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Workplace Thought Leadership

Hybrid and Smart: Building the Workplaces of the Future 

By Michael Picini
Senior Executive Director
Cognitive Corp.

Now, perhaps more than ever, employers are seeking to enhance their approach to the workplace experience. They are embracing new trends, such as hybrid structures and smart buildings, to create what we like to call “digital workplace euphoria.”

Euphoria may seem like hyperbole, but happy employees make for successful businesses. We’re not talking about amenities like ping pong tables, free Friday lunches, and in-office theaters. The goal of a euphoric workplace is to transform barely there connected offices to intelligent, autonomous ecosystems that empower employees to their most productive and efficient while maintaining healthy work-life balances.

Research indicates that we are seeing much more of a radical change among companies reacting to the workplace trends. Leaders in companies may not respond to every human or occupant need, but certainly, they are reacting to create a more automated workplace for agile teams. One part of the “why” for proactive movement toward hybrid agile is the long-term impact on business.

Many companies are going through significant financial losses due to COVID-19. How companies navigate digital disruption will likely affect their revenues and future operations. During the crisis of the companies who saw a 25% growth in the revenues 72% were first to experiment with new technologies. As well, 67% of those companies invested more in digital-related expenditures, according to a 2020 report by McKinsey. The companies that had not taken steps are electing to embrace the productivity associated with remote work to help them recoup those costs of not doing so in the past.

Certain financial dependencies, like expiring office leases and stakeholder pressures, are pushing companies to make an immediate decision on how to proceed with digital based investments to create work environments conducive to agile work, from anywhere. According to a Gartner survey, 38% of tech, media, and telecom business leaders (and 26% of leaders across all represented industries) reported plans to reduce their real estate footprint by, for example, closing retail locations. Gartner also reported that 74% of CFOs and finance leaders at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions after COVID-19.

Why Companies Choose to Go Hybrid

Remote and hybrid work is not new, but it certainly hasn’t been as widespread as it is now. According to a Microsoft report, some professions have been trending toward remote work since the oil crisis of the 1970s that resulted in substantially higher commuting and automotive costs. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic drove a “profound increase in the magnitude and speed of the shift toward remote work, with 88% of organizations from around the world surveyed in March [2020] reporting that they were encouraging employees to work from home,” the report noted. More than a third of U.S. workers transitioned to remote or hybrid work between March and April 2020 alone.

Aside from the long-term impact on fiscal reports, this mass transition away from the confines of a 9-to-5 physical office is the other part of the “why” for companies looking to improve three key facets of the digital workplace: people, space, and technology.

The Workplace Mantra: People, Space, and Technology

Creating an environment for employees – or an investor’s case, tenants – that elicits a sense of euphoria is challenging but not impossible. How are companies tackling the digital workplace? There are three elements of an optimized workplace that one should consider.

The first starts with people. People form the community within an organization that will serve as the litmus test for successful digital workplace implementation.

The second element is technology, which acts as the catalyst for change and encompasses each tier of the Smart Building Maturity Model. Most buildings fall somewhere in between the connected and intelligent spaces of the model. From the Internet of Things (IoT) to artificial intelligence (AI), the infrastructure created by technology ultimately makes up the third element of an enhanced workplace: space.

Space doesn’t always refer to a physical location; it relates to the context in which people are working. Space can mean a geographically distributed footprint, flexible hoteling and co-working spaces within your organization, or a scalable real estate portfolio that allows you to set your physical and virtual space settings in a manner that best suits your internal method of operating.

Georgia-Pacific (GP) is one company that has fully embraced all three spheres of the optimized workplace, and by the way is one of the companies that experimented with digital based agile work long before the COVID-19 crisis. The Atlanta-based maker of paper, packaging, building products, and related chemicals resides in an iconic office tower. In the first major renovation since the company occupied the tower in 1982, GP aimed to achieve “optimal integration, functionality, cost and efficiency among the various systems throughout each floor – lighting, HVAC, audio-visual and room scheduling systems,” according to a company press release. The digital building transformation included an Internet of Things (IoT) foundation that resulted in economically feasible, purposeful automation carefully constructed for GP’s user base.

GP reported that the building uses “bio-dynamic (circadian) lighting in the office and collaboration areas, driven by network-connected lighting management. [GP] will respond to peak electrical demands by adjusting building systems. The interconnected system allows the company to collect accurate, real-time data to understand how the space is used, improve employee productivity and satisfaction, and increase real estate investment.”

Along with commercial offices, hospitality and education are two other industries that are exceptionally receptive to similar methods of in-house automation. Fortunately, platforms offered by companies like SpaceIQ offer businesses of all sizes and types of options to create digital workplaces that support agility and flexibility.

