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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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Five Digital Twin Examples Every Company Can Capitalize On

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist
SpaceIQ

The concept of a digital twin isn’t all that difficult to understand. Where most businesses get tangled up is in the practical application of one. The sea of possibilities for creating an intelligent building is overwhelming, and many aren’t sure where to begin. It helps to have a few digital twin examples to go off of.

What is digital twin? For those who need a refresher, a digital twin is the digital copy of a physical building. Digital twins create a dynamic, digital picture of the many systems operating within facilities. They tie together processes, information, and systems to create dynamic insight into the function of the building.

What are the types of digital twin examples companies should expect to roll out in their own facilities? Here’s five practical applications that fit every company, regardless of size, industry, or location.

1. Asset monitoring

Asset monitoring and maintenance are a critical function of digital twins. From capital systems to simple assets like desks and chairs, the digital twin serves as a central repository for information about these assets.

When’s the last time a repair tech serviced the HVAC system? What is the trend for capital maintenance expenditures every month? How many of your standing desks are more than five years old? Digital twins provide accessible information about all these variables and more. This allows maintenance teams, facility managers, and stakeholders to understand the best course of action when it comes to asset management.

2. IoT visualization

As buildings become more complex and intelligent, digital twins serve to wrangle the many data-generating IoT devices within them. The digital twin makes it easy to see devices not only for what they are, but for the role they play in your facility. The occupancy sensor in a conference room isn’t just another sensor—it’s hooked into the room booking system and the CMMS ticketing system, for example. This context enables broader understanding of the IoT and its impact on facilities.

Digital twins in IoT are especially important for companies with a growing IoT. The opportunity to coordinate a buildout by visualizing need is something that leads to better ROI. You’re not just investing in devices and systems—you’re investing in solutions.

3. Information modeling

Digital twin software represents a digitization of physical workplaces. This means it’s ideal for information modeling. Facility managers and other stakeholders can quickly identify trends and pose questions that lead to workplace improvements. For example:

  • What percentage of total workspaces are individual workspaces?
  • What’s the current occupancy of individual workspaces vs. group spaces?
  • What is the cost per head for these spaces based on utilization?

This series of questioning—made possible through a digital twin—allows facility managers to model problems and solutions. If you increase the number of individual workspaces, does cost per head go down? Up? What does this mean from a workforce standpoint? Information modeling through digital twins enables constant opportunities for innovation.

4. Access control

While access control is a system all its own, it’s made even more effective and efficient via a digital twin. Instead of merely allowing (or blocking) access, digital twins turn access control systems into data generating features that paint a picture of workplace utilization. For example, it might show that employees on the fifth floor travel to different floors too often to use a conference room. These types of insights can alert facility managers to inefficiencies they might never have realized.

Digital twins also paint a more inclusive picture of access control at a user level. What areas do people in Group B have access to that Group A doesn’t? How many users are in Group F and what level of access do they have? These top-down access control insights make an already familiar system more efficient and useful within facilities.

5. Sustainability initiatives

Digital twins recognize the building as a collection of capital systems. This layered approach to looking at HVAC, plumbing, electricity, waste management, and other vital systems opens the door for both cost-saving initiatives and greener ones.

Through information modeling capabilities, facility managers can make improvements that center on sustainability. For example, instituting a recycling program may actually lower your waste management costs by $X. A digital twin helps model the benefits by showing historical data about waste management and incorporating cost data from the proposed plan. Stakeholders can oversee the recycling program through the digital twin in the form of assets and cost data fed into it through invoicing and maintenance logs.

Digital twins pave the way for innovation

Digital twins provide important insights when it comes to the design, planning, and execution of these core operational tasks. Maintenance managers can use digital twin data to inform a more proactive asset maintenance strategy. Facility managers can model new, more efficient workspaces. Companies can become leaner, greener, and more cost-efficient by looking at the data present within a digital twin. As a mirror of the physical space, a twin will inform the best course of action for optimizing it.

