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Digital Twin Builds Our Sustainable Infrastructure

Today, infrastructure construction and operations account for approximately 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions—in some cases more, depending on how you define infrastructure. The bottom line is we have now less than 10 years to transform our world and achieve the sustainable development goals we set to accomplish by 2030.

At YII (Year in Infrastructure), which was held December 1-2, Greg Bentley, CEO, Bentley Systems, and Matthias Rebellius, CEO, Siemens Building Technologies, discussed some of the challenges regarding future proofing existing infrastructure. Bentley pointed to the fact that Europe can’t possibly meet the net zero goals without electrifying all of the remaining diesel rail networks. He says,

In fact, I think it needs to get done 10 times faster, literally, than it has been done up until now.

Enter technology, more specifically the digital twin, which is set to transform the way construction companies build infrastructure in the years ahead. Grand View Research says the global digital-twin market is expected to grow at a rate of 42.7% from 2021 to 2028. The market experienced a slight slump in 2020 owing to the shutting down of manufacturing sites, production plants, and other factories in the first half of the year triggered by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, due to the varied applications of digital twins, the market is poised for exponential growth.

The opportunities for the digital twin are endless. As one example, at YII, Bentley points to what is happening in Singapore with digital twins and a reality mesh model of Singapore. It started with 160,000 high-resolution images and used ContextCapture, in this case, to produce a reality mesh for the whole country at a 0.1-meter accuracy. And it used Orbit 3DM to incorporate more than 24 terabytes of data covering all the public roads in Singapore.

This will support nationwide sustainable infrastructure projects and the methodology will save more than $20 million and a year and four months. What’s more, it can repeat this.

That is perhaps one of the most exciting things about digital twins. While digital twins on new projects are important, they are also important on existing projects. I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Greg Bentley for a candid, one-on-one interview on The Peggy Smedley Show.

Greg had this to share with me,

” The reason I am particularly excited, and our users are, about digital twins to empower this transformation in our climate and decarbonization is that the most immediate contribution we can make to better infrastructure measured by environmental quality is from our existing infrastructure assets.”

Later, he so aptly says,

“The infrastructure of the future is the infrastructure we have now. We have to extend its life safely and securely and maintain this fitness-for-purpose. This digital twin opportunity brings together so many aspects of hardware, sensors, cameras … that at Bentley Systems we think the best thing we can do is help there be a cloud-service platform—we call it the iTwin Platform—to enable this ecosystem. We won’t even be able to imagine how many can participate it in an opportune way.”

Bentley Systems’ iTwin Platform is an open cloud platform to enable digital twin applications across the infrastructure lifecycle. It provides APIs (application programming interfaces) and services to help developers create digital twin applications for project teams and owner-operators to create, visualize, and analyze digital twins of infrastructure assets. One of the key differentiators here lies in the open platform. An open platform can help integrate so many different sources of data to become a true digital twin.

“The reason we go so far as to have an open-source toolkit to take advantage is because the lifetime of infrastructure is so long—not only the projects, but especially the infrastructure assets—that it makes sense to want to future proof the solution,” says Bentley. “The data associated with the digital twin of infrastructure is what is valuable. It isn’t our data. It is the data that goes along with the asset and the owner/operator, and our open platform can assure that that digital twin is future proof in terms of resilience and adaptation …”

The future is bright, with the digital twin. As Bentley tells me, “This year of infrastructure is the year of concerns about environmental along with economic considerations.” Here’s to a more prosperous future and a bright 2022. We hope you will join in building a better future for all of us.

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