Hybrid Strategies for Working “Smart” and Hard

For many companies, leveraging hybrid strategies starts with creating smart buildings and workplaces.

Smart building(s) – both as a verb and a noun – is a partner of hybrid workplaces at the heart of the “next normal” regarding the future of work. Over the last year, companies worldwide have experienced a rapid shift to long-term hybrid and/or remote environments. From Human Resources (HR) to Information Technology (IT) to Marketing and beyond, the functional teams within these organizations are being driven to review their existing work practices and confirm that they align with employees’ current needs.

For some companies, this process may feel like an uncertain scramble – but it shouldn’t.

This moment presents an opportunity for organizations to revise their digital framework and create an even better workplace experience – one that encourages a positive return-to-office transition after a yearlong hiatus or, for remote and hybrid workers, a structure that compels them to engage virtually. Smart building is critical for both employees and executives to tap into the human side of work and reach peak satisfaction in the process of doing so.

As a company specializing in “smart building,” Cognitive Corp is at the forefront of researching and analyzing workplace trends and technologies that impact commercial real estate (CRE) teams.

So, what do we mean by “smart building?” In a word, automation.

Smart building implies that a company has a built-in infrastructure to automate as many day-to-day and long-term tasks as possible. Infrastructure can include IT and networks, HVAC, lighting, time-tracking, scheduling, and anything in between that has a digital footprint.

A key strategy is to distribute the levels of automation and smart building into four tiers on a visual pyramid called the Smart Building Maturity Model. This model helps companies prioritize based on current needs and future growth:

  • Connected Building: Connected building forms the foundation at the bottom of the pyramid. Most companies fall into this category, which includes basic IT networks and the commonplace technology you’d find in a standard office.
  • Intelligent Building: With system integration, energy efficiency, and building automation, intelligent building is what most companies strive for in their next-level smart building process. It can lead to more unified collaboration, better asset management, and streamlined workspace and remote services.
  • Smart Building: The core of the pyramid. Smart building includes open architecture, occupant interaction predictive analytics, which contributes to human centric workplace metrics, on-demand services, big data, and more elements of building intelligence. The future of work is already here, and smart building should be a consideration for most companies.
  • Cognitive Building: At the pinnacle of the pyramid we’ll find cognitive building. Here, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics are the vital pieces that drive building automation. While most non-technological companies do not aim for this high-level tier, we believe it’s still essential knowledge to know all the possibilities within the realm of intelligent architecture.

Data-driven Insights to Support the Hybrid Workplace

The digital workplace focuses on the occupant’s experience within a technological ecosystem. A successful digital workplace supports the human-centric side of corporate initiatives. Different personas within the commercial real estate industry will perform unique functions depending on their role in their organization. However, all roles utilize metrics to inform the progress of their digital transformation.

For individual roles, here are some items to consider:

  • Commercial Real Estate and Facilities Managers: Individuals entrusted with managing facilities should articulate workplace values about the broader business. This includes adapting to change, especially as it relates to the physical space. Your growth mindset should shift from fixed to fluid.
  • Workplace Professionals: As a workplace professional, try to develop strategies and tactics that support agile, flexible workplaces and employee experiences. Consider the wider range of knowledge available to you, beyond just “physical office” and “working from home.”

Workplace Euphoria is Frictionless

An agile, flexible workplace is no longer an option for most businesses; it is a requirement. Baseline metrics allow companies to see how initiatives eliminate employee and occupant stress during times of uncertainty, deliver on diversity, equity, and inclusion commitments, improve operational efficiency, and make remote work, workable.

Additionally, metrics shed light into the onboarding of new technologies, security automation, and workplace productivity. Workplace analytics provide a 360-degree view of any misaligned technology expectations. Embracing technology to create agility and flexibility in return to the workplace can result in euphoria for employers and employees.

Keep reading: What Are Smart Workplace Solutions?

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How to Measure Digital Twin Cost

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator
SpaceIQ

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

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Digital Twin Analytics

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist
SpaceIQ

As digital twins take their place in smart offices, at the center of the IoT and other networked systems, they’re becoming a source of truth for facility insights. Their ability to contextualize data within a physical model makes digital twin analytics a new standard for decision-making about how to coordinate and operate the workplace.

The chief obstacle companies have with digital twins is establishing them—building them out to create context for IoT data. Instead, many companies are only beginning to explore IoT and currently operate a growing network of sensors and beacons that stream data to various places. An IWMS takes them one step closer to wrangling and using that data, but it’s not until they develop a digital twin does it gain context. Only a digital twin can give data the context it needs to provide analytical insight into potential workplace optimizations.