Keep reading: How to Use Digital Twin Software

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Eight Major Benefits of Smart Buildings (and How to Capitalize on Them)

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist
SpaceIQ

Building intelligence has grown at a rapid pace over the past few years. Beyond the aftermarket sensors and beacons of an ever-expanding IoT, more and more buildings are built smart, bridging the gap between physical and digital. It’s easy to see why. The benefits of smart buildings are numerous, and companies are quickly learning how to harness smart tech into better insights and decision-making for facility operations.

For companies new to the idea of smart buildings or building out a small IoT network of devices, it’s worth understanding the scope of opportunity affiliated with smart buildings. Intelligent technologies enable insights that are becoming increasingly important for companies governing agile workspaces, a flexible workforce, and increasing demands for space versatility.

What is a smart building?

A smart building is one that generates data about itself and how it’s used. Typically, this occurs via the Internet of Things (IoT). Networked IoT sensors turn physical workplace action into digital data, which facility managers can use to make accurate insights about the physical workplace. As a simple example, a pressure sensor in the floor of a conference room can show when that room is occupied. This generates data for real-time insights as well as information about how often it’s used, for how long, and whether the ROI of the space makes sense.

Smart buildings operate on a scale. Sometimes, it’s just a few sensors that provide targeted facility data. Other times, it’s a wide web of IoT devices that paint a complete digital picture of facilities. Regardless of size, the purpose of a smart building is to provide digital data about the physical application of a building and everything that happens within it.

Eight major benefits of smart buildings

The benefits of smart buildings come from the data-generating systems that power them. It’s much easier to understand facilities when there’s data to inform how people use them. Moreover, this works in reverse—it’s easier to manage facilities when you understand them. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of smart buildings and why they’re so important:

  1. Automation opportunities. The more links there are between the physical workplace and digital management systems, the broader the opportunities for automation. Motion sensitive lights. Floor sensors for occupancy. Beacons to gauge workspace utilization. The IoT triggers powerful automations for a wide assortment of applications.
  2. Quantifiable building insights. Each data point generated by the IoT is a quantifiable part of the tangible workplace. That means understanding more about how the workplace functions—who’s using it, how they’re using it, and when they’re using it. Data points add up to trends, which add up to actionable insights.
  3. Predictive maintenance. Through digital twins and similar technologies, buildings and workplaces become managed assets. It’s possible to engage in proactive maintenance and asset upkeep to ensure maximum ROI from these investments. Preventive maintenance becomes a core function of facility upkeep, powered by insights from the IoT.
  4. Better resource utilization. Consider the resources of the workplace. Space. Manpower. Technology. Smart buildings take these resources and quantify them within the context of broader facilities. The result is a better understanding of how people use those resources and information about how to make them more accessible or available.
  5. Reduced energy consumption. A product of automation and quantifiable building insights, green initiatives become simpler through smart buildings. Whether it’s motion-sensitive lighting or better HVAC management through a sensor-controlled system, lower energy costs benefit businesses and the environment.
  6. Real-time building insights. In workspaces with agile desking concepts, real-time insights are paramount. Good governance of these spaces relies on data to see what’s occupied vs. open and what the current status of a workspace is. Smart buildings offer the power to see the workplace as it is in a given moment. It goes beyond workspace occupancy, too. Real time insights extend to every digital representation of the physical building.
  7. Reduced operational costs. Why make the investment in the IoT? For most companies, it’s about ROI. The insights generated by a smart building need to add up to cost savings through better decision-making. If you can use data from X to make Y conclusion that save $Z, there’s power in leveraging smart building technologies.
  8. New workplace opportunities. In the new age of evolving work styles, change in the workplace is unavoidable. As flex work and agile workspaces become the new norm, there’s demand for systems to help manage them. This oversight is much easier by smart networks and systems that generate data to support the new workplace and its utilization.

The key takeaway here is data. Data about previously unquantified systems that sheds light on how the physical workplace operates. These insights lead to more meaningful management, both in terms of space and operations. Smart buildings and the IoT have opened the door to better use of buildings, no matter the purpose.

The office: the final corporate data frontier

The benefits of implementing a smart building plan are virtually boundless. There are as many opportunities to benefit as there are avenues to integrate software, processes, workflows, and reporting systems, and to use the information a smart building provides. This information is imperative in adapting the workplace to real-time demands.

