A digital twin is the virtual version of its physical counterpart, making it perfect for simulation, integration, testing, and maintenance that’s safer, faster, and cheaper. With a dynamic digital twin of your workplace, you get actionable insights you can use for everything from space planning and move coordination to lease negotiations and employee management. 


What is a digital twin? 

When it comes to twins, you’re not always dealing with identical copies. In fact, even popular culture is full of different types, including the classic combination of good and evil twins. There are also pairs that are more yin and yang than mirror opposites. So, being a twin doesn’t have to mean being a complete copy. It can also describe two closely connected, complementary versions. 

But a digital twin is the virtual half of a nearly identical pair, with the other being the physical twin. It is an accurate digital model of a physical object. While the digital twin lives inside software, the physical twin exists in the real world. 

A digital twin can be as simple and static as a two-dimensional CAD file of a floor plan. It can also be more complex, such as a cloud-based application that dynamically represents a global real estate portfolio, from the location of each building down to the position of every door, elevator, AC unit, and smoke alarm. 

A key part of that definition is being “dynamic.” So, you can attach sensors to the physical twin to capture data which you then feed back to the digital twin, allowing for real-time updates. For example, you might have a digital twin of an engine that you’re feeding a constant stream of data about pressure, temperature, vibration, and fuel efficiency. 

What are the different types of digital twins? 

Now that we have a good working definition for digital twins, we can start to look at the different types, which can include: 

  • Parts 
  • Asset 
  • System or unit 
  • Process 

Although they’re all digital versions of their physical counterparts, you can have different types of digital twins based on scale. 

Component and parts twins 

Here, you have the virtual pair for components or parts inside a larger system. Because it would be cost prohibitive to recreate every single part, these digital twins are for key components or parts that can directly affect performance or functionality. 

Asset twins 

When you’re looking at the ways your different components interact, you build asset twins. For example, you can use a collection of part or component digital twins to build a digital twin of an engine. 

System or unit twins 

Moving up one level, system or unit twins help you understand and fine-tune how assets interact. So, just like you can use parts twins to create an asset twin, you can combine multiple asset twins into a system or unit twin. 

For example, in a manufacturing setting, you might have ten different machines involved in the production of a specific part or component. If you take the digital twins for each of those machines and put them all together, you have the system or unit twin. 

Process twins 

At the process level, you’re now looking at all the system or unit digital twins inside a facility. For that manufacturing example, it’s now one big digital twin that represents the entire facility. But because it’s made up of smaller and smaller scales, you can dive deep into the process. 

All these types of twins are differentiated by scale. You take parts twins and use them to build asset twins. From there, you can connect asset twins into system or unit twins. At the largest scale, you have process twins, which are just a collection of connected smaller-scale twins. 

When thinking about the different types of digital twins, you can also categorize them according to use. Here, you now have: 

  • Product 
  • Production 
  • Performance 

There are many of the same differences of scale, but it can make more sense to think about them in terms of how you use them and what they can deliver. 

Product twins 

Instead of spending a lot of time and money creating new physical prototypes, digital twins allow you to virtually build and then really test new products. You can cut the development process and, once you start to get feedback from customers, more easily and quickly iterate on your design. 

Production twins 

Once you know exactly what you want to produce, you can use digital twins to help you figure out how to do it. With digital twins of your production facilities, you can experiment with different production processes, finding the ones that work best for you. 

Performance twins 

And then when the production facility is set up, you can further fine-tune it with a performance digital twin. Capturing data from the physical facilities that you then feed into the digital model helps you find and fix issues. 

What are the benefits of digital twins? 

Consider a common office object like a coffee maker. The machine comes with a printed manual that typically includes a cutaway diagram and basic instructions. But this information is static and analog, which means you can’t easily update, search, or share it. It also can’t be merged with related data sets, like your monthly coffee expenditure. 

Now imagine it has a digital twin. The virtual model captures the smallest details of the coffee maker’s construction, allowing you to easily troubleshoot problems. It also has all your usage and maintenance data, which you can leverage into lower ongoing costs and a longer overall life cycle. 

Now you can document that the coffee maker is in your main kitchen, was last serviced two months ago, brews an average of four gallons a day, and is one of three other machines at that office. The data contained in this digital snapshot radically improves how you can maintain it. 

But that’s just one coffee maker. Imagine if you had those sorts of insights into all your assets and then your entire facility? 

Building owners and property developers are already familiar with CAD and BIM. While these tools offer insights into physical property, they are ultimately disconnected from the most important part of your business—employees and their associated real estate costs. 

The value of real estate has historically been tied to square footage, but what if it was linked to headcount? What if the question we asked was: “How much does it cost to place one employee in my building? What about 100 employees? Or 250?” 

BIM and CAD simply aren’t equipped to answer those questions. They aren’t configured to tell you the number of assigned desks versus hots desks. They do not show that Mia, Jacob, and Alyssa sit in a row of private offices. And you can’t use them to assess the impact of increasing or decreasing your workforce. There’s simply not enough information available to decide whether to renew a lease. 

But a workplace digital twin with operational management capabilities is an extraordinary opportunity to improve operations, enhance service quality, and transition to fact-based decision-making. 

What are some examples and use cases of digital twins? 

Because there are many types of digital twins, there are also a lot of different ways to use them. 

Space and asset management 

A digital twin enables you to monitor office occupancy to make sure it remains within your targets: too low and you’re inefficient, too high and you have no real wiggle room. For example, you can create a rule that stipulates floors shouldn’t exceed 90% occupancy. When the headcount reaches the 85% threshold, the digital twin can generate an alert. 

Move management 

Paper copies of seating charts are an outdated and clunky method to coordinate office moves, quickly turning into a scribbled mess once multiple departments get involved. But with a digital twin of your workplace, planners can collaborate and provide real-time input instead of exchanging hard-copy drawings. You can retrieve an exact count on any floor at a glance and from there explore different allocation options. 

Lease management 

Without integrated data, it’s nearly impossible to determine whether your portfolio can support your future business needs. Is it more economical to add employees to a Denver office or expand an existing San Diego location? A standard lease doesn’t tell you because you can only compare the price per square footage. A digital twin enables you to proactively manage real estate expenses. For example, you could set an alert nine months before a property’s lease ends. This advanced notification creates a window of opportunity to consolidate square footage, change your office density, or terminate the lease. 

Employee management 

Managing new hires and existing employees is usually the domain of HR, but what about resignations or terminations? If you only have BIM or a BMS, there’s no process in place to indicate when and where a person has been removed. 

A digital twin that interfaces with HR software pulls siloed data into one platform. Imagine an automatic push when a person’s employment ends that goes to the space manager, facilities department, and security team. Without this kind of automation, it’s a challenge to distribute this critical information to all the necessary contacts. 


A digital twin in the virtual copy of a physical object that helps you simulate, integrate, and test more safely, faster, and for a lot less money. Although something as simple as a floorplan can be a twin, it’s possible to connect ones to live real-world data streams, creating indistinguishable virtual copies. In some cases, it’s easier to understand the different types of digital twins by looking at the different scales. So, you can have part, asset, system, or process twins. But you can also categorize them by use, including product, production, and performance. There are many different benefits to using digital twins, especially in space management. A digital twin with layers of workplace insights provides a shared picture for key leadership. It automatically merges data from separate systems to help improve processes and support decision- making in a context-rich environment. In addition to collaboration, this virtual double can be leveraged to run reports and scenarios. With a digital twin, you can pair staffing forecasts with real estate costs and uncover innovative ways to maximize your operational expenses. 

Tags:  digital twins Workplace Data