A Practical Look at Bringing Innovative Digital and Virtual Twin Technology to Airports

Virtual Twin technology is already an imperative for many industries and delivering value and return. Airports should evolve beyond Geographic Information System (GIS) from analytic to holistic decision making. 

As an early technology pioneer, Jerry implemented a GIS system in Orlando International Airport. The technology was just emerging on the scene and the value propositions were aspirational at best. A cool looking map was interesting, but not enough. It wasn’t until the program focused on “actionable data” that progress was made. The GIS program paid for itself many times over and became a central part of the planning processes at the airport. The next evolution to holistic decision making and simulation remained just out of reach. New tools, technology, and new approaches were needed.

In many industries holistic decision making is now real thanks to 3D spatially enabled tool sets.  Today, decisions must be made much faster and with greater confidence to meet growing challenges.  In order to adapt to the complexity, there is a fundamental shift from linear thinking (analytics) to systems thinking (innovation) that underpins the value proposition.  Now, “actionable data” can happen in real-time and will drive out holistic decision making.  Airports will leverage virtual twins to demonstrate how a change is modeled across the full life-cycle of the airport.   Upstream and downstream consequences will be more fully revealed and fewer “Gotchas” will happen. 

Making this shift to holistic and automated decision making is necessary to build and operate the airport of the 21st century.  These new techniques will put passenger experience and innovation at the forefront.  Executives will be able to effectively initiate and deliver on top-down vision, goals, and service expectations with real data to back it up.         

Digital Twin Evolving to Virtual Twin

These new techniques will put passenger experience and innovation at the forefront.

Digital Twin technology and the application to an airport is an emerging topic and for good reason.  However, a virtual twin goes beyond the digital twin technology.  When incorporated as part of a platform environment, a virtual twin enables companies to create a consistent and comprehensive experience for all stakeholders, from design and construction through marketing, sales, operation and servicing.  Overall, it helps to better understand what is being delivered versus what was designed, tightening the loop between design and actual operation.  Simply stated, did it perform as designed?

For illustration, take an airport that exists in the physical world and equipped with sensors.  Now, this sensor data is incorporated with the airport’s 3D model’s layout of mechanical equipment, electrical and HVAC systems, simulation performance data, operational data, and everything else essential there is to know about the airport. Then real-world data interacts with the 3D model and updates it in real time. What you now have is a dynamic mirror of the airport: a Virtual twin. 

Now the Virtual twin could reveal insight into optimizing the airport’s performance. Such twins could simulate a day of operation and no real-world test required. In fact, Virtual twins are already being used for this purpose today—if they weren’t, physical autonomous vehicles would have to drive an estimated 14 billion kilometers to validate their performance.  An airport can optimize its performance and passenger journey by running many iterations based on real data in the virtual world before putting into operation.  Reduced risk, proven optimized designs, and higher confidence are the value propositions.

Embracing this new virtual twin technology will enable airports to achieve their innovation goals.  Fortunately, there are solid examples from other industries that can be leveraged.  

This article is the first of a series of articles on how to explore, develop, and adopt virtual twin technology to move the airport industry forward. Visit the DELMIA blog again to discover more!

Isaac Benzaquen

Isaac Benzaquen is the Airport Industry Solution Director at Dassault Systèmes. He has over 33 years of experience and 29 years at Dassault Systèmes. He has contributed in multiple roles to the significant growth of Dassault Systèmes Isaac’s previous roles have seen him as Head of Aerospace Services and later to that, as head of Industry Solutions Center at Dassault Systèmes services.

Jerry Schwinghammer

Jerry Schwinghammer is DXC ‘s Associate Partner for Airport Consulting. He was formerly the CTO at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and a Technology Manager at Orlando International Airport. Jerry has more than 25 years of leadership experience on strategic planning and organizational transformation for major transportation infrastructure enterprises as well as private business operations.