As buildings get smarter, they open the door to better workplace agility. Whether your facilities are inherently smart or you’ve augmented them with a growing IoT network, harnessing the power of facilities information leads to better decision-making and more streamlined operations. Every data point counts, and every data point is useful.

Keep reading: The Top Challenges for Creating Smart Buildings

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Eight Benefits of IWMS for Smart Building Management

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist
SpaceIQ

Today’s workplaces operate under the governance of dozens of different devices, programs, and pieces of software. The growing web of IoT devices and their signals helps businesses run efficiently—from the ability to book hot desks to building energy efficiency controls. More and more, companies are tying these many programs into an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS). The benefits of IWMS are too great to ignore and too beneficial to overlook.

As a business’ web of essential technologies grows—and its operations become more sophisticated—the IWMS acts as an anchor. It centralizes all the digital operations of the workplace and makes it easy for systems to communicate with each other. The result is what we get when we think of smart buildings: facilities that intuitively support the work that happens in them.

What is IWMS?

An IWMS is, in a sense, an aggregator. It’s a dashboard-based system that pulls information and data from various sources, to provide a clean look at a company’s facilities. This encompasses five core areas of focus (typically):

  • Real estate management
  • Capital project management
  • Facilities management
  • Maintenance management
  • Sustainability initiatives

In smart buildings with robust IoT networks, the IWMS becomes even more powerful. Rather than relying on user input or manual entry data, the IWMS pulls from as many inputs as there are data-generating sources. The result is a clear, real-time, comprehensive look at the many aspects of business operation.

The benefits of implementing an IWMS system

What are the benefits of an integrated workplace management system (IWMS)? Here’s a look at eight of the most important and their role in smart building management:

  1. Simplifies the IoT. The IWMS aggregates IoT data into a dashboard for meaningful insights. This not only de-silos critical workplace data, it also contextualizes that data in regard to the five core areas of operational focus. IoT data has meaning in an IWMS, which lends itself to powerful insights and better decision-making.
  2. Integrates digital processes. As the web of connected business technologies grows, IWMS centralizes the information it yields. IWMS can connect everything from a fleet of data-generating IoT devices, to a hoteling management platform, to processes for support ticketing.
  3. Highlight efficiency opportunities. Because everything flows through the IWMS, there’s data and metrics to support better facility oversight. Facility managers can identify trends, problems, or projections to understand opportunities for improvement. This, without needing to comb multiple different programs or datasets.
  4. Helps manage costs. One of the most important functions of an IWMS in a smart building is attaching fixed costs to dynamic action. For example, if you know how much a kilowatt hour costs, lighting sensors can show you how much you’re paying (and saving) through smarter operation.
  5. Streamlines new initiatives. Smart buildings are dynamic. Their needs and uses change frequently, which makes it important to chart these new initiatives in a system that tracks and manages the many measurable aspects of facilities. IWMS takes the information from a smart building and makes it easier to apply to action and new initiatives.
  6. Provides insightful reporting. As mentioned, IWMS is a dashboard. It provides vital operational insights at a glance—insights made more accurate and informative by smart building technologies. While the IoT quantifies the physical workplace, IWMS aggregates that data to qualify aspects of its operation.
  7. Improves business transparency. The more accessible information stakeholders can access about facilities and operations, the more transparency there is in managing them. Clear and present data in an IWMS provides a clear and present call to action for how to manage facilities and the people within them.
  8. Keeps companies compliant. From occupancy standards to emergency preparedness, companies need to stay compliant with worker safety mandates. Access to digital floor plans, scenarios, and workplace data in an IWMS delivers the insights necessary to maintain compliance.

IWMS software provides context for smart building management. The office IoT, digital twin, and integrated software all connect with the IWMS to create real value. Facility managers can collect data, sync processes, understand the workplace better, and take meaningful steps to improve it. The IWMS harnesses building management into one central system.

Smart buildings need smart management

The smarter a building is, the more support it’s able to provide to employees and operations. But that intelligence demands more oversight. An IWMS is a facility manager’s best opportunity to harness the complex processes associated with intelligent buildings and make sure they result in meaningful contributions to the workplace. From desk booking to climate control, support ticketing to vendor management, an IWMS makes managing smart buildings simple.

