What is a Digital Twin?
According to Gartner “A digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world entity or system” Gartner also states “Data from multiple digital twins can be aggregated for a composite view across a number of real-world entities.
Is this definition of a Digital Twin correct?
Based on this definition the view that 3D BIM (Building Information Model) data equals a Digital Twin may not be correct.
In the real world, BIM is represented in multiple formats, systems, and data sets. For example, the concept of BIM (Building Information Model) is often thought of as singular, ‘the one BIM to rule them all’. However real-world design involves multiple BIM databases from each design discipline and more often with different software applications.
If Gartner’s definition is correct, then the Digital Twin is not confined to a singular data source or system. Nor is it only a 3D model. In most projects, there are other data sources that can be considered both primary and supporting to any 3D data model. The design brief is a critical narrative that defines the scope and objectives of the project. The contract and specifications are also critical data sets which in many cases are primary to any 3D models.
Other written elements include the safety in design risk assessments and special performance-based design reports. If this logic is expanded to the operational phase then written building manuals are the summation of all the design and build data which covers not only 3D as-built drawings but also the written narrative to explain how the new facilities are designed to be used, maintained, and replaced.
BIMs function as part of the Digital Twin
The concept of BIM being used as part of a Digital Twin is well understood by major facilities organisations. While promoting the use of 3D BIM for their new projects their own policies and contracts demand full building manuals with instructions and supporting evidence on how to safely use, maintain, and repair the new facilities.
These major organisations also understand their regulatory responsibilities to demonstrate compliance and provide proper information to their staff, contractors, and facility users.
What is often forgotten is that the real world is used by people. And for information to be useful it needs to be accessible and easily understood.
So, it is likely that the Digital Twin will be more like triplets (3), or sextuplets (6) or could be deemed a large group of first and second cousins. And that many of the first cousins are not purely 3D images and object-centric data but also encompass 2D drawings, written reports, and the critical narrative found in the building manuals.