MDTI & Digital Twins

What are they good for?


WINNIIO is developing a self-learning, edge-native, local control-first, smart control system for radiators and smart heating systems in Sweden. The solution can be deployed in hours, and is using small footprint AI/ML libraries to learn what the building is doing without needing any upfront data. Currently in roll-out stage across multiple assets in the Nordics.

“In every other business we make sure that it works first in a development environment, and then a staging environment and then when we know that it works, and is stable enough, that’s when we deploy it. Why do we accept anything else for real estate?”

– Head of IT, Progressive Real Estate Owner in Sweden

Leveraging the value of Digital Twins at different stages

Today in a call with some smart building enthusiasts, we were discussing what Digital Twins are, and what they are good for at what stages. During new construction, renovation, asset management, commissioning to mention a few.

In the call we had an energy specialist with 40+ years background that loves the concept of Digital Twins. The head of IT for a progressive real estate owner and another one responsible for building automation for another real estate owner.

The first real estate owner manages about 300 000 m2 across 130+ assets. Mainly schools. That’s the owner we have been working with for the last 10 months.

The new person whom I had never met before was responsible for building automation with 100 000 m2 across 1300 apartments and 200 commercial venues. He had seen a webinar about the Smart Heating Systems we had created some months ago and wanted to know a bit more.

Creating a Future Foundation

We talked about vechicle to grid, V2X and that he had bought some batteries to create a circular PV approach for his house. But then we moved into the innovation tender and how we had connected a bunch of radiators with the intent to commandeer the radiators based on its context. For the ones that have missed it, you can read about it here on how we used Digital Twinning to accelerate knowledge transfer between different actors related to Smart Heating Systems.

But, I was quick to ask what problems and challenges the new person had with their assets.

The answer:

“… Well, none. Not anyway.”

(This reminded me of the classic conversations I have had for the last 5 years. You can do anything with IoT, Digital Twins, AI, ML_insert buzzword here_!!! With the usual response, well, we don’t want to do anything really).

“Okay, fair enough. But what do you wish you could do better?”

“Well, it always takes time to get the automations systems actually performing as they should. It takes at least a couple of years to get it working based on its context. And then it’s a continuous process of aligning it with what is really going on with the buildings. It seems that the buildings are not really made to work with the building automation system and it’s almost broken from start. Could that be something for Digital Twins?”.

– YES!

Definitely! If a company would have a 3D Model of the BIM files. Then they could use that as the foundation for everything that will happen during the asset maintenance phase.

Use the 3D Models and start to “Invite to Innovate”

They could have all the information about what model/make the doors, the walls, the windows are. Where the pipes are, the electrical work, the plumbing, what products exists from where, and of course where the HVAC system is, lighting fixtures, and basically everything they would need.

Because the problem today is that all these things are not up to date. But more importantly, they exist in parallel universes where domain experts work in silos. Where communication is sparse, even during the construction project.

-> An understandable reality with all the information necessary for a shared reality across domains.

–        Understandable for anyone across any domain

–        Understandable for everyone collaborating concurrently across domains

–        A foundation for both people and systems

And what this does is that it allows an MDTI (Master Digital Twin Implementors) to Invite to innovate on behalf of the customer. We go through it here in my Podcast (that is on a hiatus right now) we use the Metaverse to collaborate and create value faster than ever. But basically it would allow the real estate owner to test solutions out virtually first, and tune them with the Digital Twin. Get them up to speed virtually first. And then once its done, deploy it in the building for real, knowing what the outcome would be.

Simulate the future in order to transcend the now

This hyperbolic heading is taken from an article I wrote a year ago about Digital Triplets. It basically revolves around the usefulness of running simulations on top of the Digital Twin to test things out first, get it right in the virtual world where time flows differently, and then deploy it in the real world knowing more of what will happen.


This is something that NASA actually are doing a lot of when designing the Mars Rover, and also where companies are using simulation tools to work around the global chip shortage. If we would apply the same idea of testing stuff out first in a simulation based on reality we could see an acceleration of faster time to value creation.

And the head of IT said it himself. In every other business we make sure that it works first in a development environment, and then a staging environment and then when we know that it works, and is stable enough, that’s when we deploy it. Why do we accept anything else for real estate?

What this means is that the 6-12 months of getting stuff in. And the x years it could take for the system to run optimally, could go down to 6-12 weeks at the most. In theory, it could be as fast as a couple of days. And that is only during the commissioning and optimization of the building automation controls.