Keep reading: What is a Smart IWMS and What are its Features?

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What is Digital Twin in IoT?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist
SpaceIQ

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a massive concept. For most companies, it’s easier to contextualize it against the framework of their facilities. Smart buildings include sensors, beacons, and hubs—all of which capture data and facilitate automation. There’s also the software and processes that connect these data streams to action. And while most of this is easy to contextualize, where many companies get lost is with the introduction of digital twins.

What is digital twin in IoT? In simplest terms, it’s the place where all the data from IoT devices comes together. In an age of de-siloed workplace data, the digital twin is where data from across the workplace flows freely together. It gives companies and accurate, relevant, realistic picture of their facilities, through the eyes of IoT data streams.

What is digital twin technology?

Digital twins are a digital representation of the physical workplace and everything in it. What makes them useful is their dynamism, thanks to the IoT. The best way to explain the digital twin is akin to a data lake.

Picture a motion sensor in a conference room. When someone triggers the sensor and it sends a signal, where does that signal go? For companies with a digital twin, it connects to the corresponding part of the building on the digital model. If that motion sensor detects movement, it triggers the I/O signal, which appears as “occupied” on the digital twin.

But that’s only one half of the digital twin’s usefulness.

Now, consider the activity-facing aspect of that data. If Malik, Roberta, and Miriam need to book space, they’ll log into the building’s space reservation system. That system ties into the digital twin as well—only instead of pushing data to the twin, it pulls data from it. The room with the active motion sensor shows as occupied in the digital twin, which means the booking software won’t show it as an option for the group.

Digital twins are an intermediary that connects the many inputs of workplace data to the many applications companies have for it. It goes beyond desk booking, too. Digital twins and the data they de-silo are useful for everything from asset maintenance to space optimization.

How digital twins simplifies IoT

The role of a digital twin in simplifying the IoT is invaluable for companies—especially as they build out their network of data-producing connected devices. The more data streams there are, the more insights about the workplace there are. The only problem is that all these streams need to point somewhere to be accessible. That destination is increasingly becoming a digital twin.

Digital twins act as both a repository for data and a place to contextualize it. Because connected data maps to the same digital destination as its physical counterpart, there’s inherent order and structure in a twin. And, because everything points to the same place (the twin), it’s easy to integrate software, apps, and processes to the same repository to deploy that data. Instead of multiple sources of data, digital twins are a source of truth: a true representation of de-siloed workplace data.

Many sources feed into a digital twin. Many sources pull from it. At the center of everything is one, complete repository for data. There’s no better way to simplify the increasingly more complex nature of the office IoT.

The role of digital twin software

If the digital twin manages the ebb and flow of workplace data, who manages the digital twin? That task falls to facility managers, asset managers, and other facility-focused professionals. To get a handle on digital twins and their exponential capabilities, companies need to invest in high-quality digital twin software and the training that enables utilization of it.

Digital twin software makes accessing and integrating systems with the twin easier. On the data collection side, it establishes the protocol for accepting IoT sensor data and contextualizes that trigger. On the data access side, it makes data freely available to flow into connected apps, programs, and processes. In the middle, when it comes to the de-siloed data itself, digital twin software needs to provide information modeling personnel with a 1,000-foot view of facilities and everything happening in them—in real-time, if possible.

The unequivocal role of digital twin software is to bridge the gap between form and function, intention and execution. It collects data from the workplace and makes it accessible for data-driven decision-making across the spectrum of facilities management.

Digital twins anchor the IoT

With the IoT growing larger and more complex for businesses, digital twins are only growing more important. They’re the anchor for sensors and beacons. They’re the repository for de-siloed data. They’re the backbone for workplace management systems. Without digital twins, the IoT involves a lot more networking between points of data origin and points of data use. Just like your workplace brings the company together, digital twins centralize all its data.

Keep reading: Digital Twins: A Revolution in Workplace Management

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The Makeup of a Digital Twin Framework

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator
SpaceIQ

Digital twins are growing in popularity as businesses digitize facility and asset management. Like most up-and-coming technologies, there’s a learning curve. The best way to get a digital twin up and running—and to use it effectively—is to understand the components of a digital twin framework. What, exactly, does it entail?

