A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real-world object or process. Thanks to advances in computing it is now possible to create digital twins in contexts ranging from healthcare to manufacturing to urban planning. Engineers, scientists, and others use digital twins to better understand real-world systems and manage those systems effectively.
The creation and use of a digital twin involves answering three questions:
- What is the real-world object or process being replicated? The creation of a digital twin begins with giving the computer extremely detailed information about what the object is and how it’s supposed to operate. In a building context, this means giving the computer the full picture of the physical structure — through blueprints, for example — and the design of internal systems ranging from heating and air-conditioning to security.
- How is the replicated object operating in real time? Once the computer has a baseline understanding of what it’s replicating, the twin can be brought to life. This process involves using sensors and other data-collection devices to gain an extremely accurate, up-to-the-second understanding of how the real-world object or process is operating.
- What is the digital twin telling us? A functioning digital twin will be reflecting the structure and operation of its real-world counterpart. The final step is making sure there is a sophisticated interface that allows the people managing the system to monitor, understand, and act on the information and insights provided by the digital twin.
One benefit of using a digital twin is that the extremely sophisticated recreation of real-world processes makes it easier to automate those operations and ensure that they are running properly. This capability, in turn, makes managing complex systems like modern office buildings easier and more efficient.