A digital twin is an exact, virtual representation of a real-world asset such as a building or set of buildings. Using sensors, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, the twin provides feedback on key assets and intelligence on how the occupants interact with that building. Its use in construction is not yet widespread in the Middle East, but interest in the benefits they can bring is growing, and the use of digital twins is predicted to rise rapidly.
We spoke with Dr. Jacques ElKhouri, Head of Digital Transformation & Innovation, Dar Al Handasah, and asked him to explain the technology’s use in construction.
Explain what a digital twin is in simple terms
It is a digital and virtual enriched 3D representation of a physical asset, including the data, functionality and the capabilities to process that data to understand and optimise its performance. A digital twin is an exact replica of the physical world. The asset becomes “alive” digitally, especially when its behaviour can be monitored with time (4D) through live sensor readings, differentiating it from Building Information Modelling (BIM). It is applicable to a wide range of environments, including the monitoring of products while they are in use and throughout their lifecycle.
What is the benefit?
- Increased reliability
- Reduced downtime and improved performance
- Improved productivity
- Reduced risk in various areas
- Increased Safety
- Lower maintenance costs by anticipating, preventing and predicting maintenance issues before breakdowns occur
- Faster production times
- Helps creating new business opportunities
- Improved product quality, and enhanced insight into the performance of your products, in multiple real-time applications and environments
- More efficient supply and delivery chains
- Significant reduction in the potential errors and uncertainties during purchase orders
- Facilitate accurate information sharing between site inspectors, operator, designers, suppliers and contractors, saving repurchase logistics and time
- Reducing replacement work unforeseen delays
- Reducing design time
- Reducing potential penalties
- Reducing unwanted disagreements.
How easy is it to implement/adopt?
Technologically speaking, the tools do exist that allow for its implementation. Culturally speaking, it is a relatively state-of-the-art solution, where users require to gradually upgrade their state of mind and working culture. Most of the usual manual work becomes digitised and through workflows to follow. Users can continue to work the same way they are used to and shift gradually towards the Twin concept solution, until fully implementing it. One word to keep in mind for deploying Digital Twins is “Flexibility”.
Where should digital twins be applied?
Civil, Roads, Infrastructure, Buildings, Oil & Gas, Facilities – from small to big projects. Some Digital Twins are conducted on a small Based Transceiver Station for Mobile phones and some conducted on large complex projects such as Airports.
Are there any scenarios where one should not be applied?
The use of Digital Twins is a long-term solution. A business evaluation study should be conducted to make sure that the cost for implementing the solution and for training the staff will still be smaller than the profits obtained in the long term.
What investment is required?
Investment in tools, in upgraded process definitions, changing the work culture, in digitising the assets, collecting accurate information from the site and creating reality models.
What is the business/ownership model?
Let us take an example of a facility (that has a digital twin) where a defect is occurring.
- Defect occurred and inspection conducted immediately (manually or through live monitoring)
- Work Order released onsite
- Prompt email notification
- Owner operator receives notification
- Contractor intervenes for repair (short term solution)
- Consultant designs a replacement solution (long term solution)
- Accurate Purchase Order raised
- Replacement of Asset with the new one
- Digitise the new asset
- Update the digital twin for the asset
By applying the above steps, time and money are saved, and optimum performance is obtained.