Like most workplace technologies, digital twins operate on a scale. They’re applicable for companies of all sizes, but their frameworks become more complex as they encompass more parts of the business’ ecosystem. With that in mind, let’s take a look at all the variables and factors that can theoretically comprise a digital twin framework. First, a quick recap.

What is a digital twin model?

Digital Twins: A Revolution in Workplace Management

  • Represent the workplace and its assets in a digital space.
  • Use the digital framework to run “what if” workplace scenarios.
  • Take data from the digital twin to optimize the physical workplace

For example, a space manager might look at the digital twin to model a new workplace desking concept. Then, they’ll simulate that concept to understand how it affect the workplace. If it’s a smart change, they might deploy it; if not, they can continue testing. That’s the power of smarter workplace management.

The bottom line on digital twin models is that they’re a digital framework for quantifying the building and everything in it. When you’re able to turn the tangible office into digital data points, you’re able to explore new data-driven decisions about how to improve it.

How does digital twin work?

In its most basic sense, it’s a digital floor plan. It shows facility managers all the spaces in a building and the features that comprise them. With the help of IoT sensors and other inputs, that model can come to life with automations, which feed into other workplace data management systems.

For example, a motion sensor in a conference room can trigger the digital twin to show that room as “occupied.” The desk booking system that draws information from the digital twin will then show the room as occupied, to prevent anyone from reserving it at that moment. This simple example represents limitless workplace integrations, where the digital twin serves as the repository for real-time data about the building, people, and assets.

Speaking of these things, let’s look at what can comprise the framework for a digital twin.

The framework for digital twins

There are tangible and intangible parts to every digital twin: physical devices that generate virtual data and software that integrates with the twin. Here’s a look at the many elements in the framework of a digital twin.

Information input

These are the systems that feed data into the digital twin.

  • IoT sensors: Translate real-world actions into digital data points. These can include always-on sensors, action-triggered sensors, threshold sensors, and more.
  • Beacons: Hubs for sensor data and collection points for agile data. They paint a real-time picture of dynamic events throughout the workplace.
  • Checkpoints: These can include access control or desk check-in kiosks. They record events in time at specific points in space.
  • People: Facility managers and maintenance teams can interact directly with digital twins to input manual data and import records.

Information extraction

These are the systems that access the digital twin for data.

  • Workplace software. Software like IWMS, CAFM, CMMS, and EAM integrate with digital twins to pull specific data they contextualize for decision-makers.
  • Machine learning allows facility managers to set up trigger using digital twin data as catalysts for specific actions, such as generating a work report.
  • Vendor portals. Companies with outsourced services can provide limited, read-only access to digital twin data via portals, to inform better service.
  • Reporting systems. Software that probes the digital twin for specific or historical information that it uses to generate insights about specific facility utilization.

The digital twin rests at the center of this push-pull data relationship. It’s a CAD representation of the building that contextualizes the information generated within it. Keep in mind that not every digital twin includes these components. Some are more robust than others, and the more complex the twin, the more data sources and integrations it’s likely to have.

Put the pieces together in a custom framework

Digital twins are unique because workplaces are unique. No two companies will have the same digital twin architecture because their assets, processes, and facilities differ. The beauty of a digital twin is that it’s a mirror to the physical workspace. As the business grows and changes, so does its digital counterpart. Today, your twin might be small, with only a few spaces and assets tracked. Tomorrow, it could be a thriving data ecosystem.

Companies that understand the digital twin framework will find themselves realizing the benefits of a digital twin more easily. When you understand the modeling capabilities and the facets of a twin, it becomes easier to model, simulate, and manage the real workplace.

Keep reading: Digital Twins – A Revolution in Workplace Management

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Workplace Thought Leadership

A Brief History of Digital Workplace Technology

By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing
SpaceIQ

There’s no succinct point in time when digital technology became an integrated part of the workplace. Some argue it’s when the first Lyons Electronic Office (LEO) I computer booted up in 1951. Others consider it to be 1971, when Ray Tomlinson sent the first-ever email. Regardless of when the digital workplace revolution began, it’s led us to where we are today. The modern office is rife with digital workplace technology.

