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Can the metaverse enhance the benefits of digital twins and real estate?

October 5, 2022 4 Minute Read

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A digital twin is exactly what it sounds like – an exact virtual representation of a physical object in the digital world. So, in a real estate context it could be an office building, lab or healthcare setting. Real-time data, such as energy output and footfall, feed it continuously from the physical building, allowing the buildings performance to be analysed and improved through scenario analysis. The benefits of digital twinning range from real-time remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, accelerated risk assessment and production time, and better team collaboration that then enables effective financial decision-making.

The metaverse is all about the immersive experience acting as the bridge between physical and digital experiences. Benefits are use case specific and vary from investor to occupier. Though digital twinning does not need the metaverse to function, it can enable the technology to be used in an immersive way, unlocking opportunities through collaboration via avatars. Allowing users to immerse themselves within the digital twin, brings realism and human interaction to the virtual world. This opportunity could further boost the expected value of the digital twin market from $3.1 billion in 2021, to a forecasted $48.2 billion by 2026. 

There are many ways real estate can use digital twin and metaverse technologies. Primarily, it can help improve the energy performance of a building. A digital twin can identify how energy consumption changes depending on usage, footfall, and can model efficiencies in electricity, water, heat, and gas usage. Other applications include:

  • Building and city design – building first inside the metaverse allows architects and planners to visualise how the area will be used. Both Singapore and Shanghai are using city digital twins to improve energy consumption, traffic flow and help plan developments. Shanghai recently announced a US$1.4 billion metaverse fund as part of a rejuvenation roadmap
  • Replica retail stores – it can deliver a real-life experience for customers accessing a virtual store. It can also be used for in-store planning to optimise the layout and security. This would also be applicable for hotels and other workplace buildings. For example, digital twins in the metaverse can allow remote workers to interact with one another
  • Building construction – the full construction process can be planned, visualised, and optimised before work starts. Sites can be managed more effectively with the technologies predicting delays and safety issues. Buildings can be improved during their development and over the life cycle
  • Project marketing – an immersive experience can be used to help garner buy-in from decision makers and investors
  • Improving safety procedures – emergency response plans can be simulated to enhance safety, particularly for crowded places such as shopping centres, offices, and concert venues. One business leading in transport safety, evidences how through digital twinning it has prevented $11 million in avoidance in lost production by detecting and preventing failures

Using these technologies will drive a range of efficiency gains, not least by streamlining everyday operations, reducing costs (up to 20% in office buildings) and improved time management. It can also improve productivity and support better evidenced-based decision making. Moreover, it can help address long term sustainability issues through monitoring and improving energy usage. There exists a wealth of untapped opportunities for real estate to explore working in a virtually immersive way. It’s our attitude towards technology advancement that will enable or hinder our progress. 

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