By Devon Maresco
With an increased push toward smarter facilities comes the all-important question every executive needs to ask: how much will it cost? Cost is such an important variable to understand because it sets the tone for ROI. In understanding cost, you also gain insight into things like break-even point, expected ROI, and other important fiscal metrics. Unfortunately, measuring cost isn’t always easy. Case in point: how do you measure digital twin cost?
Digital twins are purely digital investments. While there are software and sensor components that contribute to their architecture, twins themselves aren’t tangible. They live in the cloud and integrate broadly across the organization. How do you measure the invested cost of something so prolific? And, more important, how do you set the benchmark for ROI and other forward-looking metrics?
Though it may seem far from probable, there are ways to measure the cost of a digital twin. Here’s a look at some of the costs that factor in.
What is digital twin?
First, a quick refresher. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical asset—in this case, the workplace. It provides context for aggregated data about the workplace. Data from the IoT, user input, and integrated applications all flows into the digital twin, where it’s given context as a frame of reference. For example, the on/off stream of data from a seat sensor feeds into the digital twin to represent utilization of that workspace.
Digital twins take all of the data about the workplace, contextualize it, then feed insights to facility managers—usually through a dashboard, like an IWMS. This allows for better understanding of facilities not just as a static asset, but as a dynamic ecosystem. Facility managers and other stakeholders use digital twin insights to better-shape the workplace, in order to cater to the needs of the employees using it.
The cost of building a digital twin
The costs associated with a digital twin come largely from the infrastructure needed to generate the data that comprises one. Here’s a comprehensive look at the key components in architecting a digital twin and how they come together from a cost standpoint.
- Digital twin software. Digital twin software is the most essential upfront cost, as it’s what will power the digital twin itself. While it’s possible to license pure digital twin software, most companies will want to opt for an integrated digital twin platform such as Archibus. This means also benefitting from IWMS and CMMS features.
- The Internet of Things. Digital twins thrive on data. The IoT sensors that stream that data represent a significant cost in building a digital twin—and one of the most important costs to justify to stakeholders. From motion sensors to seat sensors, floor sensors to proximity beacons, the data offered by an office IoT is the single most important aspect of digital twin construction. Moreover, it comes with a scaling cost as the need for more sophisticated software becomes apparent.
- Integrated software. IoT data isn’t the only place digital twins glean information from. Integrated software from room booking systems, maintenance ticketing software, and more all yield crucial data for digital twins. Each software license comes at its own cost, and there are sometimes additional costs in interfacing them—such as if you need to use an integrated platform as a solution (iPaaS) to sync data.
- Training and education. Digital twins require no small amount of education to set up and manage effectively. These costs factor into their construction, and it’s worthwhile for every company to consider them. Remember to account for upfront training and onboarding, as well as continuing education as technologies evolve.
The actual cost of building a digital twin varies by company and the sophistication of the twin. Companies should observe the cost of architecting such a system and break it down by the individual expenses associated with software, IoT hardware, and training to get a clear understanding of investment expense.
Beyond the cost, look at benefits and ROI
Digital twin technology can be costly to implement—especially for businesses only just beginning to build out their IoT. Unfortunately, these upfront costs tend to suffer criticism from executives who only see a price tag and not an investment. It’s up to motivated facilities managers to deliver a proposition that contextualizes costs with benefits and ROI.
Digital twins are an investment that can help both the top- and bottom-line performance of a company. They’re useful as cost-saving and optimization tools, as well as for productivity enablement. When evaluating the cost of a digital twin, don’t forget to stack up these cost savings and potential revenue improvements alongside it. Remember, the purpose of understanding cost is to contextualize it, which makes it easier to chart a path to justifying it.
Keep reading: Digital Twins – A Revolution in Workplace Management