To understand how we got here—and where we’re going—we need to look back. How did the Apple I evolve into the modern laptops we use for telecommuting? What pushed the Internet from a simple relay network into a behemoth of cloud storage and applications? Most importantly, where is all this digital technology going to take us next?

Here’s a look at a brief history of workplace technology. Though we could arguably go back to the 1950s and 60s, we’re starting in the 70s, with the introduction of the personal computer. Truly, this is the best place to understand the workplace of the future, from its humble beginnings.

1970s and 80s: Computers enter the workplace

What is workplace technology without the personal computer? The laptops and workstations we enjoy today had much more modest roots—early Apple computers and IBM personal workstations.

The Apple I hit the market in 1976 to minimal fanfare. Amazing? Sure. Practical? Not a chance. It was the first of its breed, but a necessary commercial failure to pave the way for the Apple II just a year later. Laughable by today’s standards, it boasted a 6502-processor running at 1 MHz, with an 8-bit microprocessor chip and 48 kilobytes of RAM. But, in 1977, this was a truly viable computer—part of the “1977 Trinity” alongside the Commodore PET 2001 and the TRS-80, both of which had similar specs.

In 1982, International Business Machines (IBM) upped the ante, taking business computers from 8-bit to 16-bit. The first IBM PC nearly quintupled the speed of the Apple II, and boasted an 8088-processor running at 4.77 MHz. Apple responded with the Apple III and thus began the personal computer arms race. It was the start of computing in the workplace and the earliest inroad to digitizing work.

1990s: The Internet connects us all

By the 1990s, business computers had made their mark and every major enterprise had them. The next step in digitizing the workplace came in the form of creating the digital landscape. Thus, the Internet was born.

While the concept of the Internet was actually dreamt up and tested as far back as the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the World Wide Web as we know it didn’t hit businesses until the 1990s. Computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee created the concept of digital “destinations,” what we know today as websites. Businesses could finally host and share information, and even communicate digitally via email.

Internet adoption took off in a flash—perhaps too fast, judging by the Dot-Com Bubble of the late 1990s. It was a time when the ingenuity of business met the infinite possibilities of the Internet. The 1990s paved the way for everything from email to ecommerce, giving us a whole new way to interact with digital technology in the workplace.

2000s: The introduction of the cloud and big data

In the mid-to-late 2000s, workplace technology trends pivoted quickly to the cloud. Businesses realized that the more data they were able to collect, the more it informed their actions. As if overnight, major businesses started to digitize their data. Away went the file cabinets and dossiers, in favor of file archives and spreadsheets.

This is also the time when the physical workplace began to see change. With everything digitized and available in the cloud, employees didn’t need to always work on-site. The world began to shrink, in a sense. Jim could work on his project at the office, save it to the cloud, then pick up work at home, across town, across the country, or anywhere in the world!

Accessibility from anywhere fueled tangible tech. Smartphones and tablets became commonplace and extremely useful business tools, which led to another technological arms race. Today, competition is still astounding among smartphone and tablet makers, as well as cloud solutions providers.

2010s: Rise of the Internet of Things (IoT)

Coming off a decade of technologies designed to help employees work outside the traditional workplace, this most recent decade was equally as cathartic for those who prefer to work in an office. Workplace technology solutions of the 2010s came in the form of IoT devices. Beyond connecting laptops, tablets, and smartphones to the cloud, we’ve now connected anything and everything!

The workplace IoT exploded in recent years, giving way to better workplace data collection, automation, and an improved relationship between employees and their environment. Entire workplaces benefit from webs of sensors and beacons designed to simplify work, add convenience, and improve workplace governance.

From occupancy and motion sensors, to hardware and software integrations that enable complex workflows, the modern workplace is equal parts digital and physical.

2020s: The workplace of future

It all brings us to today: the year 2020. We’re on the cusp of concepts like quantum computing and edge computing, and we work in environments that blend the realities of digital tech and the physical world. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are exciting possibilities, as well—applications we’re likely to see in the coming decade.

