Did you know many early adopters of PropTech 4.0 are using Digital twins to boost their real estate sales? If you are reading this, you probably want to know how you can benefit too.
Do you know what the real estate, construction, manufacturing, engineering, and transportation industries currently have in common?
They are about to undergo a massive transformation by digital twins, improving their operations and sale processes.
Now you may be wondering, what does digital twin mean? And why are real estate businesses flocking towards such new and forward-thinking technological advancements?
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Digital twin in commercial real estate essentially refers to a virtual copy of a building or space. Generally, it exists as a file within a software program updated frequently with crucial information from the physical structure. In other words, a digital twin is the exact virtual representation of residential and commercial buildings in the physical world.
A very recent example is Matterport inc. Being listed on the Nasdaq under the symbol of MTTR.
During 2020 Matterport saw a surge in demand in their 3D mapping products, which help many photographers, construction businesses, and pretty much anyone in the real estate industry creating digital twins to some degree to support the sales process.
Looking at their recent merge with Gores Holdings VI backed by Alec Gores, they managed to raise $640 million for further development and expansion. All around, making digital twins easy to access for the general business.
BIM has been part of real estate and architecture for many years now, and it’s considered part of the digital twin flow. Virtual staging services are part of the digital twin trend toolbox.
While BIM systems are more oriented towards the construction and architecture sectors, digital staging is another tool accustomed to help sales in real estate.
For example, the digital staging of a building or room uses the same process to develop a digital twin version of a residential or commercial 3D tour using special 3D staging applications.
Digital twin in Construction projects
For example, one virtually staged room is a digital twin of the real-life space about to be put on the market. It is the same for the construction (building); that is, we can virtually stage a finished version of a building in a construction site even before the ground is dug.
Before / After Digital Twin of a Construction Project
Like choosing among many bespoke virtual staged properties, a digital twin comes with a wide range of data related to a specific building in the real estate business.
The Singapore’s Digital Twin Smart City Project
The Singapore’s Digital Twin Smart City Project is one the latest and biggest digital twin projects in Singapore. A perfect example where technology, engineering and architecture meets in the present-future. The project is run by Smart District Division. JTC. You can check out the Singapore’s Smart District here and design by WOHA architects.
Everything begins in 2006 when the Singapore government decided it was time to act. Singapore is quickly running out of space; hence, the DTS (Deep Tunnel Sewerage System) comes to life and is a very futuristic concept.
DTS aims to reduce plant and waste management facilities on the ground and move them underground in a series of 100km tunnels and shafts, which will free up after the project is completed around 300 hectares of land ~ 3km2.
Due to the space-saving that will come with the project, the Smart District naturally comes as a next step of the project.
The idea behind the digital platform is to allow the integration of smart systems with everyday life on a large scale.
Through the savings of workforce and energy consumption but still maintaining the quality of people’s lives, the project’s ultimate aim is to maximize the work-life balance where people work less but more efficiently (less waiting time, faster transpiration to and from the workplace).
Drastically cutting these time-wasting parts of people’s work-life can be the key to a modern sustainable and productive society.
Digital twin of Wellington City
The digital twin of Wellington City is another excellent example of technologies to drive data visually in modern cities. As a result, Wellington city was among the finalist of the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge.
Global Mayors Challenge is a competition about innovation that identifies the most ambitious ideas in response to Covid 19 developed by cities worldwide.
Out of 630 applications from 99 countries, only 50 projects were selected as finalists, and grand prize winners will be announced in early 2022. The prize of 1 million dollars and multi-year technical assistance to implement and scale ideas will be given to 15 of the fifty finalists.
The actual project was build by Buildmedia:
Digital Twin Ecosystems are the future
Also, you can check more digital twin organizations and consortiums in the US: Digital Twin Consortium; Sweden: Digital Twins Centre and the UK: Centre for Digital Built Britain. In addition, more countries are joining the trend with an effort to standardize the way digital twins facilitate knowledge through sharing with the idea to boost understanding of the urban environment, human interaction and technology.
It is possible in the near future for all of us to be able to connect and filter data from within a global ecosystem of cities and make an informed decision about our future steps based on hundreds of data points.
Major Digital Twin Data points
Digital Twin in Real Estate vs. Construction
The most helpful aspect of this technology is its value in keeping up with the ongoing maintenance.
The digital replica gives plant operators a chance to review the areas that need to be fixed without taking a physical tour of the facility. In addition, the constant development of the digital twin trend ensures new data points are added monthly.
