Infrastructure Digital Twins and Future-proofing Are Focus at the Year in Infrastructure Conference

Author photo: Sharada Prahladrao
BySharada Prahladrao
Company and Product News

For the second consecutive year, Bentley Systems’ Year in Infrastructure conference was hosted virtually. The 2021 event, held in December, focused on projects that were winners of Bentley’s Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure in 19 categories. As in previous years, the spotlight was on digital twins. Keith Bentley, Founder and CTO of Bentley, joined Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley, to review a few of the finalist presentations and for the first time, they presented the Founders’ Honorees. They highlighted the achievements of organizations or individuals whose undertakings contribute notably to infrastructure advancement and/or environmental and social development goals. The full list of 2021 Founders’ Honorees can be seen here.

At the conference, Keith provided examples of how an open digital twin platform can help integrate many different sources of data and incorporate future sources of information without having to rebuild the digital twin. Digital twins have the potential for millions of use cases. No one knows what a digital twin is going to be like five years from now, and no single vendor can possibly address all those use cases or foresee how those use cases will evolve. Industry wants the flexibility to change as requirements change and as things become possible that were not possible before. “An open platform becomes the mechanism by which we fuse all the information sources and the real-time sources to make it a true digital twin,” he said. Also, an open platform facilitates future-proofing, i.e. adapting to changes.

Greg and Keith began by honoring a place – Singapore – where the last in-person conference was held in 2019.

Singapore Goes Digital

Singapore, one of the most advanced countries in the world, is advancing digital twins and going digital in infrastructure projects. To ensure the effective use of the country’s limited land resources, the Singapore Land Authority has created a detailed reality mesh model of the city state. Using ContextCapture, they processed over 160,000 high-resolution images into the mesh, which has an accuracy of 0.1-meter. The application allowed them to manually edit the mesh, ensuring that uniquely shaped buildings were accurately represented. They also used Orbit 3DM to incorporate over 24 terabytes of data covering all the public roads in Singapore. This detailed mesh model will help to support new creative initiatives and sustainable infrastructure projects nationwide. The infrastructure projects in Singapore, which includes Terminal 5 at the Changi Airport by JTC Corporation, are a good learning base for other global projects. Also, there’s a new water facility at Changi Airport, where PlantSight is being used for preliminary design review. Keith added that Bentley began announcing and talking about digital twins in 2017 in Singapore; so, it would be right to say that digital twins have grown in and from Singapore.

The projects in the Honorees list highlighted how going digital and having digital twins have increased efficiency levels and productivity. Here are a few examples.

Mott MacDonald and National Grid: National Grid in the UK is responsible for the upgrade of London’s power tunnels. Mott MacDonald is the digital integrator, and they are using ProjectWise as the collaborative platform across the six companies that are working on this production environment with the client.  Keith said that digital twins require good digital data, and a digital integrator is vital for that. Mott MacDonald’s role as a digital integrator to improve the supply chain and deliver a digital twin is going to be the way forward for a lot of projects, he added.  

Digital Twin Projects in China: CNOOC – The objective is to improve remote operations facilities. To do this, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) created a reality mesh digital twin and saved 1 million renminbi in transportation costs. The plan is to connect it to the Bentley iTwin platform for operations and maintenance.

China Three Gorges Renewables Group: Shanghai Investigation, Design, & Research Institute (SIDRI) did a pilot project on digital twins for the offshore wind industry. To do this, an open digital platform was required to visualize and support the models during facility management, and Bentley’s iTwin applications were deployed to integrate the construction and the operations data for intelligent plant management.

Keith said that the project is a wonderful example of how an open platform can help integrate so many different sources of data and become the mechanism by which all the information sources and the real-time sources are fused to make it a true digital twin.

Digital Twins and Going Digital

Among the finalists in the 2021 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure, 36 percent of them used reality modeling. The projects in the Founders’ Honorees list established the basis for a digital twin from continuous surveying, ContextCapture, and reality modeling. Five years ago it wasn’t possible to create an as-operated evergreen model that can be continuously surveyed and kept up to date. “The reality modeling aspect of digital twins and going digital are reaching prime time,” said Greg. In this context they spoke about Microsoft Mesh and Bentley’s iTwin developed on the NVIDIA Omniverse platform. 4D visualization will make the iTwin even more useful for infrastructure digital twins, because reviewing the design alternatives and progression, planning the construction modeling, and then charting the digital chronology time slider into the future for predicting and understanding operations and resilience are all very valuable for global industrial growth.

Keith Bentley on Infrastructure Digital Twins and Future-proofing

“A digital twin is a realistic and dynamic digital representation of a physical asset, process, or system in the built or natural environment,” said Keith. The digital twin has to keep track of what's happened, what's currently there, and what's going to happen in the future or may happen in the future. This is future-proofing. And because the future is nonlinear, many permutations are possible, which makes digital twin technology a difficult challenge. While most of the projects that were showcased at the Year in Infrastructure Conference were at different stages of their digital twin implementation, all of them used the Bentley iTwin platform, which includes iTwin.js, iTwin Design Insights, iTwin Design Review, and iTwin Design Validation.


Watch on YouTube

Watch Keith talk about an open approach to digital twins

The pandemic forced companies to do things differently and accelerated their pace of going digital. “The digital twin challenge is all the more important as we now start to recognize that we must make our infrastructure better, not new infrastructure. Throw it away and build new is not going to happen. We have to make it work better, for a better world,” said Keith.



Engage with ARC Advisory Group

Representative End User Clients
Representative Automation Clients
Representative Software Clients