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How much for a Digital Twin?

The what, the how, and the how much with Digital Twinning.
 Let’s see if we can shed some light on this particular topic.

Nicolas Waern - Digital Twin Specialist

Contributing Editor

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The what, the how, and the how much with Digital Twinning. Let’s see if we can shed some light on this particular topic. You might remember Robert Cross from the podcast “Exponential Risk in Real-Estate, and even if you don’t, he asked me an interesting question earlier this morning. And this is just a behind-the-scenes look of what part of my answer was to him.

If you want to know anything about anything, just reach out of course to me on Linkedin. Where I have started to do Linkedin Lives about topics such as:

-        5 Major Benefits of Digital Twinning

-        Common mistakes on Digital Twinning

-        Digital Twins and the Metaverse

Where the explainer video as an introduction to Digital Twins and the Metaverse could be good to start with. Plus it comes with some consulting time included regarding any topic.

Digital Twin strategies and how to build consensus

I was about to get Ken Sinclair what he wants but didn’t know what topic to cover. What I did was just to write the answer I was thinking of to Robert’s question.

Which was:

Q: How much would it cost to build a prototype of a digital twin?

-        Let’s say it’s of a Microgrid on a commercial building?

It depends on what you want to do. But not a lot if you layer the steps correctly. You need the real-time data part which could come from any sensor. And we want local-control first possibilities, and we want to be able to go for both sensing and actuating. Depending on how much sensing and actuating you want let’s calculate in USD 250-300 with labour and install for sensors and possibly a bit higher for actuating purposes depending on what you want done.

Now you got the real-time mesh side covered and can sense and control in real-time. Which will make you be able to support frequency regulation markets and have edge-native micro grid node balancing potential and if tagged correctly, feed into the HVAC systems, to have them operate on real-time data instead of guess work. And if you also have self-learning algorithms in the system, you also have created a learning loop where analytics will be become part of course-correction in real-time, all the time. Where the building itself can teach other buildings across the entire portfolio.

“Later you could ask the Digital Twin what you want to know, and for it to SHOW YOU the answers. Right now, the Digital Twin must learn from people and systems that are tied to that specific part of reality. “

The sensoring part is probably something you want to tie together with some solar + batteries. Which gets added to the cost. And then the visualization aspects of the Digital Twin component doesn't necessarily have to be all that flashy to begin with.

Which is what you want to start with so that you can invite to innovate. So, from the top you ask "where" and "what"? Let's be specific. Where do you want to do this? Either pick a spot that exists in the real-world or use just a model of building to place the discussions with suppliers so that we can build consensus in a shared reality that everyone will understand.


 If you already got an asset in mind you just scan it and build up a point-cloud of the area of choosing. This is what you use as a collaboration arena to do virtual-first discussions with intended parties.

Starting off the same page

You use this to get everyone on the same page before you do anything in the "real-world" since this is a copy of the real world. You have a lot of different options at this stage, basically all of the options that are usually done in isolation.

Which is in contrast to the traditional ways of working where no one talks to each-other, because no one can really understand each other.

You can:

        See just the point-cloud scan as a prototype Digital Twin. And plan out how to deploy sensors to make it come alive later.

        Build up an even more sophisticated Digital Twin to run physics-based modelling within that space.

        Use it to understand the why with the users, and any stakeholder that has something to do with that slice of reality.

        If there are old architectural drawings of that space you could also turn that into 3D models and tag the "BIM-models" with rich metadata tagging that would be necessary for a lifecycle perspective and predictive/prescriptive maintenance strategies. Where layered correctly this could significantly bring down cost for operations.

        You could then build up a high-fidelity prototype Digital Twin (basically a high quality 3D model, packed with rich metadata that is prepared to take in IoT data from its context, making it possible to reality record, and dynamically keep up with its surroundings).

When you have this, it also becomes easier to Invite to Innovate with parties in a virtual way. And to build not only consensus faster and easier, but also create virtual-first strategies where more, and better information is demanded earlier in the process. Where both systems, and people are identified at an earlier stage.

Which is in contrast to the traditional ways of working where no one talks to each-other, because no one can really understand each other.

Domino effects across multiple domains

With the Digital Twin we can impact processes, culture, people, hierarchy and have a strategy to turn data from existing systems into information, insight, action as well as impact.

