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CAD Tech News (#119)

22 Jan, 2020 By: Cadalyst Staff


Viewpoint: Infrastructure Digital Twins — From Vision to Reality, From Idea to Action

As digital twins advance, what do you need to know? Advice from Bentley Systems founder Keith Bentley can help you get started.

By Keith Bentley

Digital twins are rapidly advancing from vision to reality. Our industry is quickly catching on to the significant gains that can be realized through their use; many organizations have already put digital twin ideas into action, and many more are preparing to do so. According to the research and advisory firm Gartner, half of all large industrial companies are expected to use digital twins in some form by 2021.

There are many proof points that indicate digital twins have entered the mainstream. Here are some key takeaways:

Digital Twin

What Is a Digital Twin?

The term digital twin is commonly used now, and infrastructure professionals are beginning to intuitively understand what a digital twin is and what it does. Bentley Systems did not invent the term or concept of a digital twin. In fact, the term did not even originate from the infrastructure industry. I believe that the concept of digital twin is quite simple: If you have a physical asset, and a digital asset that would represent everything in the physical asset, you could join them together, using the digital one to understand what is happening with the physical asset in the real world.

The one problem, however, is that assets change all the time. Even with a large-scale infrastructure asset, while the entire asset probably does not change all that much, some part of it changes every day. A digital twin must connect from the physical world to the digital world. If you have a digital twin and it does not reflect the current state in the real world, not only is it not going to be valuable, but it could be dangerous. This connection also means that the reverse can be true: the digital world needs to connect to the physical world, allowing you to change the digital representation in preparation for changes that you plan to make to the physical asset.

When thinking about how things change over time, a digital twin is about marrying the two worlds and keeping them in sync. That idea makes a digital twin different from what has been talked about before. While digital twins must have that dimension of time, they must also have context. If you have sensors out in the real world that are telling you what is happening, you should be able to visualize that data with your digital twin. Things like reality capture, such as what Bentley's ContextCapture provides, should be a part of the digital twin.

Simply put, a digital twin is a connection of data sources. Sometimes, those data sources are created by software like design applications. Sometimes, they are combined with other systems.

What Is the Value of a Digital Twin?

The value of a digital twin will grow and multiply when connections are formed. The more of them that are formed, the greater the value is. Digital twins provide opportunities, such as opportunities to improve the processes that exist today. They can help you with costs, safety, resilience, and even your carbon footprint. Read more »

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Keith Bentley is founder and chief technology officer of Bentley Systems.

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Cadalyst Staff

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