The Construction Industry has been working with digital models for quite a while, based on BIM -Building Information Modelling. In the last years more and more sensors -IoT- have been inserted in building at construction time (and in a several cases IoT have started to be retro-fitted in existing buildings. These sensors are generating streams of data that enables the constructor to create a shadow and a thread, i.e. the three components of a Digital Twins.
The development of software to manage these DTs and to leverage them providing operation and maintenance services has been an obvious next step.
ARUP, one of the largest construction companies operating worldwide in over 150 countries is using Digital Twin technology through the construction phase and thereafter monitors the buildings operation. Over time a historical record grows and those data can provide hints on degrade of certain parts of the building that needs to be fixed before any damage occurs. Proactive maintenance is cheaper (it can be scheduled) than repairing damage (reactive maintenance). Also, the digital twin may interact with components in the building infrastructure to tweak operation and decrease risk of damage (like decreasing pressure in pipes…). DTs operate at stage 3 in most buildings monitored and controlled by ARUP.
Interestingly, the DT can also be used to assist in maintenance work providing the digital information on the building. Use of AR let the maintenance crew to inspect, virtually, the building infrastructures, like the pipes inside walls and ducts.
In addition, the data received from sensors are compared with data received from similar buildings. The data analyses takes into account the variety of situations (a building in Houston will be exposed to a different climate than one in Seattle) to derive meaningful comparison. This distributed knowledge (on single buildings) generates an emerging knowledge that helps in the operation of buildings (proactive maintenance) and in fine tuning the design of future buildings (what material demonstrated to for best in the field in a given climate…).