Digital twins are primed to revolutionize the infrastructure industry | 7wData

Digital twins are primed to revolutionize the infrastructure industry | 7wData

Elaborating on some points from my previous post on building innovation ecosystems, here’s a look at how digital twins, which serve as a bridge between the physical and digital domains, rely on historical and real-time data, as well as machine learning models, to provide a virtual representation of physical objects, processes, and systems.

Keith Bentley of software developer Bentley Systems describes digital twins as the biggest opportunity for IT value contribution to the physical infrastructure industry since the personal computer, and they’re used in a wide variety of industries, lending enterprises insights into maintenance and ways to optimize manufacturing supply chains.

By 2026, the global Digital twin market is expected to reach $48.2 billion, according to a report by, and the infrastructure and architectural engineering and construction (AEC) industries are integral to this growth. Everything from buildings, bridges, and parking structures, to water and sewer lines, roadways and entire cities are ripe for reaping the value of digital twins.

Here’s a look at how digital twins are disrupting the status quo in the infrastructure industry — and why IT and innovation leaders at infrastructure and AEC enterprises would be wise to capitalize on them.

For decades in the AEC industry, work has been performed on a project-by-project basis using computer-aided design (CAD) and more recently building information modeling (BIM) software to create specific 2D and 3D deliverables. The industry is now moving toward integrated suites of tools and industry clouds, which open the door to new business models, industry ecosystems, and more collaborative ways of working.

As the use of digital twins advances, new possibilities for annuity revenues are opening up as well for AEC firms to manage and maintain infrastructural digital twins for their clients.

These new business models are disrupting the infrastructure industry and reconfiguring opportunities as the industry adjusts to new ways of working. Digital twins will likely do for the infrastructure space what various platform models have already done for music, books, retail, and gig economy services.

Due to the cloud-based, platform business model, possibilities will open up not only for operations and maintenance services around core Digital twin models, but for value-added digital services wrapped around these twins such as visualization, collaboration, physical and cybersecurity, data analytics, and AI-enabled preventative maintenance.

Plus, infrastructure developers can partner with digital twin providers and the surrounding ecosystem of service providers to benefit from the sale of the physical asset as well as the provisioning of ongoing digital services via digital twin models. Over time, these subscription-based services could add a significant amount to the original sale price. For example, a real estate project of 100,000 square feet could net $1 million in add-on revenues over five years from digital twin-related services, and nearly 80% of an asset’s lifetime value is realized in operations.

The full suite of digital twin use cases encompasses many areas, but one of the largest is in helping infrastructure become more efficient, resilient, and sustainable. With 70% of the world’s carbon emissions having some link to the way infrastructure is either planned, designed, built, or operated, digital twins can help with visibility and insights for real-time decisions. Using our earlier example, if a 100,000 square foot building has $200,000 in annual maintenance costs, the digital twin may save 25% from that and add additional value of $160,000 in terms of environmental, security, and useability benefits like booking of meeting rooms, space utilization analytics, and process visibility.

Another use case relates to worker safety.

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