Many people you know right now are wearing a device that gives them insight into themselves and to their environment. It is called a wearable and it comes in many forms: Whoop, Apple iWatch, Garmin, Fit Bit to name a few. But what you may not realize is that a wearable is just a Digital Twin of YOU.
In this tech day and age, we hear the term “digital twin” tossed around quite a bit. For instance, the Navy uses digital twins to build virtual 3D replicas of fighter jets before they even pick up a single tool to build one. The biotech industry uses digital twins of bioreactors to perform maintenance using augmented reality. Amazon, Microsoft, and other tech firms are using 3D digital models to design and build data centers, the same building over and over – each time faster and cheaper. Even Google Earth is a digital representation of our home, giving us information on how our planet looks and feels on a day-to-day basis.
There seems to be some confusion in that most people believe a digital twin is simply a 3D model of a physical entity when it is much more than that. A digital twin is a compilation of data from all the systems that relate to that entity. If we use a building for instance, a digital twin would be not only the 3D model or Building Information Model (BIM), but the GPS or where that building lives, the cost and schedule systems used to build it, the asset systems used to track what is in it, the sensor data from all of the security, heating, A/C, and the various equipment inside it which mingles with the internet of things (IoT).
While all this data from the building make up the digital twin data stream, it is this sensor data that most closely relates to your wearable. Every day my Apple iWatch tells me how well I slept, how much I ate, whether I should run around the block, what my screen time was, how much I spent on Netflix yesterday, how much I can save if I order this on Amazon right now. I am very dependent upon it as it decreases my anxiety about the things I never knew before. It also saves me a million trips to the doctor or the pharmacist and helps me to increase personal safety by encouraging standing time or logging calories.
The very same thing happens when we start to analyze the data coming from our building’s digital twin. The digital twin is the scope of the building and it is finally in a form of data. Therefore, it provides a wealth of information from the birth of that building through to its maintenance phase. New areas of understanding occur when cost, scope and schedule are truly aligned.
For instance, measuring building productivity using pre-fabricated materials based on a 3D model. Reducing changes in the field because they were eliminated in the design phase. Re-using the twin on other similar builds to save design cost. Minimizing safety incidents because crews are not clashing on site. Basing contractor payments on the physical completion compared to the virtual (and not the opinion of the foreman).
But more importantly, those building sensors in the maintenance phase start to feed us data like our Fit Bit. Telling us things like when to replace an A/C unit. What is the usage of one conference room versus another, and why? Where is the water shut off valve including a GPS map to find it? What security cameras are malfunctioning?
Just like my Garmin, these complex digital twin data streams function purely for the purpose of providing meaningful information about this entity that is my building. When it is sick and when it is healthy and when the next checkup is needed.
Does this information come readily available? Yes, but it is the standardization of data and the alignment of the information coming from all these different sources that requires thought and planning. Just like my Whoop wearable, with more than 100 different data points; all complex data requires alignment to make the message appear simple to the consumer.
From the DIKW pyramid we learned that raw data means nothing. Add context and you receive knowledge, marry information with application and you achieve wisdom. But what they don’t mention is that context without structure cannot happen. We cannot integrate without a common language. It is all about asking the questions first and then structuring what is in the world around us in a way we can see the answers.
So, the next time you open Google Earth or look down at your wrist, think about what you wish you knew about the rest of our world and start putting those questions into action.