What are Digital Twins really? And are they enough?

That’s the thing. What are Digital Twins? When do the appear? How can we create them? And how much time is needed to create any value? Well, I am leveraging Digital Twins across multiple industries right now at different stages.

The answer is, that Digital Twins, Simulation Models, Prototype Digital Twins, Virtual Twins, Visual Twins, coupled with VR/AR/MR as well as of course IoT/AI/ML approaches are being used everywhere right now. In healthcare, in construction with BIM to Twin approaches, for existing and new real-estate, in Formula 1, for data centers, Advanced Materials Manufacturing, for Digital Humans, Compute Fluid Dynamics, National twinning which is what I am focusing on. And I am also focusing on some Global Digital Twin perspectives coupled with Metaverse approaches to not only escape reality but to actually use modern tools to improve the world we have.  

But what I said to the person in charge was that whatever you do. If you have a new construction project, make sure that you get a 3D model out from either the architect, or the construction company. An IFC model/REVIT, out, or a “BIM-model” that should have some meta-data attached to it. Because usually what happens is that the BIM-model is being used during construction, but all that amazing data is being thrown in the trash, or being vendor-locked by a company.

What Real estate owners/also building automation companies want is to get it out, use it as a boundary spanning object, and create stickiness during the whole asset lifecycle. By using the 3D model of the building (with great meta-data about its assets) the one in charge of it can use it to collaborate with anyone that has anything to do with that part of reality.

This goes back to the great conversation I had last year with Joe Gaspardone.

“What if Apple didn’t have a UI? How in the hell would we all use it…

…I can tell anybody listening, with absolute certainty that if you can’t get a visual representation in place. Then you can’t get scale in this industry” – Joe Gaspardone

?#24 Visual Twins & Smart Building Recipes – Joe Gaspardone

Putting the pieces together in a fragmented industry

Digital Twins are being used, deployed, leveraged at scale across multiple industries. It’s understanding what tools to use, at what stage, and what ingredients work together in the right order. The ingredients are here in terms of people, and systems, but it seems that we work in isolated knowledge islands.

Digital Twins can be used at any part of the asset lifecycle with dramatic returns. Something to keep in mind is that if done correctly, Digital Twins have something in common with Pringles. Once you start, you shouldn’t stop. Because Digital Twinning done right should be able to work with any system of any age and discipline, as well as with any person of any age and discipline. Both past, present, and future generations.

– For construction, make sure you get the BIM-models out and control it as a tool for a visual collaboration arena

– For renovation, there are multiple scanning options that can provide value really fast. Coupled with IoT approaches you can get a lightweight Digital Twin up and running quite fast. And this can be used to scale up initiatives running MVT (Minival Viable Twin) approaches to ensure rapid value creation.

– For operations, what if you could try out everything first before deploying it in your existing portfolio? And have a reality where all the fragmented pieces of the puzzle could fit in? What is the value of creating value across the 3/30/300 rule and also ensuring a platform for new revenue streams in the future?

Summarizing thoughts – Why start now?

Well, it seems that buildings are either in or out. Possibly not so much anywhere in between.

Read this great article and you would understand. I have also written about it extensively during the last 5 years (not knowing COVID would accelerate the pace) so this is not really news. More logical and what the piece above doesn’t cover is the dramatic shift from real-real estate to that of virtual real-estate, and somewhere in between. 4

Starting now in getting buildings to where they need to be is of utmost importance on many accounts. The benefits with Digital Twins done right is that better decisions can be taken, together with the right stakeholders, up to 99% faster than traditional methods utilizing traditional tools. If people don’t want to go to old, non-comforting assets. But instead need newer ones which cater to the needs of the people. Just wait until real-real estate will have to compete with virtual real-estate where the metaverse is as real as anything. That’s when we can talk about obsolescence!

And the stepping stone from Modbus, BACnet, is only three steps away from the Metaverse. And buildings with better carbon footprint, net-zero, amazing indoor-climate, lower maintenance costs with predictive and prescriptive maintenance, AI-ready, future-ready, it all could be realized in days and weeks. Not months or years.

How do I know this? Because it’s my job to know what the future will do in a week, a month, a year from now. And if you want to create the future before everyone else? Reach out to me and we’ll make it happen!


Nicolas Waern
CEO & Founder at WINNIIO Consulting

Leave a Comment

    This will close in 20 seconds