Digital Twins Demystified: Unveiling Real Value Amidst The Noise

  • Blog
  • Smart Buildings

Digital Twins Demystified: Unveiling Real Value Amidst The Noise

The term ‘digital twin’ has gained traction in the real estate sector after originating in product design and finding applications in industrial domains. This technology pledges to deliver a tantalizing breadth of potential benefits across the building life cycle. However, digital twins face the challenge of steering clear of the ranks of overhyped innovations that have not fully realized their promised value, such as the metaverse, 3D printing and blockchain. As such, it is crucial to assess the real-world applications of this technology, to discern its true value and separate fact from fiction. The recently published Verdantix report – Strategic Focus: The Value Proposition For Smart Building Digital Twins – extracts the tangible advantages of various digital twin implementation scenarios across numerous asset types and use cases.

Our research reveals that the value of digital twins is most pronounced in complex building types. Consequently, firms in the healthcare, higher education and transportation industries have taken the lead in adopting digital twins for their facilities. These buildings often cater to diverse user groups, are data-heavy environments, and have multiple interconnected systems and equipment. Digital twin technology offers substantial benefits for these facilities by ingesting and managing critical information across a plethora of sources, and serving as a virtual testing ground to enhance multifaceted building operations.

Our research further uncovered that the value of a digital twin exponentially increases as more use cases are considered and synergies are found. For instance, when occupancy data are integrated with energy management, they can improve HVAC and lighting control by coordinating with space utilization patterns. Likewise, by leveraging asset performance insights for sustainability management, a digital twin can simulate the impact of retrofit options to prioritize the most efficient equipment upgrades. The consolidation of various aspects of functionality in this unified tool combines previously siloed information, unveiling fresh contextual insights and applications.

However, digital twins are not a magic bullet by themselves. This technology requires an assortment of experts to set up, maintain and extract value from the twin. This can be attributed to the intricate nature of digital twins, their ongoing maintenance requirements, and the fact that, for the majority of clients, they are still in the pilot project phase. Verdantix recommends that digital twin buyers work closely with service providers, systems integrators and advisors who best understand this novel solution category, and who can fill the skills gap for prospective customers. Their expertise can help with the implementation of digital twin applications that deliver immediate return on investment, thereby substantiating the technology’s value and dispelling any ‘hype’ claims.  

To learn more about the concept of digital twins, how they have emerged as a transformative tool in the real estate industry, and practical applications of this technology, read Verdantix Digital Twin Essentials: A Guide For Real Estate Professionals (2023 Issue) and Verdantix Strategic Focus: The Value Proposition for Smart Building Digital Twins.

Amelia Feehan

Industry Analyst

Amelia is an Industry Analyst in the Verdantix Smart Buildings practice. Her current research agenda focusses on IoT platforms to improve building performance. Prior to joining Verdantix, Amelia worked as a façade engineer at Arup where she gained experience in sustainable building design and building information modelling. She holds a MEng in Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering from Trinity College Dublin.