A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset, process, or system, as well as the engineering information that allows us to understand and model its performance. Put simply, a digital twin is a detailed digital model that is the counterpart of a physical asset. Digital twins are continuously updated with data from multiple sources, which is what makes them different from static, 3D models.
Digital twins are becoming one of the most important technology trends for transportation infrastructure because of their potential to improve design, visually enhance collaboration and increase asset reliability and performance. They can be considered the backbone of infrastructure decision-making as they provide up-to-date information about projects, their status and the risks associated with them. Digital twins provide civil engineers with the ability to visualise assets across their entire lifecycle to track change and to perform analysis that optimises asset performance.
Those involved in conceptualisation and operations, as well as contractors, construction firms and road and bridge owner-operators can leverage digital twins to allow project teams to gain more visibility into design. Digital twins also allow management and owners to understand the implications of design decisions early in the process and help them achieve improved performance across the asset lifecycle.
During the planning, design and construction of a new road, bridge or major upgrade, project digital twins can optimise the design in line with operational requirements and reduce the risk of delayed or nonconformant construction through simulation. Project digital twins can also improve logistics and communication within the supply chain, which can help maintain the schedule and budget.
It is during operations that performance digital twins become the most valuable. Owner-operators gain insight when inputs from internet of things (IoT) connected devices, such as drones that deliver continuous surveys to provide real-time tracking of asset changes in real-world conditions, add to the digital representation. This transparency helps owner-operators prioritise and improve maintenance or upgrades.
When artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is applied, analytics visibility gained from big data can provide insight and immersive digital operations to enhance the effectiveness of operations and maintenance. The upshot is that access to performance digital twins might enable staff to anticipate and avoid issues before they arise or improve their reaction times.
With the application of drones and robots along with AI-based computer vision automating inspection tasks using a digital twin, experts can conduct inspections remotely, increase productivity, leverage the value of specialists and reduce the risks that come with exposing team members to dangerous environments.
Bentley sees its users going digital with digital twins, advancing workflows by using intelligent components and digital context to improve project delivery and enable assets to perform better, every day and all around the world.
The Pergenova Consortium Company chose Italferr to design an emergency replacement for the 1,182-metre Morandi Bridge over the Polcevera River in Genoa, Italy. The collapsed bridge closed three rail lines and added 120 kilometres to road travel. Consequently, rebuilding it as quickly as possible was critical for the city’s long-term economic and cultural health – and construction would need to begin as the design progressed.
To ensure the accuracy of the design while staying on schedule, Italferr used Bentley’s building information modelling (BIM) methodology and created a digital twin of the viaduct to streamline workflows throughout the design phase. To achieve this goal, Italferr incorporated detailed information for construction and operation into the model, as there was little time to significantly alter the model after the design phase. The organisation also established an open, connected data environment to promote collaboration among the multidiscipline project team and ensure a single source of truth. Bentley applications also helped Italferr define standards, templates and basic criteria to create a digital twin and a unified 3D information model that forms the basis for design, construction and operation.
Leveraging BIM and creating a digital workflow with Bentley applications allowed Italferr to visualise the design with a much higher degree of quality and speed than traditional 2D designs. Using Bentley’s BIM solutions and digital twins, Italferr reduced design costs, improved decision-making, increased accuracy, and improved multidiscipline communication.
Digital twins enable you to visualise infrastructure assets across the entire asset lifecycle, track change and perform analysis to optimise asset performance. Bentley’s infrastructure digital twins combine engineering data, reality data and IoT data for a holistic view of infrastructure above ground and below ground. Immersive visualisation, visibility and analytics help you achieve a deeper understanding of your infrastructure assets – so that you can improve your decision-making for better outcomes.
Meg Davis is industry marketing director for road and highways at Bentley Systems.
For more information about Bentley’s use of digital twins, click here.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.
Share this story