Sensors and IoT in The Digital Twin Technology

We continue to cover interesting topics related to the BIM project process and digital twins. As I announced in my previous article, “Data Is The New Gold, Does The Same Apply To Data In Digital Twins?”, I am going to cover the topic Sensors and IoT in The Digital Twin Technology” in this article.

Senzori i IoT u tehnologiji digitalnih blizanaca

In the previous article „Data Is The New Gold, Does The Same Apply To Data In Digital Twins?”, I dealt with data in digital twins in general and tried to explain their value and potential. I hope I have been able to prove that without data in digital form, generated during the BIM project process or after the building construction or object making, we would not be able to consider the potential of digital twin technology available today.

When we consider the data generation process and its processing in the digital twin model, two scenarios are the most common:

  1. Digital twin model created by the transformation of the BIM model,
  2. Digital twin model of an already existing object (building, plane, car…).

When we consider the first scenario, I am sure that the vast majority of readers are familiar with the workflow of how to transform data from the BIM model into digital twin data. So, we have a situation that from one digital format we convert the data generated for the needs of the BIM project process into the data of the digital twin model. From the point of view of the process of data generation and processing, this scenario does not seem so complicated.

Unlike the first scenario, the digital twin model of an already existing object seems a bit more complicated. First, in order to convert an existing object from the real world into a digital twin model, it is necessary to make a BIM as-built model of the constructed object and add parameters from the real world to such a model. Then sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) come on the scene, which transfers relevant data measured by different sensors to parameters and components in the digital twin model. Let me mention right away, I am going to discuss this scenario in today’s article. But let’s go back to His Majesty first – the data.

Senzori i IoT u tehnologiji digitalnih blizanaca

To make sure that all the processes related to data will be completely clear to every reader of the article, let’s look at the data in the digital twin model from the perspective of data science. If we start from the point of view that there is no essential difference between data in data science and data in digital twin technology, data-related processes can be roughly divided into:

  • data collection;
  • data storage;
  • data analysis;
  • data visualization;
  • decisions and actions based on the results of data analysis.

Given the fact that a detailed consideration of all data-related processes would be very difficult to fit into one article, my intention in today’s article is to consider in detail the data collection process in digital twin technology of constructed facilities, while in future articles I will consider other data-related processes.

Data Collection

Assuming that the reader of this article is completely clear about the way data is generated in the BIM project process, I am not sure that it is completely clear to everyone what the purpose of sensors and IoT is and how they support digital twin technology. In order to help readers better understand the role of sensors and IoT in digital twin technology, I will provide answers to the following fundamental questions regarding data collection in digital twins:

  • What are the sensors?
  • What are sensors used for and what is their purpose?
  • What is IoT (Internet of Things) and what is IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things)?
  • What is the connection between the sensor and the IoT?
  • How and where to store the collected data from the analysis sensor?

What Are The Sensors?

In digital twin technology, sensors are defined as digital devices, which artificially represent certain sensations that are defined in biology as senses. With the help of sensors, various information and data from the environment can be collected for the purpose of their further processing and analysis. The main role of the sensor is to perform various measurements for the influences from its environment, in given time intervals, and to convert physical data from the real world into digital data, which are further analyzed and result in great savings for investors and clients.

The purpose of using the sensor is to, by constant or periodic measurements at predetermined intervals, measure all changes and events that are defined as valuable for observation. The data thus collected is later converted into digital data for the purpose of data processing and analysis. The number of sensors around us is constantly increasing, due to the potential savings that sensors can bring. In addition, the sensors provide us with a lot of valuable data and parameters from the real world that can be used for various purposes.

It is difficult to define all the parameters from the real world, which can be measured using sensors because the technology is advancing very fast, so I run the risk of failing to list some important parameters from the real world that can be measured with sensors. But I am going to list some very important parameters from the real world that today can be measured and converted into digital parameters for further use in digital twin technology.

Namely, sensors are most often used today to measure the following parameters from the real world: temperature measurement, motion registration, location and movement registration, pressure measurement, sound or noise level, humidity, voltage, vibration measurement, etc. From the listed parameters that sensors can measure, it can be concluded that sensors can be applied in different industries and for a large number of purposes. The answer to the question where sensors are used and why you are going to find below.

What are sensors used for and what is their purpose?

Have you heard of the “smart house”? It is understood that the house itself cannot be smart or intelligent, but it is made smart by devices equipped with different sensors that provide input data, which are further processed and based on the processed data, certain decisions are made and different actions are taken. A system that makes different decisions and applies actions can be autonomous or based on a human decision, but the basis for making any decision and action, whether made autonomously or based on a human decision, is based on data from various sensors set in a “smart house “. How does it all work together?

