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Bentley Systems says digital twins can help Capex, Opex projects

American firm's Brian Robins says digital twins will 'advance beyond Bim' to support asset management in 12-18 months

Digital twins are soft copies of real assets.
Digital twins are soft copies of real assets.

Digital twins are expected to support the planning and delivery of both Capex and Opex projects over the next 12-18 months, with an industry expert from Pennsylvania, US-headquartered technology company Bentley Systems stating that the emerging building technology would rapidly advance “beyond building information modelling (Bim)” to support the convergence of engineering, operations, and information systems.

Broadly, digital twins are viewed as soft copies of real assets and processes, which can be used to review, predict, and improve the performance of their real-world counterparts.

The global oil and gas sector is already adopting digital twin technology to improve efficiencies, and Bentley Systems’ vice president of product and industry marketing, Brian Robins, said in the asset management sector, the concept would gain traction amid the “confluence” of engineering digitisation, which is being supported through 3D visualisation, reality modelling, mixed reality, and geotechnical engineering innovation across the global industry.

“Digital twins will span the entire asset life cycle,” Robins said in a white paper by Bentley Systems.

“For Capex projects, digital twins will provide a risk-free way of simulating construction, logistics, and fabrication sequences with the supply chain, as well as optimising design for passenger flows and enabling stakeholders to visualise emergency evacuations and resilience against flooding or extreme weather conditions.

“For Opex, performance digital twins will truly become the organisation’s 3D/4D operating system, combining data from continuous surveys, photogrammetry, Lidar and sensors, and tracking changes to assets on a timeline.

“This allows those responsible for asset management to roll the digital representation of the infrastructure asset and related real-world conditions forward or backward in time.”

In addition to promoting transparency, Robins explained, digital twins could also help asset owners and operators anticipate and avoid potential issues.

Digital tools such as drones and robots, and artificial intelligence-fitted equipment, could further automate tasks such as inspection.

“However, there are challenges to scale the technologies from proof of concept to network and city scale, as well as federate with other/national digital twins,” Robins said, adding: “The key success factor will be openness.

“The reality is that data in geographic information systems, and Cad or Bim tools, is often siloed. Unless data can be aligned and synchronised, it will remain ‘dark data’, and any digital twin will not have veracity or fidelity.

“The platform for digital twins must be an open connected data environment,” Robins added, explaining that such an environment could “federate multiple live data sources” and support operations across platforms (mobile, web, or desktop) and location (office, jobsite, or field).

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Construction Week - Issue 746
Jul 20, 2019