Workplace Technology Assessment
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By Devon Maresco
As companies plan their IT budgets and consider investments into the expanding realm of smart buildings, there’s a new line item cropping up on balance sheets: digital twin services. Companies that have embraced digital twins and Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software are paying for the insights that come with them. But is this a good investment?
Often, the answer is yes. Digital twins unlock a wealth of opportunities for better facility oversight—namely through modeling, simulation, and management. Paying for digital twin services means paying for insights that help stakeholders think before they act and make mindful decisions about facilities after they understand the context of those decisions.
Here’s a look at what encompasses digital twin services and why this expenditure is one more and more businesses will bear in a future where buildings are only getting more complex.
What is digital twins?
A digital twin is a virtual representation of spaces and assets that comprise a building. It’s designed to be a mirror for the physical workplace. Depending on how it’s used, a digital twin can be a sandbox for scenario planning, a system of record, or a way to glean insights about space. The twin represents a collection of real-world data about spaces and assets, contextualized.
Often, digital twins connect to Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS), Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software, and Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS). These systems take the de-siloed workplace data from a digital twin and use it to drive decision-making about everything from maintenance to space utilization.
What are digital twins used for?
As companies start to investigate the benefits of digital twin services, it bears understanding what those services are. Specifically, it’s important to understand how digital data insights culminate in a better physical workplace. That means looking at the three main digital twin service functions: modeling, simulation, and management.
Digital twins for modeling
In its most basic practical sense, a digital twin is a model. It’s the digital manifestation of a physical workplace. As such, it provides context for space application, utilization, and dynamics. Digital twins offer comprehensive modeling capabilities that allow not just physical space insights, but also mapping for assets and personnel. Modeling allows space and facility managers to see exactly what space is available to them within the context of a broader whole.
Beyond space and assets, digital twins have the ability to recreate the many variables of an environment (with the right sensors). What’s the temperature on the third floor right now? Does the building on Main Street have power right now? Do the pressure sensors in the fifth-floor conference room indicate that it’s occupied? Digital twins model real-time environments. They’re not just a digital map of a building—they’re a living, breathing representation of it.
Digital twins for simulation
With a real-time representation of the building, simulation becomes possible. Digital twins offer a way to test scenarios and “what if” situations without any real-life disruption. This capability is even more powerful with input from IWMS and EAM software.
If you move the photocopier from Room 204 to Room 220, will it be accessible to more people? What’s the emergency exit path for Carol (who sits on the third floor) in the event of a fire? If you turn all the conference rooms in the fourth floor into hoteling stations, how many desks will you net? All these questions and more are the product of modeling. Rather than execute change in real life and get stuck with the consequence if it’s not ideal, digital twins provide insight.
The more data fed into a digital twin and the more it produces for integrated systems, the more powerful your simulation capabilities become. Data is power, and digital twins centralize it.
Digital twins for management
The final digital twin service to consider is management. This can mean space management or asset management, or even process management. The digital twin becomes a way to plan and simulate changes, then deploy them and manage the results. Data begets change, begets more data, begets more change. At the center of it all is a digital twin: a system of record and a sandbox for management of crucial systems.
Here again, connection to IWMS, CMMS, or other workplace management software is important. They provide context and reporting for decision-making, and ultimately fuel better management.
Rising demand for digital twin services
The modeling, simulation, and management capabilities offered by digital twins are becoming more and more valuable with each passing year. As businesses juggle new work tech, hybrid work styles, CRE challenges, and changing workplace demands, digital twins are instrumental in informed decision-making. They’re an investment more businesses are making for a good reason: they’re crucial in orchestrating and overseeing the next generation of evolving workplaces and smart buildings.
Keep reading: What is a Digital Twin vs. BIM?