Here’s a look at why digital twins are so central and important to smart offices—and how to create them within the context of these environments.

What is the digital twin concept?

Digital twin software offers a virtual representation of a physical asset—in this case, the workplace. The purpose of a digital twin is to pair quantifiable information within the context of the physical parameters of the workplace, usually through information sources like user input, IoT sensors, and other intelligent systems.

Digital twin concepts provide insight where it’s not immediately apparent. For example, you might know that a conference room accommodates five people. A motion sensor in this room generates a constant stream of on/off data to determine whether it’s occupied. Moreover, a room booking system provides booking data. All these sources of data feed into the digital twin where they’re juxtaposed and contextualized into actionable insights.

This example is just a small glimpse into the practicality and power of a digital twin. Its power is amplified even more by the fact that digital twin analytics provide insight over time. More than a snapshot of the workplace, digital twins allow you to observe it as an ecosystem.

Where does digital twin data come from?

As mentioned, most digital twins are slow to form because companies are still exploring their foundation: the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT sensors and beacons, and the data they provide, are a primary source of data truth for digital twins. But they’re not the only sources of data. Digital twins benefit from numerous inputs, including:

  • IoT sensors and beacons that stream data 24/7
  • Manual inputs by facility managers and other stakeholders
  • Integrations with other software, which share data with the twin
  • Static lookup information that provides context for insights

The more sources of data available to the digital twin, the more context it has in generating its own analytics. Digital twin data itself comes from processing these many sources of data into trends. Typically, that data manifests in a dashboard where it’s more easily understood—such as within an IWMS. Along the way, the digital twin cleans, organizes, and contextualizes data to make it relevant, actionable, and useful.

How digital twin and analytics improve operations

Without digital insights about a workplace, all you see is all there is—meaning you can’t understand when, how, or why people use the workplace fully. Digital twins process raw data about the workplace ecosystem into easy-to-understand insights. They bridge the gap between the parameters you know and the variables you don’t know.

For example, you might know that a conference room’s occupancy is five people, and you might see people in there frequently, which leads you to believe it’s a well-used space. But a digital twin might tell you otherwise. Via aggregated data, it might tell you that it’s most often used by groups of three or fewer. Of the eight hours a day the room is available, it might only achieve a 56% utilization rate—a lower utilization rate than similar spaces in different areas of the building.

These contextual analytics make it possible for facilities managers to improve the workplace based on evidence, rather than intuition. There’s more to workplace operations than meets the eye. Digital twins and the information that contributes to them help you gain a clearer understanding of everything you might be missing. Acting on that information can take the workplace in a new, more efficient, more productive direction, one change at a time.

Apply the insights of a digital twin

Having data and using data are two very different things. A well-orchestrated digital twin is important; using the insights it provides is essential in optimizing the workplace. Companies need to first focus on tying their growing IoT network into a digital twin foundation. Then, they need to deploy an IWMS to glean trend data and insights. From there, it’s a matter of planning and taking action.

Because a digital twin quantifies the physical workplace, it’s instrumental in helping facility managers work backward from a problem. Digital twin analytics provide this same value over time: they show trends and interactions within a static environment. Capitalizing on these insights is the key to making smarter decisions in a smarter workplace—one that is always in flux.

Keep reading: Digital Twins: A Revolution in Workplace Management

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Digital Twin for Space Optimization

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist
SpaceIQ

There’s no shortage of software out there to support facility managers as they seek to maximize the potential of the workplace. IWMS and CAFM platforms come to mind first, because they offer the broadest level of support. But even these systems aren’t a silver bullet for optimizing workspaces and floor plans—they merely aid in putting ideas into motion. Today, the most powerful insights come from a digital twin for space optimization.

Digital twins offer an abundance of context for workplace data. Rather than coordinating a floor plan based solely on space or occupancy, digital twins provide facility managers with dynamic data about the space. Sure, the room capacity is 40 people, but did you know that seat sensor data shows the average occupancy rate at just 25 people? It’s these kinds of insights that make digital twin technology instrumental in optimizing workspace design, layout, and function.

Here’s a look at why digital twins are becoming an integral part of workplace planning and how they optimize the efforts of facility managers.

Digital twins add contextual data

Digital twins are as dynamic as the physical spaces and assets they represent. This opens up a whole new segment of contextual information for facility managers. For example, floor sensors in conference rooms can add context to room reservation metrics provided by your booking system:

Booking data shows Conference Room 402 at a utilization rate of 60%, with an average room reservation time of one hour. While this is great information, it’s static. Floor sensor data aggregated by the digital twin might show that, despite an average one-hour booking time, employees typically only remain in the room for 45 minutes. There’s a period of roughly 15 minutes of dead space, when the room shows occupied but there’s no one in it. The real utilization rate is closer to 45%.

