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What is a Digital Twin and How Can it Streamline Operations

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Published on Nov 28, 2018

Hi, my name is Felix Lipov and I’m the Lead Software Engineer at Enertiv. Welcome to another episode of EnerTV.

Today we’re going to talk about a concept that has been slowly gaining traction in the real estate industry – digital twins.

So, first question is: what is a digital twin? It’s a virtual replica of a physical asset. It’s set up to represent the structure and behavior of a piece of equipment or a building.

So, why should we care? If you have a portfolio of buildings of different ages, sizes, uses, and geographic locations, it can be very challenging to stay on top of what’s in your buildings, what’s running, and if it’s running effectively. Digital twins can help you solve and manage that more effectively.

So, how did we get here, how is it currently being applied? One example is manufacturing. For instance, when you’re building that next generation jet engine or you’re building a new wind turbine, you need to evaluate it under various circumstances and different conditions in a cost-effective manner. Digital twins enable that.

So, what is needed to create a digital twin? Two things. One is visualization, you need to see the asset. That can be done through a BIM model that helps you understand how the building is set up and structured, so everyone is on the same page. It can be through a 3D scan with a point cloud allowing you to understand the space in utter detail. Or it can be as simple as photographs of the space and all the major pieces of equipment of your buildings.

Number two is data. What form can that take? It can be static information such as nameplates, model numbers, etc. It can also be historic information such as runtime hours. Or it could be, given the internet of things, real-time sensor data.

So, what does that enable? What kind of solution does that look like? Let’s go back to the original scenario. There’s a portfolio with a number of buildings and there’s a problem in one of them: pump #4 on the 8th floor has gone down. Now, there could be a message that says “operator on the ground, please go and service this.” But you don’t have context.

The Chief Engineer is managing multiple buildings across different states. How can he most effectively aid the guy on the ground? Remember, this guy can’t be in two places at one time. So, by having the digital twin, you can see the actual device that’s having the issue, you can get information about it using the real-time data. You can pull up fault detection, documentation, analytics, and set up the work order.

Using that context, the engineer on the ground who may or may not know that building very well can be enabled and put in touch with other individuals who can aid and support with dealing and rectifying problems, which ultimately helps to streamline and optimize operations in your building.

In summary, the combination of imaging technology and the internet of things now let’s us leverage digital twins beyond just manufacturing and initial construction. Now, the same technology can be used to manage and maintain existing operations in commercial real estate portfolios, In turn unlocking new potential sources of value creation.

Again, my name is Felix from Enertiv. This has been another episode of EnerTV. Thank you very much, see you next time.

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