What are digital twins and how do they work?

Intelligent Building Europe takes place on 12-14 July 2021. Register your interest today to access solutions, expertise and networking opportunities across three days at ExCeL London.


Digital twins enable building managers to create virtual models of any physical environment. Tied to IoT-connected sensors and devices, they allow building managers to make better judgements about how and why a building is used. But what exactly are they, and how do they work?

What is a digital twin?

Digital twins are exactly what they sound like: a digital copy of a physical object. These days, they’re being
used across countless industries to model physical processes and understand how they can be better optimised and how faults and errors can be avoided. 


These go beyond simply 3D models. Digital twins work by taking a potential incident or set of circumstances as an input and producing a prediction of how the physical system would respond as a simulated output. They can learn from real-time data gathered IoT-connected sensors to monitor exactly how a building is operating, and quickly identify anomalies or inefficiencies and intelligently predict how to fix them.

For instance, they are frequently used during the construction and subsequent operation of a warehouse or a factory, to manage the multiple components, machines and people that are working under one roof. They can lower maintenance costs by identifying potential errors and faults, and make processes significantly more efficient.


Using sensors placed around a building, a digital twin can receive accurate, real-world data that can allow it to simulate the physical object in real-time and make even more reliable predictions and produce even better data about usage. A digital twin can even be used before and during a building’s construction in order to make changes and adjustments to its design based on predictions about how it will be used.

How can digital twins influence smart buildings?

Digital twins are becoming a fundamental item on the smart building menu. They’re helping make the transition from smart to intelligent, where systems can actively learn from situations and adapt their processes accordingly. They can, for instance, simulate how a room is used based on room occupancy data, and actively make adjustments to lighting, HVAC and even the room’s layout.


It has huge implications for the way data is measured and used. Before the emergence of digital twins, building managers would have to manage data about different conditions in a number of separated silos. Digital twins can be used to organise data in a single location—paired, of course with robust security measures to keep things safe from cyber threats—to make ultra-accurate simulations that take in account various, hitherto discrete measurements.


It’s also possible to use a digital twin to remotely make adjustments and perform maintenance without any kind of human interaction. Through the use of sensors and machine learning, the twin could react to anomalies in real-time based on predictions it has simulated about what threat that anomaly might pose.


According to some studies, digital twins could see firms win a 20% reduction in operating costs as processes and maintenance take place increasingly efficiently and seamlessly.

Learn more at Intelligent Building Europe 2021

Digital twins are complex systems, and firms are understandably adopting them at different paces and to different extents. To learn more about the implications of smart building technology and how digital twins can enhance the way your organisation operates its premises or leads the construction of a new workplace, attend Intelligent Building Europe 2021. Taking place on 12-14 July 2021 at ExCeL London, it hosts a comprehensive seminar programme and a scale replica of a smart office, so you can learn about the new technology and see it in action.