In this example, context from the digital twin can help the facility manager optimize the room booking process. Instead of 30-minute booking increments, employees can now book in 15-minute increments. The expectation is that utilization will rise.

How to turn IoT data into action

There’s an abundance of smart sensors in workplaces today. Many of them are always-on, constantly streaming data. A digital twin is instrumental in harnessing and aggregating this data, to make it actionable. This is especially important as the network of devices grows and becomes more robust. Consider the impact of IoT automation through a digital twin:

Conference Room 402 has A/V capabilities, which make it the de-facto space for presentations. Employees often complain about not being able to reserve the room because it’s in such high demand. Floor sensor data puts occupancy at roughly 80% each day. However, the light sensor only registers 50%, which means only half of occupants turn off the lights to present. The facility manager adds a question to the room reservation system: “Do you need to present anything?” If the answer is no, the booking system excludes Conference Room 402, to leave it more accessible to those who need A/V capabilities.

In this example, IoT data comes together to paint an even broader picture of space utilization. It allows facility managers to intervene in a tactful way, instead of jumping to conclusions—such as investing in additional expensive A/V equipment.

Space optimization with digital twin technology

Space optimization is the key to getting more out of leased space. With digital twins to provide context for data points, it becomes possible to optimize in strategic ways, with the goal of enabling better interaction with space. Based on digital twin data, FMs might choose to:

  • Expand or consolidate the total amount of office space
  • Adopt a new desking arrangement or booking system
  • Grant or restrict access to certain spaces by certain groups
  • Change the floor plan for a particular space

It all comes down to what the data shows and the context a digital twin provides. In many cases, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to improving space utilization. The benefit of a digital twin is that facility managers can sandbox their ideas to see what works, what doesn’t, and what the best outcome is for optimizing space.

Digital twins can support IWMS, CAFM

At this point, every facility manager needs to use cloud-based space planning software to orchestrate their workplace—the benefits are too great not to. But we’re moving into a new digital age where digital twins can provide even more context and support to these systems when it comes to space optimization. Where IWMS and CAFM provide tools for spatial management, digital twins provide the context for how employees use that space.

Space management software, a growing IoT, and a well-managed digital twin are the trifecta of technologies for space optimization. Bringing them together unlocks powerful opportunities for any business when it comes to managing and making the most of space.

Keep reading: How to Use Digital Twin Software

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Digital Twin for Operations Management Improvements

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist
SpaceIQ

Digital twins have become a prevalent part of many companies’ digital architecture. Often, they’re a natural tie-in to IoT networks and business clouds, alongside any number of other applications depending on the industry. And while many businesses are still figuring out how to use them, digital twin for operations management are rising in popularity. There’s plentiful opportunity in using them to enhance operations from a data-driven standpoint.

Because digital twin technology is relatively plug-and-play for many businesses, there’s no limit to the efficiency improvements possible. They’ve become a playground for facility managers, asset managers, and everyone else charged with keeping buildings productive, efficient, and operational.

Digital twins and the expanding IoT

Much of the opportunity for operational improvements digital twins present is possible due to the Internet of Things (IoT). Digital twin IoT configurations bridge the gap between the physical workplace and the digital one, and create data for tangible improvements. As the number of sensors and beacons in any given workplace rises, so do the number of data streams—and thus, so does the potential for insight.

All this data comes together in the digital twin to provide workplace managers with increasingly robust insights, such as:

  • Macro trends, like the number of hotel desks reserved month-over-month
  • Micro trends, like the length of time Camille reserved Desk 008 for on Wednesday
  • Automations and triggers, such as submitting a cleaning ticket between room reservations
  • Inefficiencies, such as viewing which desks suffer poor utilization and why
  • Asset information, such as the number of cycles the copier ran last month

The office IoT network aggregates these insights into the digital twin, where they become presentable information management can review. The result is actionable change to the physical workplace, using digital insights.

Continuous operational efficiency

Data is the key to better decision-making. IoT data about the physical workplace becomes a catalyst for understanding why and how people interact with their surroundings the way they do. With this understanding comes an opportunity to make meaningful, informed changes.

A digital twin operations management example worth considering involves space utilization. Seat sensor data at a workstation might show a paltry 22% utilization rate for the month. By comparison, similar desks show a 74% average utilization rate. Facility managers can take this data point and delve into the digital twin of their workplace to better understand it.