So that we can eradicate the real-estate lifecycle loss of value through the existing ways of working with the 100 individual meetings across 20 domains, across 20 months to get things to a patch work of inconsistent, incompatible, fragmented data streams. Which leads to the perpetuation of a broken industry.

And instead, demand more granular information in 3D, packed with standardized rich-meta data, agree on everything virtually first, and then build it smart from start and collaborate with reality in mind since that's the end-point, so we should just make it the starting point.

Interoperable Digital Twinning for the Winning

Going back to the original question. How much would it cost? Is a classic how long is a rope thing.

But let's get let's say we get a prototype Digital Twin going, that's going to be easy peasy and we can now also answer the What, the Why as well as the how (because we can invite to innovate). We have a new process of doing things, where we start with the people needed to answer this question, using the 3D model and/or the scanned version of reality as a communication tool. They can now come from the internal organization as well as externally, and we can create a new culture of collaboration for this specific project and we can identify what systems down the line we need to feed into the data fabric. Either from existing systems and/or from new systems that are coming in from the suppliers. Which puts extra value on integration and interoperability.

The why also becomes easy. Because it’s not how much it costs. It’s how much value the Digital Twin of said asset can provide in terms of saving money, making more money and finding new revenue streams. And here the stackable benefits become extremely apparent. Because the end result of this project will be something that the organization can use forever. And the Digital Twin, the Digital Twins, needs to be taught the as-is and there needs to be a plan to keep it up to date.

The importance of understanding the as-is

This is from a sociotechnological perspective (meaning that both people and systems need to keep the twin up to date).

Teaching the Digital Twin from the As-is.

-        To understand what money to save, we just need to get an understanding of the costs associated with that part of the world right now. Only then we can understand where the savings are, and how much they could be.

-        In addition to the meetings where we stare at each other and talk about stuff that no on understands but a handful. Use screen share, use the prototype Digital Twin for discussions and also engage in what if scenarios. Of course, if you can, use Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to get more immersive. But I think that’s not something that most organizations want to do right now. It’s “Sci-fi”. Looking at a 3D model/point-cloud through screen-share is infinitely better than the existing alternatives.


-        Don’t let perfect get in the way of good here and just build something up that would make sense for the people involved in this area. Later you could ask the Digital Twin what you want to know and it will tell you the answers. But right now, the Digital Twin has to learn all of these things from both people and existing systems that are tied to that specific part of reality. Your reality.


Just start with the as-is and define it in ways that everyone can understand. Which is how we view reality. Create the use-cases and business cases with this as the playground/chess-board and perform ABC (Activity based-costing) analysis and possibly just a SPIN-selling exercise to get an idea how much existing operations cost, and what the as-is situation look like.

Getting a basic understanding of how much it costs, and calculate what the difference is to today’s ways of working should not take more than a month. It could take a week. But most likely it will take 6 months. All depending if you know what you are doing or not. The ingredients are all here in terms of people and technology. The trick is to know what to use where, and in what order.

How do I know this? Because it’s my job to know what the future will do in a week, a month, a year from now. And if you want to create the future before everyone else? Reach out to me and we’ll make it happen!



Nicolas Waern
CEO & Founder at WINNIIO Consulting

Nicolas Waern is the CEO, Strategy & Innovation Leader, and a Digital Twin Implementation Specialist at the consulting firm WINNIIO. He is a firm believer that the Real Estate Industry needs more of a lifecycle focus where we need to go Beyond Buildings and come back with an understanding what tools and technology we could use. And to solve the jobs to be done, together, with an open mindset.

Nicolas is working with leaders in several industries to understand how they can succeed in the age of AI. Predicting what the world will do in a week, a month, a year from now and to best utilize strategies and solutions that pass the test of time. He does this through a Digitalization- on Demand approach for anyone that needs to change before they have to.

Nicolas is also a Podcast Creator & Newsletter Editor for 
Beyond Buildings
Thought Leader regarding Smart Buildings & Building Automation for 
Speaker and Influencer 
Event Streaming Platforms as the Holy Grail for Industry 4.0 Applications
Subject Matter Expert Real Estate Digitalization 
Proptech Digitalization Expert
Active Member of Digital Twin working groups 
Digital Twin Subject Matter Expert

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