Smart Buildings and Their Digital Twins
We are entering a time when everything is getting connected, computers are ubiquitous and the amount of data that can be collected, aggregated and analyzed is practically limitless due to cloud architectures. It is now within reach to create a full proxy of a building in the cloud.
Every piece of infrastructure, sensor, personal mobile device, and business process in a building today is a potential source of valuable data for improving operations and user experience. Insightful facilities project teams are beginning to direct it towards the creation and maintenance of digital twins. A digital twin is a dynamic software model of a physical thing or system.
The digital modeling world has been working toward this moment since the first computer-aided design (CAD) tools for drawing symbols and geometries were introduced in the 1960s. Early CAD led to the very sophisticated BIM (building information models) that performance design engineers working in architecture & engineering firms use today to analyze and optimize systems. The big advancement that distinguishes Digital Twin modeling is that it encompasses not just predictive design-phase data, but also time-series data captured from an occupied and operating building.
Digital twins can serve as repositories of data from BIM, building automation systems (BAS) and sensor networks associated with lighting, physical security or other infrastructure. The replicas will come alive as they are fed time-series data from actual operations. A range of analytics packages will be run against the real-time data to glean insight about operations on a continuous basis or on demand by users. The information contained will become more granular as more data is accumulated, organized and interpreted. We’re likely to interface with digital twins by simply viewing a piece of equipment or space via augmented-reality(AR) apps and glasses. Ultimately, anytime anyone has a query about the building, they’ll start by consulting its digital twin.
Consider, for example, representing a building’s chiller in software. The model might start as a simple block diagram showing component parts like condenser, motor, pipes, etc. As you add chiller performance data, the virtual twin becomes more information-rich, like a 3D wireframe view. By adding IoT sensor data, you can get more granular information about aspects of chiller operation. Metaphorically, you’re adding detail, shape and color to the digital twin. As you pull in more data, you can make it more and more like the physical chiller. The digital twin can also include equipment documentation, with links to online resources.
Fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) for specific equipment, like chillers, can be run against a relatively sparse ‘young’ digital twin. When there is need for more granular data on specific aspects of operations, wireless sensors can be placed to gather the information of interest. For example, hot/cold calls from occupants may trigger interest in air supply temperatures at a handful of points. There is no necessity to bring every point captured by a sensor system into a BAS. Likewise, there’s no reason not to keep populating a digital twin with the information. With today’s cloud architectures, the added cost to store and manage the additional data is minimal, and you don’t know what new use for the data will arise in the future.
FDD analytics are an important tool in the arsenal, but they are not the only tool. To optimize chiller operations, for example, you want to be able to query the chiller’s observed heat curve, then adjust the Sequence of Operations (SOO) programming accordingly. Today there are many commercial off-the-shelf statistical programs that do curve fitting. Another category of operational analytics is model-based predictive and prescriptive control algorithms. Fed historical and real-time trend data, these tools look for patterns to predict what will happen next. If predicted performance would result in energy waste or other undesired outcome, they can prescribe actions to course correct, and sometimes affect the necessary adjustments—like changing variable-speed motor settings, for example. These analytics packages are leading the buildings industry closer to machine-learning and AI. Project teams will want to plan for the eventuality of running this type of analytics against the data stored in their digital twin.
How much time-series data would a building project team need to feed its digital twin? If trend data were collected for 50,000 points over five years, about 4.2 terabytes of time-series data would be created. To navigate this enormous data store, a well-defined reference architecture and standard meta tagging system like Project Haystack is needed. As an estimate, about 200MB of Haystack meta data would be sufficient to navigate the 4.2TB of time-series data collected from a 50,000-point building space.
Inherent to the digital twin concept is the idea that its value increases over time. As the information contained gets more granular, you will get more meaningful and reliable results to the analyses run against it, and the what-if scenarios you run through can start to get more complex.