  • Where is this desk located in comparison to others like it?
  • What times of the day was it occupied most often? Which days?
  • How long per session was the desk occupied?
  • What amenities or features does the desk offer?
  • What is its maintenance record and are there service tickets logged?

Digital twins enable what manufacturers might call a “root cause analysis.” Facility managers can probe all potential catalysts behind an anomaly to understand what’s causing it. Then, using data, they form a thesis and take corrective action. This is the foundation for continuous workplace improvements and continuous operational efficiency.

In this example, the FM might discover any number of issues. The desk is too close to a disruptive thoroughfare. Or, it could be too small to work at comfortably. Maybe it’s damaged and needs service? Whatever the root cause, there’s an opportunity to fix it.

Data as the defining factor for workplaces

Digital twins represent an abundance of data, made accessible. As buildings grow smarter and more technologies generate digital insights about the physical workplace, facility managers have more opportunities to understand it. The more they understand it, the better they can govern it. The effects compound into everything from better workplace efficiency, to improved productivity, to cost control, and even improved company culture. At the center of it all is the digital twin, guiding data-backed decision-making as a source of truth.

Digital twins lay the foundation for operational improvements

While software like IWMS and CAFM have enabled facility managers to make amazing improvements to workplaces, true efficiency comes from understanding how people interact with their surroundings. That’s where digital twins come in. IoT data synced up to digital twins paints a robust picture of the effects of physical workplace changes. It’s not enough to switch up the desking concept or rearrange a space—you need to know how it affects the people within it.

Digital twins for operations management adds a whole new layer to data-driven facilities management. In the same way digital twins bridge the gap between the physical workplace and the digital one, they also bridge the gap between facilities and operations. With this key piece of the puzzle, companies can relentlessly pursue efficiency improvements, one data point or trend at a time.

Keep reading: How to Use Digital Twin Software

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Digital Twin for Asset Tracking

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist
SpaceIQ

Every investment a business makes in equipment or resources comes into inventory as an asset. Whether it’s a workstation computer, a multifunction photocopier, or a vehicle parked outside, it’s vital for businesses to track and maintain these assets for as long as they have them. It’s called life cycle maintenance, and it requires a robust system of accountability. It’s why many businesses have turned to digital twin for asset tracking.

Digital twins serve as a powerful tool in collecting and maintaining data relevant to assets. Integrations with support and maintenance systems, as well as historical upkeep information, paint a digital record of a physical asset. Not only does this aid in life cycle maintenance, it helps businesses better-understand their assets. Here’s a look at how digital twin technology supports better asset tracking.

A digital record of a physical asset

So long as it’s kept current, a digital twin can house the complete service record of an asset. This includes capital systems.

For example, consider the backup generator that powers your on-premise server room. It needs biannual maintenance to ensure functionality in the event of a power failure. Looking back through service records in the digital twin, you can see that it was last serviced five months ago—which means it’s due for service soon. Asset managers can schedule a service appointment with the appropriate vendor—or create an automation within the digital twin that does it for them.

Every successive maintenance item gets added to the log, alongside information about emergent problems, solutions, notes, recommendations, costs, and anything else noteworthy about the continued upkeep and reinvestment in an asset.

Maintenance integrations

Digital twins are highly integrative, and one of the perfect pairings is with a CMMS platform. The asset tracking capabilities of the digital twin, paired with the solutions-driven capabilities of a CMMS, create a continuum of care that emphasizes proper life cycle maintenance.

Consider a fleet vehicle. It needs routine service every 30k miles, as well as an oil change every 5k miles. There are also factory-recommended services and discretionary repairs to consider. Now, consider all these services within a CMMS that’s smart enough to create a ticket when they’re due and assign it to the right staff member or vendor. The digital twin can actively track the mileage of the vehicle and interface with the CMMS. When the vehicle hits 90k miles, the digital twin relays the information to the CMMS, which generates the ticket: “schedule 90k mileage service.”

Integrations beget automation, which is vital in asset tracking and maintenance. Digital twins decrease the level of oversight or effort that goes into managing the multitude of business assets and instead, puts exceptional maintenance on autopilot.

Live asset data and streaming insights

Assets are constantly in-use—it’s what makes them assets. This can make it difficult for managers and stakeholders to keep track of them. This is where IoT sensors come into play as vital tools in asset tracking and management.

IoT sensors provide an abundance of simple, yet vital information about assets—and they relay that information to digital twins. Think about something as simple as a video projector on a cart. Equipped with a sensor, it’s easy for asset managers to look at the digital twin to see where on a corporate campus that asset currently is. This data, over time, delivers a clear picture of that asset in action. Wednesday it was in Building A. Last week it was in Building C. Before that, it sat idle in Building D for two weeks. As the life of an asset becomes more transparent, the management capabilities surrounding it become more robust.

