Technology

Willow platform aids creation of ‘digital twin’ buildings

19 September 2018 | By Andrew Pring

Construction is lagging behind other sectors in harnessing the benefits of digital innovation. So says an Australian company which has developed a digital twin platform for the built environment it believes will revolutionise the industry.

Willow – created by Sydney-based self-styled “digital design and construction company” Ridley – is helping real estate clients in Australia, the US, and more recently the UK to move into the digital age by making every property a “smart” building.

Josh Ridley, CEO of Ridley, says: “The property and infrastructure industry is on the verge of its own ‘Google’ moment. I’m not talking about small-scale disruption, rather an entirely new ball game when it comes to managing buildings and delivering connected customer experiences.

“The technology exists to create a ‘digital twin’ for every structure on the planet. This will turn buildings from individual assets into part of a wider, digitally connected eco-system. By continually tracking and gathering data, a digital twin will provide the information required to slash resources and energy needed to run even the largest of facilities. It will empower managers to automate many tasks, and reduce the risk of human error.”

He adds: “A complete digital replica of the physical building means we will be able to improve the cash value of our assets and reduce their impact on the environment. Around the world, spaces will provide better services to tenants and facilitate ongoing improvements through big data analytics.”

Willow ensures data is not lost through the phases of design, construction, handover and operation, by managing the creation of a digital twin replica for construction projects. Using its self-developed digital twin platform to capture all data within the building, including spatial, live and static data, it creates a “single source of truth”.

Protecting this data enables it to be combined with real-time, live building data from building systems and then leveraged within the Willow platform by asset owners, contractors, consultants, facilities maintenance teams and tenants throughout a building’s lifecycle.

Says Ridley: “We’re trying to change the way people experience assets and buildings. We want to replace the current clunky silo-driven technologies and instead use open-source data, in the way that Google maps does, and make it available to the owner and user in a way that’s never been done before.”

The digital twin for the built environment goes well beyond the scope of a traditional BIM tool. Where BIM stops at asset handover, a digital twin draws on real-time data that spans the entire lifecycle of the project – from inception, to design, into construction, operation, facilities management and user experience. In doing so, valuable historical and live data is captured to provide predictive, actionable insights for asset owners and operators, improving operational efficiencies and asset value.

Dean Williams, digital project manager at Ridley, says: “The issue at the moment is that design and construction teams are collecting a wealth of information which is not utilised in the operation phase of an asset. Willow collects, stores and visualises not only this data, but also live data from building management systems within ‘the digital twin’.

“No one then has to hunt for old manuals to discover how to maintain their asset, it’s all visible within one single pane of glass – the Willow platform.”

Williams says Willow is making good progress with real estate managers in Australia and the US. One of its biggest partners is Investa, an Australian developer of institutional grade office real estate, controlling assets worth more than $11bn.

“As well as our big name developer clients here and in the States, we’re working in Europe with several companies including a major Continental rail company, where we’re helping predict their maintenance requirements to ensure maximum ‘up time’ across their network.”

Willow is focusing on new premium, global real estate and infrastructure at the moment but aims to help owners and users across their entire portfolio of assets in the near future.

We want to replace the current clunky silo-driven technologies and instead use open-source data, in the way that Google maps does, and make it available to the owner and user in a way that’s never been done before.– Josh Ridley, CEO, Ridley