A digital twin refers to a digital replica of physical assets, processes, people, places, systems and devices that can be used for various purposes.
Why do we need digital twins?
Digital twins are a necessity if we want to provide better life to citizens, achieve sustainable urban development and most importantly create a safer world. A digital twin enables us to foresee situations and take preventive measures.
We can keep on building without paying heed to technological developments and keep on bearing the brunt of ignorance. On the other hand, we can gear up and train ourselves to be a facilitator of innovation and take infrastructure to new heights, where anything and everything goes under digital transformation.
As we build smarter, digitally sound cities, we, in turn create more resilient cities. Digital twins are a necessity for a better life for all of us.
Digital twins, by enabling simulations have the potential to bring damages caused due to both natural and man-made disasters to almost zero. They can help the citizens lead a safer life. For instance, in case of infrastructures where there is supposed to be lot of footfall, by using pedestrian simulation software, we can predict when and where there will be more congestion. By bringing in requisite changes in the digital model of the infrastructure, it is possible to achieve higher safety, efficiency, & less operational costs in building and maintaining the asset.
Digital twins also generate higher quality of data that helps in making more informed decisions. As Greg Bentley, CEO, Bentley Systems shares at YII2018, “Digital twins lead to better quality data and in turn better management and maintenance of assets. We need to go beyond BIM in construction.”
BIM is a thing of past. The infrastructure community now needs to work towards creating digital twins, move from 3D to 4D modeling and bring in more innovations in terms of predictive analytics etc. since “Infrastructure is not for engineers, but by engineers for the benefit of common people” as put by Sir John Armitt, Chair, UK National Infrastructure Commission.
Concrete steps in the direction
Thankfully, infrastructure asset owners are increasingly recognizing the potential for leveraging digital twins along with the application of analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning in simulations and decision support throughout the lifecycle of design, construction, and operations.
An important point to consider here is that digital twins for existing infrastructure must reliably synchronize reflections of both an asset’s physical reality, and its “virtuality” (engineering data). A digital twin can meet this requirement by geospatially converging the digital context (representing the physical) and digital components (representing the virtual), naturally resulting in an immersive environment for both visualization and analytics visibility.
Merely capturing and representing physical conditions, including IoT inputs, can never be sufficient to understand, analyze, or model intended improvements. It is necessary to comprehend the “digital DNA” captured in the project or asset’s engineering specifications. This is what Bentley Systems is largely enabling.
Bentley System’s initiatives
A representation of any infrastructure asset’s physical reality can now be reliably captured and maintained through increasingly continuous surveys and Bentley’s reality modeling software, providing digital context in the form of “reality meshes”. Overlapping photographs and (as needed) supplemental laser scans, largely from drones and ground-level imagery, are processed to generate spatially-classified and engineering-ready reality meshes at any desired level of accuracy—within which each digital component can be automatically recognized and/or geospatially referenced. The reality mesh can provide an efficient and immersive visual “twin” to intuitively navigate for finding, viewing, and querying the associated information within, or related to, the asset’s digital engineering models.
Bentley’s acquisition of LEGION augments its comprehensive modeling environment with collaborative digital workflows to explore and validate comparative simulations of pedestrian traffic scenarios. Using LEGION simulation tools in collaborative digital workflows with Bentley’s OpenBuildings Designer architects, engineers and owners can consider pedestrian traffic in their conceptioneering of design alternatives.
Along with the iTwin™ Services, digital twin cloud services, Bentley’s iModel.js library can be used by developers and IT professionals to quickly and easily create immersive applications that connect their infrastructure digital twins with the rest of their digital world.
Such initiatives are necessary for enabling the construction industry to go digital at full throttle. As infrastructure goes under digital transformation at a high scale, we automatically get prepared for a safer, healthier and happier life.