Improved decision-making power

Should you sell the photocopier that’s eight years old and buy a new model? That depends on what the digital twin data says. At a glance, asset managers can see the cost breakdown of the asset—purchase price, upkeep costs, ROI, current value, and more. They can also see its maintenance history and usage history. At a glance, the digital twin provides precise information for a more informed decision. You might find that the cost of a new photocopier will pay for itself in three years, which makes it a smart investment over your current model that’s racking up the maintenance costs.

The concept is simple: the more you know about an asset, the more informed you are when it comes to utilizing it (or replacing it). The IoT and digital twins are a powerful combination for illuminating asset information.

Asset tracking with digital twins

Digital twins empower businesses and stakeholders to see their assets in a new way. Beyond the physical form and function of an asset, digital twins provide insightful data about its place in the greater operational picture. What’s the current value of the 2019 Sprinter Van parked outside? When was the copy machine last serviced by the OEM? Where is the fourth floor A/V cart right now? Digital twins bring visibility to assets in a much broader sense of the word.

Combined with the IoT and automation, businesses have even more opportunities to make assets go further. From proactive and preventive maintenance to better decision-making about how to use them, asset tracking through a twin means more mindful management.

Whether it’s tracking usage or optimizing efficiency, digital twins provide much-needed insight for critical assets big and small.

Keep reading: How to Use Digital Twin Software

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Digital Twin Use Cases

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator
SpaceIQ

Digital twins are an exciting piece of technology that’s becoming ubiquitous across industries. It’s easy to see why as they take their place alongside proliferating IoT and other tech such as machine learning. There are a bevy of digital twin use cases out there to showcase the power of digital asset monitoring. The interesting thing is that despite the same technological framework, almost every industry has found new and exciting ways to utilize digital twin technology.

What are digital twins used for? That depends on the industry. Let’s take a look at some of the most prevalent functions and features of digital twins across a diverse array of industries and applications.

Energy

Energy production and management are a huge market for digital twins. They’re already established technologies in the oil and gas sector, utilized by multinational companies such as British Petroleum (BP) and Shell. The reason? Digital twins aggregate the abundance of data that comes with downhole drilling operations—everything from visualizing well production to condition monitoring for the equipment extracting resources.

Fossil fuel producers aren’t the only ones using digital twins. Solar and wind farms also rely heavily on digital twins to monitor the performance of critical generators: solar panels and wind turbines. Smart technologies make it easy to monitor equipment off site and get real-time insights that enable proactive service. And, of course, digital twins make it easier to visualize the flow of power into a traditional grid.

Healthcare

Hospitals and healthcare facilities are filled with critical assets. In this sector, digital twins serve the role of integrated asset management and life cycle maintenance. From ultrasound machines to radiography equipment, these are investments totaling between tens of thousands and millions of dollars. Facility managers and maintenance professionals need to know where they are, what condition they’re in, their service records, and more to ensure they remain fully operational.

Healthcare facilities are also increasingly intelligent environments. Everything from access control, to networked devices, to patient wearables, and more all generate data—and that data needs to go somewhere. Digital twins embrace and route data from these many signals to help coordinate care within the cloud, at a digital level. Moreover, they provide relevant data to stakeholders that need it most: the individuals responsible for orchestrating a healing environment.

Manufacturing

Digital twins were born in the world of manufacturing. They’re used for everything from asset maintenance and monitoring, to predictive maintenance and shop floor improvements. They tie into many Lean manufacturing initiatives because the focus is on using data to drive solutions. Manufacturers rely on digital twins to show them where bottlenecks are in their production lines or what machinery is due for preventive maintenance based on real-time performance.

The growing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has made digital twins even more robust. Manufacturing is inching closer and closer to an era of dark factories, where off-site monitoring and a skeleton crew are all it takes to keep major production lines running. With digital twins serving as the backdrop for production insights and a strong IIoT to support it, factories will soon run in the cloud.

Retail

Retail is a fast-paced environment that requires no small amount of coordination. From feature displays and fixtures to stockroom management and inventory, digital twins have a role in retail. Where they really shine is in efforts to improve customer experience—especially in the post-COVID-19 world. Digital twins are also instrumental in coordinating inventories during the rise of omni-channel fulfillment. As businesses pivot to meet changing shopper habits, digital twins serve as a constant to support new operations.

Commercial

This list of digital twin use-cases wouldn’t be complete without a mention of commercial office buildings. In an age where remote work, flex work, and distributed teams are the new norm, digital twins help businesses reevaluate the physical workplace and understand its capacity for change. Digital twins serve as the great integrator for intelligent sensors and beacons, and interface with critical IWMS software to provide meaningful insights to decision-makers. Roll in asset management and digital twins become a must-have tool for businesses striving to make the most of their overhead.

