Infrastructure digital twins and immersive metaverse experiences have the potential to unlock huge value and efficiencies across the entire infrastructure lifecycle, Lori Hufford explains.
AEC (architectural, engineering, and construction) firms and the infrastructure sector are at an inflexion point. With the unprecedented demand to address ageing infrastructure and new infrastructure investments to drive social and economic benefits worldwide, combined with a growing shortage of talent and skilled labour, AEC firms across the infrastructure lifecycle must do more with less.
New technology is a natural place to turn for increases in efficiency and effectiveness—digital transformation promises the ability to work better, faster, with fewer resources, and with better outcomes.
According to AEC Advisors, the global AEC market size for all software (not just digital initiatives) was US$7 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach US$16 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 10.7%. This spending surge likely means that AEC firms and the sector are augmenting older technologies and file-based systems with data-centric, digital, and model-based technologies.
Unlocking huge value across infrastructure lifestyle
Infrastructure digital twins and immersive metaverse experiences have the potential to unlock huge value and efficiencies across the entire infrastructure lifecycle. Combining design and engineering models, reality capture imagery, IoT (Internet of Things) sensor data, and other sources of information into dynamic, realtime, 3D immersive infrastructure digital twins will fundamentally improve how infrastructure projects move from concept to design, into construction, and through operations.
Data-centric workflows will advance how AEC firms and asset owners collaborate across the project and infrastructure lifecycle, accelerate how these groups make decisions, and improve the quality of deliverables and assets. Leading organizations have already started this journey.
However, before speeding down this path, it is important for AEC firms—and the whole sector—to understand that digital transformation in any form is far more than just new technology. Investing in technology alone is likely to fail. For digital transformation, such as digital twins and the metaverse, to truly succeed, firms and organizations need to also address how technology changes will affect the people that use it and the processes that support it.
However, without acknowledging the critical role people and processes play and the need for thoughtful change enablement, the business, operational, and market value these technologies promise will be hard to fully realize. Infrastructure firms are encouraged to incorporate change management when moving to digital delivery to ensure timely adoption, thus maximizing the impact of their investment in the technology.