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Digital Twin Technologies
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Digital Twin Challenges

Society is just beginning to benefit from connected digital systems, often referred to as the Internet of Things.

From refrigerators creating shopping lists, to highways that vary tolls based on traffic loads, it’s only a matter of time until connected devices, data analytics and real-time machine learning is commonplace in every industry.

As clients across markets cope with shrinking budgets, unplanned failures, disruptions and lost revenue, increased maintenance costs and lack of qualified resources, digital twins offer a host of applications to tackle those common challenges organizations face in a rapidly changing world, including:

  • Evaluating design options.
  • Analysis of alternatives – assessing impact of change to process condition, material or physical change to system.
  • Simulating events for training or risk reduction.
  • Predicting asset life based on existing operating conditions and synthetic data.

Market-specific solutions include...

Water

As cities prepare for a changing future, transformative trends such as resource scarcity, digital proliferation, security and climate change require fresh perspectives and new ideas – and water, which underpins some of the biggest opportunity and challenges in our time – is a top consideration in communities near and far.

Those in control of treating and delivering water services are challenged to plan how their complex systems will operate and affect each other in the future. It’s no simple task – these plans need to consider how the systems can be built economically and operated to work together sustainably and reliably, even in the face of uncertainty.

In the water space, if a single picture is worth a thousand words, then a digital twin of full-scale treatment and conveyance facilities is worth a billion or more. Digital twins can quickly produce simulations of hydraulics, I&C, water quality and treatment processes, simultaneously – allowing organizations to validate the optimized solutions coupledwith the process control system (SCADA) hardware to bridge the divide between the digital simulation and the physical hardware. These simulations ultimately allow for dynamic analysis of resource supply, demand, cost, risk and other factors throughout systems to help clients around the globe make resilient decisions for the future.

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Built Environment

According to the International Energy Agency, buildings consume about 30% of the world’s energy through construction and operations. With a global focus on tackling climate change and as regulatory requirements develop, it’s important for businesses to embrace smart technologies to ensure their buildings become more energy efficient. Intelligent energy systems utilizing digital technologies, like digital twins to simulate and assess new processes and systems, will play a key role in enabling buildings contribute to a low carbon future.

Additionally, using digital twins to plan for rehabilitations, retrofits and upgrades of buildings, both standard and historical landmarks, can help owners identify the best way to be sensitive to history, unique surroundings and the environment, as well as social and economic needs.

Digital twins are also going beyond the scale of the building to the scale of the district and neighborhood and, ultimately, to the scale of a city, where one can model all of the various permutations of all the various systems — energy use, water use, transportation, temperature, etc. — and devise scenarios to use any and all of these more efficiently.

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Industrial

By 2021, Gartner predicts that half of large industrial companies will use digital twins to drive improvements in effectiveness. From industrial processes to automotive production, digital twins offer unique operational benefits such as reducing chemical and energy usage, identifying and testing processes to speed automation and boost productivity and predicting asset maintenance and operational needs.

Digital twins can dynamically simulate integrated design and operations components such as process flow diagrams, SCADA screens and piping and instrumentation diagram, to improve communication between project stakeholders, especially for teams with varied technical backgrounds and experience. These strategic, planned simulations can help organizations optimize their capital investments, improve asset uptime and lifecycle extension, enhance system reliability, lower total cost of ownership and optimize operations and maintenance — all critical considerations with organizations challenged to do more, with less.

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Transportation

Decisions made on transport infrastructure can influence the shape and success of our cities for generations, at a time of rapidly changing work and living patterns. As technology is also evolving rapidly, the world's transportation infrastructure needs must now factor in the ability to support a myriad of disrupters from driverless vehicles and intelligent traffic systems to automated container terminals and airport drones and solar-powered freeway lanes and electric vehicle charging stations. These emerging technologies produce massive amounts of data to be harnessed and managed  data that must be translated into organizational knowledge and filtered through operational processes and testing to deliver the next level of customer experience.

That’s how digital twin technologies can help planners, cities and their infrastructure owners make their systems smarter and more resilient, while also accounting for future urbanization. Digital twins are underpinned by a rich pool of data, made up of information from various sources or “modules”’ brought together in a single digital space or Common Data Environment (CDE).

The modules vary depending on individual project and client requirements and can be adjusted over the project lifecycle to reflect the data requirements at each stage of construction. This means digital twins can collect data from various modes of transportation and leverage the data to simulate realistic mobility situations — from individual roadways to integrated city transportation networks — to connect more people and places with the means to live better and work smarter.

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