Digital twins are becoming must-have tech

Digital twin industry use is on the rise, and it’s easy to see why. From energy to healthcare, manufacturing to retail and commercial applications, this tech offers critical support for operational excellence. And it’ll only continue to get better. As the IoT expands and more integrations come online, businesses will find digital twins instrumental in maximizing their efforts.

The beauty of digital twins is that they’re a transcendent technology. No matter the industry, no matter the application, so long as they’re configured and maintained accordingly they provide value.

Keep reading: Digital Twins – A Revolution in Workplace Management

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Geospatial Digital Twin Explained

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist
SpaceIQ

Geographic Information System (GIS) data is becoming more and more a pillar of building architecture and life cycle maintenance. Unsurprisingly, it’s led to the rise of geospatial digital twins as part of building governance. These systems represent the pinnacle of a data-driven approach to building oversight and bring broad context to virtually any quantifiable physical attribute someone might want to know.

From the numbers of floors to the year it was built, geospatial twins take a bevy of contextual data about a building and combine it all into one comprehensive representation. And, because that representation is digital, the possibilities for integration are infinite. Maintenance teams can review deep insights about the building itself, while portfolio managers can evaluate the building as part of a portfolio—each for the purpose of making data-driven decisions about building management.

While extremely insightful, geospatial digital twins and the GIS data that populates them are equally as complex. Here’s a quick primer on what they are, how they work, and why they’re growing in importance.

What is geospatial digital twin?

A geospatial digital twin is a digital model of a building extrapolated from many different data fields—specifically, GIS data. Where a digital twin is a virtual mirror of a building and its systems, adding GIS brings quantifiable elements into the fold. For example, you’re not just looking at a floor plan; you’re looking at a floor plan in context with the measurements of the space and the position of its unique elements in space.

GIS data goes beyond the building itself. A geospatial twin represents the building within the context of its surroundings. How many meters from the road is the front door? How tall is the building compared to the closest nearby structure? How far above sea level is the building located? The sheer abundance of GIS data informs a geospatial model that bring far-ranging context to the digital twin.

What does geospatial digital twin do?

There are endless possibilities for what geospatial twins are capable of. But what are they practical for? According to Esri, the global leader in geographic information system software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications:

Geospatial technology interconnects information, systems, models, and behaviors with spatial context, creating holistic digital representations of environments, assets, networks, and cities.

In simpler terms: geospatial twins harness GIS data into usable information. Why does it matter how far above sea level the building is? Well, it could inform how an HVAC tech services your building’s heating system—or the type of system best-suited to replace an aging one. Who cares about the building’s distance from the road? You might, if it impedes your plans to expand the atrium outwards. GIS data offers practical insights; the geospatial twin brings this data into context.

How geospatial digital twin can help a company

From a practical standpoint, there are an abundance of opportunities for using geospatial twins to harness broad data. Many vital business plans and operational aspects are predicated on GIS data in some way, shape, or form.

  • Emergency planning. The fastest and safest escape plan comes from understanding the layout of a building from a fundamental standpoint. Likewise, GIS can inform interoffice emergency planning in the event a threat is external—like inclement weather.
  • Risk management. GIS data allows for incident modeling and risk management. If you understand the variables of your building and its surroundings, it becomes easier to plan for avoidable situations or for unwanted eventualities.
  • Utility optimization. Are solar panels a conducive investment for your building? How much is inclement weather affecting your power systems, i.e. outages? GIS information can correlate variables to show a clearer picture of utilities and how to optimize them.
  • Health and wellness. Environmental factors have a huge effect on people’s health. Employers can use GIS data to create new workplace initiatives that improve health—everything from workplace design to amenities offered. On-site gym, anyone?
  • Digital transformation. A geospatial twin builds out the bedrock for an expanding IoT network within your building and beyond. The more devices incorporated, the more information available and the broader the insights about a building and its surroundings.

Above all, GIS data and geospatial digital twins unlock better decision-making opportunities. Building managers with access to these data systems and the broad insights they offer stand poised to make better, more informed decisions about everything from the building itself to the operations within it.

GIS data unlocks smart building potential

As buildings become smarter, the systems that govern them need to get smarter. GIS data and the digital twins they inform represent a trend in the right direction. While the IoT and other networked systems pave the way for office operational insights, GIS and geospatial twins provide a backdrop for these insights within the context of a digitally proportionate building. Together, stakeholders have a clear representation of facilities and everything within them.