Digital Twin Real Estate / Residential
Digital Twin Construction / Commercial
Floor plans / 3D renderings / Sales imagery
Site plans / Master plans / 3D renderings / Concepts
Fire and Lighting sensors
Fire and Lighting sensors
Assets, Staff, Tenants
Assets, Staff, Timelines, Visitors
Performance sales systems and tracking
Sensor data – management systems of buildings
The list is indicative and not full. data points can merge from either sector.
The most helpful aspect of this technology is its value in keeping up with the ongoing maintenance.
The digital replica gives plant operators a chance to review the areas that need to be fixed without taking a physical tour of the facility. The constant development of the digital twin trend ensures new data points are added monthly.
Benefits of Digital Twins in Commercial Real Estate
The critical role played by a digital twin in commercial real estate is to understand a building and forecast and address potential maintenance and performance issues and come up with novel approaches to making more revenue.
Digital twin and office layout analysis
Answer fundamental questions of office layout in seconds with the new intelligent analysis
A digital twin of a building gives property managers real-time data about floor plans, history of issues in the building, maintenance schedules, digitized documentation, and performance data for all equipment.
The software program that runs the system of a digital twin can store all this information in a database.
Then, if any construction issue arises in a building, a designated manager can effortlessly pinpoint the exact file where the data is stored and then link the infrastructure with the applicable solution within the short time possible.
With such effective solutions, the digital twin can revitalize real estate sales because it presents immediate and long-term benefits.
A digital twin of a physical building is a cloud-based solution that allows real estate owners and building operators to gain access to various features of a property remotely at any time.
This facilitates decisions about repairs and maintenance using predictive analytics.
Cut Maintenance Costs
When it comes to the management of facilities, digital twins reduce labor costs associated with a building.
For instance, if a gutter system of a commercial building is damaged, a specialist can quickly identify the fault location using a smartphone.
Establish a Network of Buildings
A system that manages digital twins can be used to create and install a single application that oversees a wide range of real estate properties for sale.
This will enable property owners to use the digital twins to forecast the extent to which the buildings impact one another.
Enhance User Experience
Real estate businesses can develop digital twins to improve customer experience because they facilitate timely troubleshooting.
Creating a connected digital twin will not only help engineers to detect faults but also offer better products.
Refine the Development Process
Building a digital twin requires a constant comparison between the virtual design and the work carried out in a physical building.
To transform the building into a replica of the digital twin, the development process must be refined to match the initial idea closely.
Digital twins can drive sustainability by collecting, organizing, and displaying data to produce a representative model of the physical world. Data is everything, but if it’s not organized, it can mean nothing.
Quantifying the multiple data sources to understand the impact of various decisions can help control greenhouse gas emissions, waste collection, and sound pollution.
Remember, digital twins, are still under construction. However, even though its market is still relatively small, the technology has already shown its potential in various industries related to real estate, as outlined in the below examples.
There are around 1.5 million people globally, directly and indirectly, involved with managing and working in the industry to put things in perspective.
Digital Twin in Architecture
The architecture industry along with construction are the biggest adopters of the trends so far. The 3D software industry leader Autodesk has even an entire section on their website dedicated to digital twins in architecture.
INTANDEM is their test proof of concept for a cloud-based digital twin technology platform.
The person in control can enable and observe tracking of rich data by harnessing BIM information channels and exporting it to owners, collaborators, and contractors.
Digital Twins in Utilities
Water utility companies can use digital twins for an uninterrupted water supply to be better prepared during emergencies.
They can use sensors to capture data on the performance of water systems and create virtual versions. In addition, the utility industry can use data from information systems, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
AQUAVISTA TM is a perfect example. The UK utility company uses digital twins to predict water quality issues and ensure water infrastructure resilience. It uses sensor data to make virtual models that monitor water supply systems in real-time.
Digital Twins in Manufacturing
Manufacturing companies use data from sensors connected to machines to create digital twins that simulate the production process. Such simulations are improved with machine learning algorithms to monitor machine operation in real-time, identify problems, and forecast results.
EEF using animation explaining the benefits of being a member via a digital twin animation
Unilever PLC uses digital twins to make its production process more efficient. The manufacturer creates virtual models of its plants to identify potential anomalies promptly.
It uses IoT sensors to capture real-time data, including motor speed and temperature, to prevent production stoppages and limit processes that do not meet quality standards.
Digital Twins in Retail
When creating digital versions of an in-store, retailers rely on multiple data sources collected by intelligent shelves, motion sensors, and RFID readers.
