Interview with Dan Vogen: “We expect to see a blurring of the line between physical reality and digital twins” 

“We expect to see a blurring of the line between physical reality and digital twins” 

Founded in 1984, Bentley Systems is a US-based software development company that provides innovative software for the advancement of infrastructure projects globally. Bentley’s industry-leading software solutions are used by professionals and organisations of every size for the design, construction and operation of roads and bridges, rail and transit, water and wastewater, public works and utilities, buildings and campuses, and industrial facilities. In an interview with Indian Infrastructure, Dan Vogen, vice-president, road and rail asset management, Bentley Systems, discussed the experience and potential of the digital twin technology…

What could be the potential role of the digital twin technology in infrastructure building?

Bentley’s digital twin technology provides insight and access beyond anything that has been possible so far. For the development of new infrastructure, the technology provides a much better understanding of what the final build will be, and how the general public will interact with it. Digital twins enable optimisation in construction, helping identify issues in advance and coordinate on their resolution, besides providing easy access to physical areas through realistic models. For brownfield enhancements, engineers and designers can quickly generate reality meshes and create a sound foundational digital twin without any requirement for prior design models. If designs do exist, those models can be complemented by a reality mesh to allow an understanding of the current condition, with selectable as-built elements. The ability to immerse the user in a digital twin allows for a better understanding of what exists and what will exist.

What are some of the successful use cases of this technology? What has been the user experience?

Users of the digital twin technology have been able to clearly understand the impact of fresh construction, enhancement and rehabilitation in and around existing infrastructure. Users can gain a greater insight into what a project will look like when it is completed, as well as identify and resolve issues earlier in the process than they previously could. Some of our users deploy unmanned aerial vehicles to fly over the construction area on a weekly basis, and then compare versions of the digital twin to identify how much has been completed during that time frame. We have also seen great early success with our users creating very detailed digital twins for asset condition inspection. By deploying high fidelity reality meshes and implementing immersive inspection processes, an inspector can use a Microsoft HoloLens2 device with our software and virtually inspect an asset, such as a bridge. Our users have often expressed that up to 90 per cent of what they do in the field might be possible in the office with digital twins.

How have Bentley’s solutions helped organisations remain productive through the pandemic?

As we continue to see improvements in digital twins and in our software that visualises and enables user immersion in the models, we also see positive impacts on the model of working from a remote location. Our collaborative software solutions are not only valuable for keeping our users up and running during a pandemic, but also in helping them stay efficient with all of their work. In most cases, bridge inspections require a crew to be on site. Additionally, bridge inspections require significant amounts of equipment, can be potentially hazardous, and often cause traffic disruptions, impacting the lives of the general public. With our immersive inspections, we can minimise the number of on-field inspectors. Besides, the rate at which senior inspectors can review bridges by immersing themselves in a digital twin can be much higher than what is physically possible. Multiple people can easily coordinate on an inspection; personnel with physical limitations can be easily involved in the inspection; and overall, equipment, time, cost, and public inconvenience can be minimised. Additionally, Bentley’s ProjectWise 365 application has enabled engineers and project teams to easily collaborate, whether they are on site or working remotely. All these benefits will continue long after the pandemic is over and travel restrictions are removed, simply because these new processes are highly efficient.

What is the future outlook for smart solutions across the infrastructure sectors?

Bentley expects to witness a blurring of the line between physical reality and the digital twin model. These models will be updated more frequently and will provide real-time insights into the performance of an asset, while further limiting the need to physically visit the asset and interact with it. We expect the costs of operation to be reduced and the savings redirected to overall infrastructure development. With the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning, analytics and visibility gained from big data can provide insights that will enhance the effectiveness of operations and maintenance