In short, a digital twin platform should accommodate tools we know today, and those to come. It should not be tied to any specific analytics type or brand. The architecture should feature security as well as open, low-friction data interoperability at each level. Software stacks supported by open-source communities provide the safest future growth path today. A digital twin should be designed to scale, evolve and reincarnate for the lifespan of the building it represents.
We also must expect that the digital twin trend is going to accelerate technology disruption and the remaking of many business and industrial processes. Nevertheless, the most forward-thinking facilities project teams are going to embrace the concept. Users of the Connexxion® Platform are already on their way toward creating digital twins. They rely on this scalable, secure data management and data visualization platform to transform and unify disparate data sources, to bridge heterogeneous networks, and to quickly deploy the analytics and other applications that various stakeholders are demanding. With Connexxion as their partner, these users are leading the way into the ‘digital twin’ era of smart building operations.
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UPCOMING REALCOMM WEBINARS
Commercial Real Estate Digital Transformation - Managing the Change - 1/18/2018
The Commercial Real Estate and the Technology industries operate at very different speeds. Real estate is long-term, slow moving, and relies on practices that have been refined over the last 50 years. Tech, on the other hand, moves at lightning speed with constant updates and innovation. This webinar will focus on the extraordinary change management required to digitally transform a commercial real estate organization. Executive sponsorship, accelerated collaboration, dual strategies and other programs that will best enable this transformation will be addressed. In addition to operational changes impacted by tech, the webinar will also cover tech’s influences on other industries’ business models and how that affects the way we use space.
Founder of Realcomm Conference Group, an education organization that produces Realcomm, IBcon and CoRE Tech, the world's leading conferences on technology, automated business solutions, intelligent buildings and energy efficiency for the commercial and corporate real estate industry. As CEO, Jim interacts with some of the largest companies globally pertaining to some of the most advanced and progressive next generation real estate projects under development.
Bob Rybak Is the CIO at Morguard, a leading Real Estate Investment and Property Management firm based in Toronto, Canada. Bob has been an IT professional, entrepreneur and frequent consultant for almost three decades, working in both the public and private sectors. A graduate of the University of Toronto with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Bob's professional experience has spanned many different companies in a wide range of industries.
Sandy Jacolow joined Silverstein Properties in 2011 as Chief Information Officer, a role in which he oversees the technology initiatives that support the company's financial, operations and development, including the World Trade Center, and Silver Suites activities. Sandy has been active in the real estate industry for nearly 35 years with a focus on the institutional advisory, property management and brokerage markets.
Alex Stanton has over 20 years working with in the real estate application space. Currently as VP of Solution Consulting for Yardi Systems, he leads the solution presales team, who work with customers and prospects to explore how to address business needs. Alex’s recent areas of focus has been to work with clients on the real estate specific applications of cloud, mobile, 'big data' and energy.
Marc Petock is a pioneer in leading the Intelligent/Smart Buildings and M2M movements pushing the industry forward and has contributed to transforming and changing the Intelligent Buildings and M2M (now IoT) industries. As VP, Marketing for both Lynxspring and its sister company, Connexx Energy, heleads corporate and product marketing, strategy, brand management, PR and communications that support the company’s strategic and growth initiatives. Previously, Marc was VP, Global Marketing and Communications at Tridium. Marc is also a contributing author, noted speaker and recognized industry leader having earned several industry accolades. He serves on the board of directors of Connexx Energy and Project Haystack; is an advisor to the Realcomm and a contributing editor to automatedbuildings.com.
Dave Clute has been AEC/FM/IT Design Professional for over 35 years. He spent 10 years at Cisco Systems and 5 years at Zurich Insurance before he joined ESD in 2017. Dave is currently leading the Intelligent Building Practice for ESD Global.
Scott Sidman has 14 years of CRE technology experience leading sales and marketing efforts. He is responsible for supporting company growth goals and assuring company and product direction aligns with market needs as well as leads. Scott is CRE tech evangelist and host of a CRE Tech Talks podcast.