What is a Digital Twin?

PostedBen Schultz

A digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world, physical asset, for example a building or rail network, with real-time data being collected on-site and synced to the digital version.

The type of data being collected depends on what the real-world asset is. For a high-rise office building, the data would include things like the elevators, air conditioning, and security access. For something larger, like a rail network, the data points would include the locations of the trains, availability, and switches. All of this data is made available by integrating the numerous systems within an asset to the digital twin, housing it all under one roof.

Digital twins can be represented as 2D or 3D models of the asset. A high-quality digital twin includes all the architectural blueprints, including things like electrical wiring and plumbing, and these different systems can be turned on or off to layer the exact information you’re looking for.

Digital twins are an intuitive way to store, organise, and access the huge amount of static information and data generated by complex real estate and infrastructure networks. Through a digital twin, data that isn’t usually available or viewed in relationship to other data sources becomes accessible and digestible to asset owners and managers.

What are digital twins used for?

The information that a digital twin collects can be actioned in many ways.

Initially, once a digital twin is set up, the main priority will be to view and understand the live data. What is happening in the environment? Does immediate action need to be taken or can action be scheduled?

The next use case for a digital twin is storing historical data and analysing it for trends. A useful trend to look for would be a piece of equipment wearing out faster than it should, or even reducing maintenance schedules because you can see the equipment is performing above expectations.

These trends inform owners and operators on how they can optimise their assets to perform more efficiently, sustainably, and lead to overall cost savings. Optimisations can also be achieved though automation.

Historical data is also useful when you want to investigate when, why, or how something, such as a malfunction, happened, or be used to run simulations and make predictions.

See our case studies for more real-world applications of digital twins.

Where are digital twins used?

There are many industries that have been using digital twins for a long time. Manufacturing was one of the first industries where digital twins were applied, and NASA famously started using digital twins in 2010.

Digital twin technology is set to become the new standard for the operation of smart buildings and infrastructure. These industries have started innovating using digital twins to achieve environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, as well as improve their bottom lines.

The value of a digital twin is best demonstrated on large scale assets, like an entire rail network, or a portfolio of buildings. It’s for this reason that many city governments are using digital twins to plan out entire cities, encompassing both real estate and infrastructure assets as well as hospitals, street furniture, and even stadiums. In the built world in particular, digital twins have been proven to be valuable across the full asset development lifecycle. Ensuring that the data created during construction is not lost, and is transferred during the handover process greatly assists in the continued operations of the asset long after construction is finished.

Digital twins can be used for more than man-made environments; digital twins of patients’ bodies have been made for surgeons to plan and practice procedures on!

Accenture listed digital twins as one of the top five innovations to keep an eye on and the global market size of digital twins was valued at over USD $5 billion in 2020 with expectations to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 42.7%, so you can expect to see them in more and more industries.

What is unique about Willow’s digital twin?

Willow leverages the digital twin as a gateway into an entire ecosystem of solutions — an industry first in the world of digital twins. Digital twins for the built world, as defined by Willow, are the key to the smart cities of the future.

The digital twin is merely the first step to unlocking a range of smart building innovations. Through a single integration to Willow, our customers can access a marketplace of world-class applications, integrating quickly and securely with your data. To support this marketplace, Willow also provides our users with a single interface for all your technology and applications that drives actionable insights across an entire portfolio, from decision makers through to facilities managers. Our solution drives optimal building performance and an integrated user experience.

In collaboration with a range of global industry partnerships such as Microsoft, Willow is creating and leading this new category of innovation for the built world.

To find out how Willow can create a digital twin for your project, request a demo.

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