Whatever digital technologies we experience in the next 10 years, they’re ultimately the culmination of the last 50 years. From the introduction of personal business computers to the rise of the IoT, the way we work has evolved significantly. It’s still changing today.

Keep Reading: How Remote Working Tech Transformed the Way we Work

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Workplace Thought Leadership

Automating the Workplace with AI, AR, and IoT

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer
SpaceIQ

A trio of technologies is revolutionizing the workplace: artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and the Internet of Things (IoT). Their ability to deliver never-before-realized efficiencies is quickly making these software tools office mainstays.

Automated advancements are freeing employees from rote tasks so they can focus on more valuable and engaging work. It’s a competitive advantage that businesses are increasingly turning to as digitization becomes the new normal.

A Trifecta of Winning Technologies

AI, AR, and IoT can be used to automate and optimize processes that once required hours of costly human labor. These technologies yield efficiencies that can markedly improve the bottom line.

  • AI – Artificial intelligence has become so ubiquitous in the workplace, it’s often hiding in plain sight. We routinely depend, for example, on AI applications like voice-to-text, chat bots, and automatic meeting scheduling, but think nothing of it. Conversely, we need to remember that AI is an umbrella name for a spectrum of technologies; remember, however, that just because a computer is involved doesn’t mean a program has artificial intelligence. AI’s strong suit is automating data analysis to identify patterns. For example, there’s software that can evaluate whether a customer is annoyed or upset on a phone call, determine behavioral patterns based on sales, or flag cybersecurity issues such as hacks or identity theft.
  • AR – Because augmented reality is laid over an existing environment, it is effective at helping users envision a space. AR has already been adopted in warehouses, where it can show workers the next steps in a repair sequence or direct them to a part’s location. But AR is also beneficial in corporate settings when used with training modules and wayfinding. It even offers a way to visualize office design and space planning, like seeing how new wallpaper or flooring might look.
  • IoT – the Internet of Things bridges the digital and physical worlds. An IoT device may have a sensor, an actuator, or both, but it will always have connectivity that allows it to send and/or receive data and instructions from other devices. Sensors can monitor occupancy, lights, flow in a pipe, or carbon monoxide, among many other things. An actuator enables the device to change something in the physical environment: dim a light, open a valve, or lock a door. Combining IoT with AI can be very beneficial. For example, if AI detects a certain vibration pattern in a piece of machinery, it can tell the actuator to alter the motor’s speed to prevent a failure.

Is Technology Making Humans Redundant? 

While machine learning applications are evolving quickly, nothing happens overnight. Technology moves more slowly than the hype would have you believe. Or, as Roy Amara, a futurologist, put it “We overestimate the impact of technology in the short term and underestimate the effect in the long run.” Just think about automatic teller machines (ATMs).

Once upon a time you had to physically go into a bank and ask a teller to make a deposit or withdrawal on your behalf. The process relied on two humans to complete. Now, you can go into any gas station or grocery store and access your funds via an ATM. However, we forget that it took years after the first ATM was introduced in 1967 before these machines became a common part of our banking experience. And even more than 50 years later, tellers haven’t disappeared. Today they spend their time helping customers with more complicated tasks than withdrawing cash.

We can see a similar evolution with workplace automation. There’s always a fear that automation will replace jobs; a Pew study found that roughly half of people think automation hurts workers. It’s true that these technologies replace some work functions, especially in low-wage jobs with predictable physical and cognitive tasks, but they also create new roles and responsibilities.

Imagine the effectiveness of a marketer who doesn’t have to spend time generating a prospect list. Instead, they receive an automated list and spend their time analyzing the contacts. The role of the human hasn’t been diminished by automation—it’s been empowered by it. That’s why it’s important for businesses to help employees see the advantages of automation and prepare them through education and training for new roles in a digitized work environment.

AI, AR, and IoT are forms of automation that generally work hand-in-hand with humans. Rather than supplanting jobs, they mostly manage repetitive tasks, enable sophisticated data analysis, and streamline complex processes. Their most valuable contribution is empowering employees to focus on what they do best.

Keep reading: Office IoT – A Gateway to Smart Facility Management