With so much data and the broad context that follows it, companies can unlock amazing potential for improvements—to both buildings and the operations within them. It’s all part of the continuum of smart building technology.

Keep reading: How to Use Digital Twin Software

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Digital Twin Manufacturing Examples

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator
SpaceIQ

Digital twins have become a staple in workplace governance across many sectors, but they’re rooted firmly in manufacturing. There’s an abundance of digital twin manufacturing examples that paved the way for the rise of digital asset management in other aspects. For example, a company might use a digital twin to monitor the condition of its HVAC system—a practice rooted in factory machine monitoring and maintenance.

As facility managers get familiar with digital twins, it’s important for them to look at the roots of this technology. Not only are there lessons in manufacturing that translate across industries, there are also clues about how to maximize the effectiveness of a digital twin in the face of an ever-expanding IoT.

Here’s a brief look at digital twins in manufacturing and why they broke sector barriers to become relevant far outside the factory environment.

What is digital twin in manufacturing?

A digital twin is a digital mirror of a real-world asset. In manufacturing, it’s a virtual replica of a specific machine, informed by data. This data can come from networked sensors or manual input, and when combined, provides a clear picture of the condition and history of the machine.

More than a representation of equipment, a manufacturing digital twin is vital for the opportunities it offers. According to Digitalist, the manufacturing roots of digital twins set the stage for their exponential potential:

Digital twins represent an enormous opportunity for manufacturers, including engineering, design customization, production, and operations. Digital twins are vital to improving situational awareness and allowing CIOs to test future scenarios that can enhance asset performance and proactively anticipate maintenance faults.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement, in the world of manufacturing, digital twins provide the decision-making insights factories need to run Lean. As they seek to eliminate waste, manufacturers turn to quantitative insights from digital twins. These systems are increasingly essential as part of the Kaizen philosophy.

What is an example of digital twin in manufacturing?

The best example of a digital twin in manufacturing is a piece of equipment that’s outfitted with sensors. For the sake of example, let’s say it’s a machine with an electric motor and a driveshaft, outfitted with a vibration sensor, temperature sensor, and rpm meter. These devices all feed real-time data into a digital twin of the machine. There are several ways this digital twin becomes useful.

  • Real-time observation. A trigger programmed into the digital twin alerts maintenance techs if the vibration level, temperature, or rpms exceed a specific threshold. This incites real-time action to prevent long-term damage.
  • Historical data. The motor suddenly fails. During a root cause analysis, the maintenance tech reviews digital twin data and sees that rpms spiked several times prior to the failure, and the temperature rose dramatically moments before failure.
  • Preventive maintenance. Maintenance techs integrate the digital twin data with a CMMS platform. The CMMS schedules routine service based on average component lifespans and manufacturer-recommended service schedules.

These are just simple, practical examples of digital twins in manufacturing. Modern factories have much broader, more complex integrations that range from better machine maintenance practices to value stream monitoring.

Examples of digital twin in manufacturing

The more sensors and other data inputs there are to feed a digital twin, the more accessible insights become. In the factory environment, they lead to a bevy of lean manufacturing advantages:

  • Reduced waste. More insight into machine operation helps to create initiatives that reduce total machine waste, as well as peripheral waste in the value stream.
  • Improved throughput. The ability to keep a machine up and running at peak efficiency improves the total throughput of a line.
  • Better uptime. Stronger insight into equipment function and potential catalysts for failure allow maintenance teams to subvert them for more reliable uptime.
  • Equipment longevity. Better-maintained equipment lasts longer and performs more reliably, lowering the total cost of ownership.
  • Preventive maintenance. Instead of reactive maintenance, manufacturers can move toward preventive approaches that improve predictability.
  • Better asset ROI. Fewer problems and longer lifespan establish a better ROI for equipment as it continues to contribute to operational excellence.

The true purpose of manufacturing digital twins is to realize Lean philosophies. That means less waste, better equipment availability, proactive action, and better efficiency across the value stream.

Digital twins manage manufacturing’s complex environment

Step into any modern factory and it’s easy to see how digital twins got their start. There are so many intelligent systems running continuously, relaying data about everything from machine condition to throughput. All this data needs to go somewhere. Digital twins arose out of necessity and quickly became the foundation for smart factory operations.

Manufacturing is the original case study for digital twins, and it paved the way for broader application across other sectors. In the same way factories became smarter and generated more data, so too have office buildings. And, with the prospect of smart cities rising each year, it’s a safe bet that digital twins will continue to gain traction. As they do, professionals can look to manufacturing to see just how powerful these systems are.

Keep reading: Digital Twins: A Revolution in Workplace Management