-makers.
- Machine learning allows facility managers to set up trigger using digital twin data as catalysts for specific actions, such as generating a work report.
- Vendor portals. Companies with outsourced services can provide limited, read-only access to digital twin data via portals, to inform better service.
- Reporting systems. Software that probes the digital twin for specific or historical information that it uses to generate insights about specific facility utilization.
The digital twin rests at the center of this push-pull data relationship. It’s a CAD representation of the building that contextualizes the information generated within it. Keep in mind that not every digital twin includes these components. Some are more robust than others, and the more complex the twin, the more data sources and integrations it’s likely to have.
Put the pieces together in a custom framework
Digital twins are unique because workplaces are unique. No two companies will have the same digital twin architecture because their assets, processes, and facilities differ. The beauty of a digital twin is that it’s a mirror to the physical workspace. As the business grows and changes, so does its digital counterpart. Today, your twin might be small, with only a few spaces and assets tracked. Tomorrow, it could be a thriving data ecosystem.
Companies that understand the digital twin framework will find themselves realizing the benefits of a digital twin more easily. When you understand the modeling capabilities and the facets of a twin, it becomes easier to model, simulate, and manage the real workplace.
Keep reading: Digital Twins – A Revolution in Workplace Management