Take, for example, that for optimal working conditions, it is necessary to provide a brightness of 400 flux and a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius at the table at which the student is sitting, who is preparing for an exam in a certain field of Data Science. The student is sitting at a desk and is not able to accurately assess, based on human senses, whether the brightness at his desk is 400 flux or the temperature is 25 degrees Celsius. If we know that the assessment of brightness and temperature can be done by sensors instead of the student, we will be sure that it is possible to provide the student with ideal conditions for preparing for the exam.

However, I hope you will agree with me that, without taking into account energy efficiency in creating optimal conditions for the student, an autonomous system that makes different decisions and takes actions will not make the best possible decision. For example, if the student studies during the day and the sun illuminates the table with which he sits and prepares for the exam, the autonomous system for making various decisions and actions will not automatically turn off the light and increase cooling, if such a decision involves more energy to create optimal conditions for student learning. Perhaps by lowering the blinds and creating artificial shade, to a level to which the student’s desk will have a brightness of 400 fluxes and at the same time reducing the cooling, an autonomous system for making various decisions and actions can provide the required criteria for optimal student comfort.

I hope that this extremely simple example gave you an idea of the role of the sensors in data collection. The sensor purpose in the “smart house” is to provide us with data that will provide the most optimal required comfort conditions after data processing, taking into account various parameters, of which in my opinion the most important is energy efficiency and energy savings, not only for money savings but also due to environmental reasons and meeting the criteria set by the UN Convention on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

And besides the “smart houses”, with which I tried to give you an example of the complexity of not only collecting data through sensors but also the way different decision-making systems and procedures make their decisions, where else are sensors used?
I am going to list only some fields in which sensors are most used today:

  • Informatics;
  • Car industry;
  • Airplane industry;
  • Construction industry;
  • Process lines;
  • Conveyor belts.

At the very end of this chapter, I must say that this article was written in mid-2020. I believe that in five years, given the beginning of the application of 5G technology and the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution, the list of areas where sensors are used is going to look much different and that the list of areas of sensors application, which I have listed in this article, is going to be much longer.

What is IoT (Internet of Things) and what is IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things)?

IoT (Internet of Things) can be defined as a system of interconnected digital devices, connected computer devices, mechanical and digital machines that transmit information through a unique system of identifiers. IoT enables transferring data over a network without the need for human-human or human-computer interaction. IoT is a digital tool that allows unlimited transmission, conversion to the desired format, and reading various data and information from sensors. With IoT, we are able to permanently record different readings and measurements from different sensors. Constant measurements and readings allow us to predict events and to act in such a way as to prevent unwanted events that await us in the future. IoT can also be considered as a medium that transmits data, information, and alerts from various sensors that monitor certain behaviors, processes, and properties of the objects that are the subject of observation.

IoT is the hope of achieving greater energy efficiency in the future than is the case today and the longer life cycle of various products. IoT also enables greater automation of the various decision-making systems. Not so far in the future, Machine Learning will, to a much greater extent, replace the need for human decision-making with the often recurring needs for simple decision-making.

IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) can be defined very similarly to IoT, but the essential difference between IoT and IIoT is that IIoT is primarily applied in industry and industrial products. In practice, IIoT can be considered an IoT whose focus is on optimizing industrial production and extending the life cycle of manufactured industrial products.

What is the connection between the sensor and the IoT? 

All devices connected to the IoT are equipped with different sensors. Sensors built into various devices are able to send data to the IoT using WiFi or some other network. We can say that IoT is a digital tool or medium that enables the data exchange of all devices whose sensors have collected data and which are connected to IoT.

However, consistent application of sensor measurements and data storage using IoT creates a problem that, after an enormous amount of data, there are difficulties in data processing, so the frequency of reading data becomes a very important factor in data processing, which I am going to write about in one of the following articles.

How and where to store the collected data from the analysis sensor? 

In answering this question, it should be borne in mind that IoT and sensors collect an enormous amount of data on a daily basis. By applying constant sensor measurements and exchanging data via IoT, the problem of how in the most optimal way to store such a large amount of collected data arises very quickly. The solution to this problem is offered by cloud solutions, which, in addition to the data storage infrastructure, also offer digital tools for processing data collected with the help of sensors and IoT. There are different solutions to the problem of data storage and processing in cloud solutions and I am going to give many more details about them in the following article.

This concludes the article Sensors and IoT in The Digital Twin Technology”  and my view of how sensors and IoT contribute to data generation in the digital twin technology. At the same time, I would like to take this opportunity to announce my next article “Storing And Availability Of Digital Twin Model Data – Are The Forge And The Cloud The Best Solutions?“.

If you have any questions, comments, or want to know more details about the topic I covered in the article Sensors and IoT in The Digital Twin Technology”, please contact TeamCAD, who will be pleased to give you additional information.
Also, if you need advice on how to best apply digital twin technology or you want to apply digital twin technology to your project or constructed facility, please contact TeamCAD, who will be happy to help you.

Until the next time,
Predrag Jovanovic

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