Determine the purpose

Your first step is to set the purpose of your digital twin project. What are you trying to achieve with it? The purpose might be to analyze traffic or movement patterns, or see how weather patterns affect a resource, or study the efficiency of machinery or human processes. Even if you’re not sure of the ultimate goal, you should choose a general direction for your initial efforts.Your purpose will lead naturally to the scope of the project. When you’re just starting out, choose a small piece or section of the entire project as your initial focus. Then, as you gain skills, you can expand to a larger scope.

Some uses for digital twins are:

  • Facilities management
  • City planning
  • Autonomous vehicle testing
  • Analysis of usage, traffic, workflows

Create or obtain a 3D model

Every digital twin needs a 3D model, sometimes called a replica in digital twin parlance. If you’re already doing architectural visualization, then you already have a 3D model of the real-world structure in question一or you have the means to create or obtain one一so this is an area you can get moving on right away.

If you already have a model, you can get busy removing unnecessary geometry to improve efficiency in the digital twin. For example, if you plan to evaluate traffic patterns in your building’s exterior parking lot, you don’t need to see the building’s interior. Depending on your visual needs, you might also be able to substitute “expensive” texturing with faster solutions—you could replace normal maps with bump maps, for example, or remove them altogether.

Your first time through the process, don’t be too concerned about visual perfection, as you will find shortcuts for some solutions later down the pipeline. For example, Unreal Engine has a robust foliage system designed specifically for real-time playback.

Your first digital twin model can be just a few textured boxes and some low-poly cars, with any people represented by simple textured cards. Once you learn the mechanisms for moving the pieces around and displaying data, you can always replace each piece with a more detailed version. Working in this way will also give you the means to test each new type of replacement geometry to see how it affects real-time playback.

Source: Unreal Engine Blog

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