Digital Twin

The Business Value of a Digital Twin

Dr. Mike Kennedy
October 28, 2020
The Business Value of a Digital Twin

The Business Value of a Digital Twin

The digital twin invokes, in my mind, the idea of a holographic image projected by a device or machine, like we would see in a sci-fi movie.

In fact, a digital twin is a rendition of something in another dimension. The twin looks and behaves exactly like the real version but it learns faster and can access more information. It’s the ‘test-bed’ that you can try your ideas on, without breaking anything

The concept of a digital twin has been around since… but only recently did advancements in digital technologies such as lower cost electronic devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the ability to leverage software code (application programming interfaces – or APIs) make the digital twin concept viable.

According to industry consultants, Deloitte Inc., if applied correctly, the digital twin can help businesses:

  • predict and prevent outcomes
  • build better products, faster and to scale
  • improve processes
  • tighten gap between design and execution
  • measure improved performance.

Digital Twin Concept Visualization

What is a 'digital twin'?

A digital twin is basically a replica of a physical product, process or system, that behaves in the exact way the physical object would. A digital twin integrates the key data of a system to produce information about an object (e.g. building, supply chain or vehicle) that accurately simulates the objective in its interfaces with other objects and the environment. A digital twin connects decision makers, planners, and workers with their subject through data and information. Given this definition, it’s no surprise that the IoT and increased capabilities in data gathering and processing, are allowing the digital twin to become a reality.

In what context do digital twins provide the most value?

The value of a digital twin is suited to specific organizations and teams. The following qualities in an organization are shown to produce the best outcomes with digital twins:  

  • Effective in-house design processes for new products
  • Effective engagement with suppliers, vendors and stakeholders
  • Requirements from industry regulators that involve long manual review process or processes
  • Core business processes that involve machines that have cyber-physical capabilities
  • Good in-house IT capabilities

General requirements to implement the digital twin include:

  • Information: A digital twin relies on the availability of complete information such as sensory data, quality inspection reports, even customer feedback. It also needs to work with existing assets, products and processes.
  • Capital return: You can’t just ‘install’ this concept and see a return within a year or less.
  • Skilled workforce: A workforce that can be upskilled and adopt to technological change.
  • Digital infrastructure:  IT infrastructure including wireless internet, hardware, and software systems and devices and machines that are IoT enabled.

Value proposition of a digital twin

There are many different use cases for the digital twin that will result in different outcomes. Building asset management is one area of the economy where a digital twin can provide huge value. Visual twins can support building asset management in a number of ways, such as:

  1. Design – Visualise products digitally before they are built. Validating the design prior to and immediately after a buildings commission can speed up design innovation timelines for companies.
  2. Data – Digital twins immediately generate data and provide an opportunity to create and expand a digital ecosystem. The onramp to automated and smart systems starts with learning from data.
  3. Simulation – The twin allows building owners, service providers and tenants to interact with, test and validate ideas about a building.
  4. Convergence of your digital ecosystem – The digital twin connects building design, operations, and maintenance into one cogent model a human can see and interact with.
  5. Constant improvement - Because the digital twin is always learning, modelling and applying advanced data analysis on the asset it mimics, new value opportunities are consistently identified.

The Use Case for a Digital Twin - BuildSense™

BuildSense™ is a real estate SaaS company that empowers building operators to deeply understand their assets and fully optimize their building performance.

BuildSense™ uses utility bills, basic building information and energy audits to generate an accurate depiction of a building’s performance.

The building performance data displayed via BuildSense™ informs users of the renovation opportunities in their building(s).  Similar buildings are used for comparison and IoT is integrated to provide the sensing capabilities to determine where in the building it makes sense to turn things down, turn things off, or replace things, to make the building perform better.

Through BuildSense,™ the data and assessment of the building is guided with AI and an energy integration specialist (EIS) that knows how to interpret and analyze the building data. With a BuildSense™ account, building owners and managers and service providers have a digital twin of the building as an operating system.

Within the first year of owning a BuildSense™ account, buildings are performing 10% better than they were previously and are positioned for performance improvement of up to 50% over the 5 year contract term.