The Evolution of Digital Twins and the Reshaping of Infrastructure Asset Management

Michael Mulcare

Smart Infrastructure Team Leader

Mott MacDonald

11:30 [AM] - 12:15 [PM]

The digital twin is the evolution of systems modeling and simulation. Built on tools originally used for design analysis and system optimization, technological development in the last few decades has substantially expanded the capability of these tools to be applied in real-time providing a level of insight and control impossible before the turn of the century. This presentation will discuss these developments including the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and virtualization that enabled cloud-based analytics and data management. Moreover, the abundance of data these technologies generated demanded a new paradigm for handing the information in a meaningful way driving development of the digital twin.

Digital twin concepts and frameworks will be introduced as well as how they are being used in different industries and different life-cycle stages. Being applied to assets, processes, and systems, digital twins are shortening design time, increasing resilience, improving maintenance performance, and driving system and process optimization. Digital twins are no longer simply operationalized models. Increasingly, multi-domain models (e.g. electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical) are/or artificial intelligence (AI) are being coupled with sensor networks to provide deeper insight into the physical world that would be possible with traditional approaches. Some examples from non-infrastructure sectors will be briefly discussed.

Shifting focus to civil infrastructure, applications for digital twins in the water/wastewater sectors will be discussed on a series of real-world cases.  These include weather analysis and event prediction, flood and blockage prediction in a wastewater collection system, wastewater treatment plant commissioning and performance optimization, asset criticality analysis under changing operating modes, and prediction of watershed water quality associated with combined system overflows. Utilities around the world are developing digital twins to improve operational efficiency, enhance resilience, increase maintenance effectiveness, and raise customer engagement through information sharing.