This allows retailers to examine customer traffic and their buying behavior. In addition, to generate supply chain models, retailers rely on real-time sensor data, along with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) data.
Credit: @Energy Electrical Integrations Crop.
French supermarket chain Intermarché is a perfect example. The retailer used data from its sales systems and IoT-enabled shelves to design a digital twin of a physical store.
As a result, store managers can now effortlessly manage inventory and test the success of various store layouts.
Digital Twins in Healthcare
In the healthcare industry, digital twins (often called augmented reality) play a crucial role in designing medical devices, such as vena cava filters, which need the correlation of two virtual replicas: the patient’s digital twin and the medical device’s digital twin.
One of the many other examples is linking the two models helps healthcare researchers to examine how patients react to the device when installed into their bodies.
A perfect example is the Living Heart Project, which creates customized digital human heart models based on MRI images and ECG data.
The project leverages the digital twin heart to replicate in a living organism and improve the designs of cardiological gadgets.
The proof of concept!
Digital Twin Buildings
A digital twin of a building is not static but develops gradually with the lifespan of the physical structure. To put this into perspective, we can compare it with a newly finished and empty rental property that requires virtual staging.
While the journey taken by a virtual stager would entail the identification of furniture required to fill all rooms, creating a digital twin ideally starts with identifying the use cases before designing it.
After / Before Digital Twin Staging of Vacant rental property
When designing a digital twin building, you need data for simulations, design optimization material, sustainability evaluations, etc. As the project develops, you will also need data for maintenance and operational purposes, including information on the electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems.
However, existing buildings require a different approach that entails multiple data sources about the building. Usually, such information could be burdened with many problems depending on the accuracy of the updated changes made to the building over the years.
As such, designing a digital twin of an existing building should start with its ROI, which will effectively address any problems by focusing on reducing energy use, extending equipment lifespan, etc.
Therefore, to develop a functional digital twin building effectively, you need an open Application Programming Interface (API) to seamlessly interact with the system used to operate the master digital twin.
How Digital Twins Will Troubleshoot Construction Projects
As the productivity of the real estate industry falls, the demand for buildings is increasing.
This has prompted players in the construction industry to start adopting digital twins to troubleshoot their projects, save millions in construction costs, and test the sustainability of new materials.
By 2030, the output volume of the construction industry will grow to $15.5 trillion. The U.S., China, and India are expected to be at the forefront with 57% growth.
However, the sector experiences four key challenges that the digital twin technology has the potential to address:
A construction company would use a digital twin to test new assets before physically launching them. It would save construction costs that you may incur if you are forced to rectify any problems after completing construction.
Digital twins can also help you foresee a construction anomaly before it happens and provide you with viable solutions to prevent them from taking place.
This also ensures the safety, feasibility, and sustainability of new constructions because you will use the data from the simulated version to test it in real-time.
Since the digital twin reflects the features and performance of the physical twin, you can analyze and optimize them under several scenarios to resolve any issues surrounding the design while perfecting their performance before physically constructing them.
The recent push for construction projects to venture into smart buildings has triggered Microsoft to partner with RealEstateCore, a Swedish association of real estate owners, tech companies, and research groups, to create digital twin solutions that support both existing and new needs of leading real estate portfolios globally.
Azure demonstration – Digital twin project in manufacturing
Real estate players will enjoy improved versions of digital twins and considerable ROI because of better integration, categorization, and reliability of data for creating better digital models of physical buildings.
Microsoft Project bonsai, the “machine teaching” service, brings autonomy to control systems of digital twins to augment building space, activate building features, and support several health and wellness scenarios related to COVID.
Three key scenarios will revolve around the use of digital twins
Basic Level: Asset Monitoring
Creating a digital twin begins with gathering important data that is relevant to the physical building. Such data may include historical sensor data, real-time data, maintenance data, among others. The data is then fed into a digital twin software to create a cloud-based virtual model of the building.
Mid-Level: What-if Simulations
You can enhance the simple models of digital twins with various what-if versions of the building. Accomplishing this allows you to test the virtual model using wide-ranging settings of assets and critical processes until you determine the best operational configuration for both the digital twin.
Advanced Level: AI-enabled Systems
Here, you set up the digital twins with machine learning algorithms fixed with data gathered by sensors. This process allows the AI-enabled systems to instantly identify any exceptional performance and recommend or introduce relevant corrective actions.
Below are 5 key takeaways of digital twins:
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