Understanding Assets: Using software and Augmented Reality to create a ‘Digital Twin’


The fourth industrial revolution is the merging of the physical world with its digital representations, enabling organisations to adopt and integrate technologies to improve operations, become more productive, as well as grow and innovate at great speed. We are witnessing a period of connected and networked assets that respond to the environment – and can be designed and optimised to make a positive contribution to our climate.

When we partner with clients on new projects, we create a digital version, or ‘digital twin’, of what we have designed for that client, and of what will ultimately be built or maintained. In every way, it is a complete replica of the built asset. We call it Digitising the estate and it provides a digital profile of existing and real-time asset behaviour that can be used to optimise business performance. By creating and implementing a complete digital estate, we are helping our clients detect physical issues sooner, predict outcomes more accurately, and drive greater value from assets, now and in the future.

Aurecon has worked within the defence environment for over 30 years. Defence has a significant estate and complex assets, so how could Digitising the estate help defence better understand and manage its assets?

Asset Management

From an asset management and facilities management perspective, having a digital twin of your physical assets can be a game-changer. Everything from water consumption and electricity usage to the way people use space within a building can be monitored digitally. Preventative and optimised routine maintenance trends can also be derived from the accurate data provided by the digital twin. Facilities managers are leading the way in using digital capability and analysis to optimise operations, maintenance and use of facilities and infrastructure.

Facilitating learning and training

One of the challenges in South Africa, both in the private and the public sector, is the low level of technical skills that reside within our workforce. Digital versions of physical infrastructure and facilities have proven to be very effective in facilitating training for client workforces using virtual reality and simulations. With a digital twin, we can train facility maintenance staff, operators, and other hands-on employees to conduct inspections and maintenance tasks before they work on the real-life industrial plant or building.

Augmented reality

When a digital version of a physical asset is created, the data from the real asset can be used in several ways. One of the key technologies we use is Augmented Reality (AR). With devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, we can enable a person to walk around in a facility or industrial plant wearing a headset and see relevant asset data behind their field of view. For example, an operator could look at a light bulb, and receive information such as how many times the light bulb has failed. If these AR experiences are expertly designed, they can show maintenance staff how to dismantle, repair, and replace capital intensive equipment.

Aurecon’s approach allows us to give our clients’ data context, by allowing us to deliver a digitised estate in a scalable, connected and meaningful way that is:

  • Infrastructure led
  • Underpinned by the right data, not merely big data
  • Informed by design thinking
  • Strategy focused

Our digitisation methodology draws on expertise across the business, including Asset Management, Infrastructure Advisory, Digital Insights and Operations, as well as Creative Technology & Visualisation.

The use of digital technology can go a long way in helping defence to understand its base assets and infrastructure, operational and maintenance priorities. Digitising the estate can also help with where and how best to optimise the available estate investment budget so that it best supports defence capability and strategy.