In a time of rapid change, with the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry evolving faster than ever, businesses are looking towards technology solutions that provide real-world results for better, faster, and more profitable projects.

The digital twin, a dynamic digital replica of a built asset such as a bridge, campus, city, railway or office building, is one example of digital technology being adopted globally and in Australia.

More than just a collection of 3D models starting from the design phase of a project, the digital twin incorporates sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, and artificial intelligence (AI), feeding real-time data back into the digital models. It evolves with input and gives asset managers new insights.

The digital twin is being used to address complex challenges around urban renewal, sustainable living and digital modernisation, such as Land Use Victoria’s innovative Digital Twin Victoria program in which they are creating a digital twin of the state. The program is using spatial data, digital innovation and artificial intelligence to help Victoria plan for a liveable, sustainable and resilient future.

Benefits of the digital twin

Data and insights enable better outcomes

Building owners want digital data at handover, given the fact that nearly 80 percent of an asset’s lifetime value is realised in operations. When owners can begin operations with a data-rich digital twin made up of objects rather than PDFs and spreadsheets, there is an incredible opportunity to accelerate operational readiness and transform an asset’s life cycle with maintenance and performance data. In the end, the more data the digital twin receives, the more benefits owners and operators can reap.

Across much of the AEC industry, 2D plans and specifications remain the standard deliverable for documents. However, in construction for example, owners often also ask for BIM (Building Information Modelling) without any means to articulate what they need or how they can use it.

The typical result is that project teams spend countless, unbillable hours updating models. And, at the end of the day, these models aren’t even useful to the owner because data is trapped in files.

This analogue, unclassified, and disconnected data is often an insurmountable challenge for owners and operators to monitor, manage, and fine-tune their asset. They are unable to realise the benefits of smart buildings and end up with siloed data and systems, inaccurate information, and a lack of transparency and important insights.

A digital twin can finally solve this handover problem with all the data and insights at the owner and operator’s fingertips.

The digital twin simulates predicted futures

A digital twin is a virtual representation of real-world entities and processes, synchronised at a specified frequency and fidelity. Digital twin systems transform business by accelerating holistic understanding, optimal decision-making and effective action.

Digital twins use real-time and historical data to represent the past and present and simulate predicted futures, enabling better problem solving and smarter outcomes.

Detailed shared information optimises performance

Digital twin technology allows detailed information about a physical object to be shared with a larger number of agents, unconstrained by physical location or time, increasing the benefits of multi-person collaboration. This allows designers and engineers to monitor performance in real-time and tweak operations to optimise them. The virtual and physical digital twins work together to validate the performance of the asset in the field.   

The digital twin evolves with the project rather than remaining static

From the beginning of a project throughout the entire life cycle of an asset, a digital twin continues to live, grow, and provide new insights for better ROI, energy savings, maintenance, and performance. The digital twin can simulate informed decisions based on real-world conditions of the building or asset.

The digital twin is growing globally

The digital twin is growing exponentially on a global scale, with up to 89% of all IoT platforms anticipated to contain some form of digital twinning capability by 2025. The global digital twin market size was valued at USD 3.1 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD 48.2 billion by 2026.

The challenge for digital transformation and how to move forward

Digital transformation (DX) is both a threat to slow-moving companies that don’t embrace it, and a huge opportunity for those that do.

Companies are embracing DX strategically, to gain market share from slower-paced competitors in their space. The COVID pandemic is speeding up the process; adoption of cloud-based technologies, for example, is accelerating, powering more devices and organisations.

Emerging from the pandemic, customers are expecting to bounce back and grow, with companies jockeying for market share and then needing the capacity to handle that influx of business.

However, to effectively adopt DX companies need to change the way they think and operate, and to empower people to use digital tools to improve the company in new ways and help it to achieve goals faster. Here at Autodesk we are committed to helping workers adapt and thrive, and believe employees prosper by adopting a mindset of continuous learning, acquiring the most in-demand skills, and securing the most fulfilling roles.

With the digital twin’s performance data and analysis, AEC firms and owners can optimise energy consumption and time and cost savings on their projects. Digital twin isn’t far off in the future—it’s happening now.


Andy Cunningham, Regional Director, Autodesk (Australia & New Zealand)