Construction digital twins create a connected data environment
Technology

Construction digital twins create a connected data environment

Mary Kay Sheehan, Director, Product Marketing, Bentley, has some answers. She also explains how digital twins help mitigate risks, ensure cost savings and predictive maintenance, and reduce downtime challenges for complex systems while ensuring security of data, in conversation with R SRIN...

Mary Kay Sheehan, Director, Product Marketing, Bentley, has some answers. She also explains how digital twins help mitigate risks, ensure cost savings and predictive maintenance, and reduce downtime challenges for complex systems while ensuring security of data, in conversation with R SRINIVASAN. What is the difference between a digital twin and traditional simulation models? Although traditional simulations and digital twins both use virtual models, they are very different. In the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, simulation modelling enables the testing of different design scenarios to assess outcomes before the asset is built. A digital twin is a virtual representation that evolves as that asset is built, integrating data from various sources such as drawings, specifications, documents, analytical models, photos, reality meshes, BIM and ground models. Additionally, the Internet of Things (IoT) contributes real-time data on traffic flows, wind patterns, lighting conditions and the natural environment. In short, it offers a realistic representation of a built environment which is useful for operations and maintenance. How do digital twins contribute to real-time monitoring at sites? A digital twin may be used in real-time monitoring of assets through IoT sensors or devices. Captured sensor data can be analysed and used to identify risks and provide access to real-time information to take better design decisions. In addition, a digital twin may be used with artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced scanning drones to conduct asset inspections. A great example of this is the historic Robert Street Bridge (St. Paul, USA) rehabilitation project. The reinforced concrete arch bridge across the Mississippi River was experiencing significant structural deterioration so the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) retained Collins Engineers for a detailed bridge inspection. The project required accurate collection of detailed inspection information that traditional methods could not accommodate. Collins generated a 3D digital twin of the bridge to find, quantify and communicate concrete cracks and deterioration. The ability to pre-inspect the bridge allowed engineers to validate defects prior to starting fieldwork and saved 30 per cent in inspection hours. What challenges do organisations face during implementation? Construction digital twins can help improve decision-making, increase collaboration and boost project performance. However, implementation can also pose some challenges. First, understanding the nuances of a construction contract is critical and incorporating digital twins can significantly change the process. So it is vital to clarify who owns the generated data and how it is shared and protected. In addition, knowing the legal implications of using it for design, verification and validation is also critical. Next it is imperative that data is accurate and interoperable. Unfortunately this is not always the case. So ensuring that data from different sources, formats and standards can be integrated is crucial to implementation. Also, data needs to be verified for reliability as well as updated throughout its project lifecycle. Third, although the construction industry is beginning to adopt more technology, there are still many firms that have not started or are in the very early phase of adopting digital twins. Factors such as lack of skills, training and resources, as well as a resistance to change, make it difficult to fully implement digital twins. Similarly, because digital twins are newer to the construction industry, many projects lack a well-defined and documented standard operating procedure to create, manage and use digital twins. Defining a clear and consistent digital twin structure and workflow is key to ensuring their usability and functionality. These are some of the main challenges organisations might face during implementation. However, these challenges can also be seen as opportunities for innovation and improvement as they can help transform the industry and deliver better outcomes for all stakeholders. Do digital twins contribute to skill development? There are workforce shortages in the construction industry. It is a combination of people looking for alternative work and retiring. Due to this the workforce has varying levels of experience. So it is vital that they have the proper training and the right documentation to understand construction workflows. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring that the workforce has access to data they need in the most efficient manner to do their jobs. Digital twins can help. For example, bridge inspections are cumbersome because you must have the right equipment and people in place and this tends to slow down traffic. Not to mention that it is dangerous work. But now you have people capturing the data with drones and inputting reality data into digital twins for people in the office to review. This maximises the people that have experience and trains the people that do not have experience in the field. There is a blend of experienced and inexperienced users collaborating remotely and onsite using this technology. Also, digital twins provide consistent structured data, job after job. What measures are in place to ensure the security of data associated with digital twins? Digital twins generate huge amounts of confidential data that need to be protected from unauthorised access, theft or misuse. The measures in place to safeguard data include: Encryption algorithms to encrypt the data at rest and in transit, ensuring only authorised users can access and decrypt it Regular security audits to identify and resolve potential vulnerabilities in the platform, network or devices Ensuring that third-party integrations such as Cloud services, sensors and software meet security standards and comply with the specified data regulations Identifying clear policies and procedures for data governance, ownership, access and retention, and enforcing them through authentication and authorisation mechanisms Education and training stakeholders using digital twin technology about best practices and foundational data security and privacy procedures. How do digital twins facilitate communication between architects, engineers, contractors and other project participants? A digital twin can help facilitate communication during every stage in a construction project, from design and engineering to construction. At their core, construction digital twins create a connected data environment and serve as a single source of truth for project teams. This provides stakeholders with a real-time, comprehensive view of a construction project and ensures the entire team has access to the same accurate information at the same time. It is also crucial to maintain project alignment and avoid errors and miscommunication that result from siloed and disparate data sources. In summary, using the technology improves collaboration and communication among project stakeholders. With a single source of truth, all parties — including architects, engineers and contractors — can ensure they stay aligned at every stage of the project. What emerging trends do you foresee in the sector? In the next five to 10 years, we foresee digital twins becoming much more integrated into workflows and many organisations will recognise its value, making it indispensable. In addition, AI will begin to provide deeper insights and more predictive capabilities to projects. We expect IoT to evolve, enabling digital twins to integrate with real-time data generated from various sensors and devices. In summary, we foresee it transforming the construction industry, increasing collaboration, reducing costs and enabling better decision-making.

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Technology

Construction digital twins create a connected data environment

Mary Kay Sheehan, Director, Product Marketing, Bentley, has some answers. She also explains how digital twins help mitigate risks, ensure cost savings and predictive maintenance, and reduce downtime challenges for complex systems while ensuring security of data, in conversation with R SRINIVASAN.

What is the difference between a digital twin and traditional simulation models?
Although traditional simulations and digital twins both use virtual model..

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