The physical and the digital world works synonymously to form a powerful combination in the construction sector. This technology provides an opportunity for stakeholders and construction professionals to enhance asset performance, help individuals and teams anticipate environmental factors in various stages of the building lifecycle, and forecast maintenance activities based on relevant information that may benefit the project and its assets across the globe.
Defining a digital twin
In simplicity, a digital twin encapsulates all the relevant information of a physical asset or object. The concept of a virtual digital equivalent to a physical product was invented by Dr. Michael Grieves during a Product Lifecycle Management or PLM course program.
To build a digital twin, there are few pre-requisites that need to be considered-
- Existence of a physical product in real space
- Existence of a virtual product in virtual space
- Interconnection of the two with relevant data and information
Furthermore, a digital twin contains all the information of a physical counterpart – that includes
- Geometric or Mechanical likeness of objects or assets
- Electronic mapping of product data, software, and more
This data can be used for various purposes in BIM as well. Furthermore, it can be said that building a digital twin requires BIM and structured data to run simulations for various boundary values. A digital twin can be represented as a 3D model, but one that has all the information of the physical assets or object of the building.
It can also be a database that encapsulates all the information of the construction phase of the building viz.
- Reports of various activities to execute deliverables
- People responsible for the reports or deliverables
- Various problems that were observed during the construction process
- Resolving such issues and more
When mapped correctly, it serves as an exact digital twin of the building in the construction phase. This data should be used by various project individuals to generate valuable insights which helps project managers take informed calls for various situations on-site. A digital twin is extremely beneficial as it serves as a visual representation in the form of charts, visualizations, and various views to drive project performance.
It is information whenever and wherever you need it. If the state of the physical object changes, so does the information of the exact virtual object in real-time. In the construction landscape, sensors can be integrated into real physical assets to inform the system or software to enhance the performance of the assets through advanced monitoring & predictive analysis.
Creating an intricate mapping between the physical and digital world require large amounts of data processing in BIM through consistent data inputs. In terms of deliverables, a digital twin needs to voice out all the required modifications that were performed after the building was turned over to the owner or various stakeholders. Thus, a digital twin needs third-party hardware and software technology to be integrated like IoT, sensors, scanners, etc. so that people can access it from a centralized database or repository.
On closing thoughts
Digital twins are the next step in the evolution of BIM through a digital-physical synapse. A digital twin can deliver significant benefits for construction professionals in terms if real-time measurement, perception, and improvements in the overall stages of the building lifecycle. It can also be concluded that a BIM model is an engineering representation of the physical asset with high accuracy, whilst a digital twin is a digital clone of the as-built asset.