One term that I heard a couple of times last week at SPAR 3D/AEC Next which I was not familiar with was “digital twin”. It wasn’t too hard to get the idea from the context of the usage, but I thought I would get something more official from, in this case, Wikipedia. Speaking of that, whatever happened to “wiki’s”? They just never caught on, I guess.
From Wikipedia, “…a digital twin refers to a digital replica of physical assets, processes and systems that can be used for various purposes.” It gets more interesting, “The digital twin provides both the elements and the dynamics of how an Internet of Things (IoT) device operates and lives throughout its lifecycle.
The idea is to use all the new hot topics – AI, machine learning and software analytics to create “living” digital simulation models. Of course some of this is not new at all. Many buildings have been instrumented and remotely controlled for many years. I would say the big difference here is the use of the Internet to make things wireless and the ability of the digital twin to learn from the usage patterns, like the Next thermostat.
This is why systems engineering is the hottest engineering degree right now.
In the case of construction it might make more sense to use the term physical twin, because the digital design model actually comes first followed by the as-constructed physical object and then the as-built digital model, but it’s too late for that. Of course 3D laser scanning is likely the best approach for capturing the as-builts.
Since I am a civil engineer I am biased toward construction and infrastructure as the use cases, but the term digital twin can be used in manufacturing and mechanical engineering as well.
There is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done on the standards front in order to make all of the systems compatible, in addition to issues like how accurate the information is supposed to be in a digital twin.
There is going to be no shortage of work for civil and systems engineers over the next 20 years.