Construction and the Digital Twin

4th December 2019

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At Soben, we are well aware of the impact of technology on business and on our industry, and even the assertion that construction may have missed what is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As such, we make it a priority to investigate and invest in new technologies that may benefit our business and our clients. We have recently been looking at the impact of the digital twin.

IBM defines a digital twin as “… the virtual representation of a physical object or system across its life-cycle. It uses real-time data and other sources to enable learning, reasoning, and dynamically recalibrating for improved decision making.”

In short, a digital twin is a digital model of a living or non-living thing that integrate internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning and software analytics with spatial network graphs. This integration allows the digital model to change as the physical entity changes.

Digital twins are already in use across many industries, and have been used to refine and improve processes, assist personnel training, improve Formula 1 cars, and have been used by NASA to monitor its operations in space.

Digital twins are already in use in the construction industry, and to date the main uses have been:
• to test virtual construction sequencing and logistics scenarios to reduce construction and operating costs on site
• to collecting and monitoring real-time data to optimise a building’s operational performance and sustainability
• to improve safety on site using real-time tracking

Digital twin technology is on the rise as the Internet of Things continues to develop and expand. Many construction organisations are backing it as the ‘next big thing’ and the government has also got behind the technology with the launch of the National Digital Twin programme in association with the University of Cambridge.

However, the concern of many in the industry is how much understanding and uptake there will be from an organisation that already lags behind many others, particularly in relation to its size in terms of global output, workforce, and investment.
Whilst recognised by many as an essential technology for the industry, BIM has struggled to achieve the uptake that would have been hoped for, and with the Digital Twin concept considerably more complex, it may be a stretch for those outside the early adopter network. As ever, another one to watch.