By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
With each new year comes new industry buzzwords, like clockwork. You may recall some recent examples with no shortage of hype behind them: blockchain, smart buildings, and edge computing, for example. Now, in 2021, a new crop of buzzwords has emerged—including digital twin technology.
Like most trending terms, phrases, and concepts, the idea of digital twins isn’t novel. This technology has been around for years and is already well-appreciated among those familiar with it. The reason for its rise to the top of the jargon list is because it’s entering the mainstream. Digital twin technology is quickly becoming something businesses are turning to for facility assistance, insights, and improvements.
What is digital twins technology?
Digital twins are a digital representation of the physical workplace. They map a facilities space and assets, with the purpose of aligning them with utilization goals. The chief purpose of digital twins is threefold: model, simulate, and manage.
- Model. Represent the workplace and its assets in a digital space.
- Simulate. Use the digital framework to run “what if” workplace scenarios.
- Manage. Take data from the digital twin to optimize the physical workplace.
Digital twins enable building owners to rapidly respond to the evolving demands of their workforce—especially in the time of agile workspaces and flex work. They’re also an essential tool within the smart building ecosystem. As connectivity increases, digital twins act as a dumping point for de-siloed workplace data. They’re a growing anchor for the digital infrastructure of physical buildings.
How digital twin works
Digital twin technology works by aggregating workplace data into an architecture model of the building. Instead of a static CAD mockup of a building, digital twins contextualize the space. Augmented with IoT sensors, a digital twin becomes a living, breathing representation of your physical space.
Take, for example, pressure sensors in the floor of a conference room. When activated, the sensor will trigger the I/O of a digital twin to flip on. Any connected system that relies on this data—such as hoteling software—will grab that data from the digital twin. When someone logs on to see if a conference room is open, that room won’t be available. There are endless other examples of sensor integration, each more robust than the last.
The most important part of a digital twin and its de-siloed workplace data are the integrations that pull from it.
- An Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) uses digital twin data to show utilization metrics.
- A Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) uses digital twin data to inform support tickets.
- Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software interfaces with the digital twin to create a system of record.
There are countless apps and programs that can connect to a digital twin to amplify its usefulness. Even as a standalone investment, a digital twin pains a more comprehensive picture of the workplace than any siloed data can.
The benefits of digital twin technology
The biggest benefits of digital twin technology come from the insights and actions it enables. Smarter, more informed decision-making. The ability to scenario plan in a digital safe space. Insights about inefficiencies or opportunities in the workplace. All this and more are possible with a digital twin. There’s a myriad of deployments:
- Predictive maintenance of facilities
- Space utilization monitoring
- Space and asset optimization
- Improved transparency of building processes
- Modeling and simulation for improvements
- Robust interconnectivity of workplace data
- Remote monitoring of facilities
- Workplace optimization through the IoT
The list of benefits is virtually endless—as long as the number of applications for digital twins. And that list grows larger by the year as more intelligent products come to market. AI and machine learning have only made digital twins more sophisticated.
When to get onboard with digital twins
Companies with a growing IoT need to think seriously about the investment in a digital twin. The digital twin is where all that valuable data becomes mobilized, and it serves as a bridge to utilizing it across workplace management applications and processes.
The IoT is the key to a robust digital twin, but it’s not necessarily a barrier. Any business using IWMS, CAFM, CMMS, or EAM software also needs to think about a digital twin. Where there’s data, there’s opportunity. Seeing that data contextualized within the twin can give businesses the insights they need to capitalize on new opportunities.
Digital twins serve an important purpose
The role of digital twins in facility and asset management makes it a worthy buzzword for 2021 and beyond. Soon, it’ll be as ubiquitous as cloud computing or the IoT—particularly since it involves both of these technologies. The reason for its staying power is simple: like other former buzzwords, digital twins will soon become an industry standard. And, looking at the benefits and capabilities offered by this technology, it’s easy to see why.