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Thought Leadership
16 July 2021 By Robert Hoddenbach Global Director for Land Asset Integrity
The world is becoming increasingly digitised. There is now a wealth of high-quality information, including ever-increasing volumes of Geo-data, available to engineers and asset owners seeking to optimise the performance of critical assets, many of which – the utilities, road and rail networks that are the backbone of our society – are ageing and no longer fit for purpose. 

However, some continue to apply asset management practices that have been in use for decades, while others adopt reactive maintenance schedules that increase running costs.

To keep delivering electricity and enabling transport to flow freely, owners and engineers need to embrace cutting-edge technologies and leverage the wealth of digitised information that is now available to produce important new insights.

A paradigm shift is on its way

In my global role, I speak regularly with engineers, asset owners, industry councils and government agencies around the world, so I’m witnessing the paradigm shift in asset management that is on the way.

Rather than relying on traditional in-person, subjective assessments of the size, dimension, location and status of their assets and infrastructure, owners will soon be able to switch to a digital twin.

This is a more proactive, non-discriminatory, data-driven and results-oriented approach that reduces safety risks by maximising the use of remote technology.

Relying on this single source of truth enables owners to manage their asset maintenance programmes and lifetime extensions more effectively. It also allows various operational teams to communicate seamlessly, with full visibility of the single point of truth.

Expert data acquisition

The expert acquisition of Geo-data lies at the heart of an effective digital-twin asset management solution.

Without knowledge of the dynamic behaviour of assets, including dimensional and ground risks, owners attempting to build, operate, maintain and decommission assets are working in a void. This is why engineers are forever seeking new technologies and methods that give them access to more and better-quality Geo-data.

Today’s virtual world asset management technology enables us to acquire Geo-data and model infrastructure precisely from our desktop. We can simulate current status and location challenges. And we can predict an asset’s response to changes in demand or to external factors, such as extreme weather events. This provides a benchmark for maintaining the asset effectively and for proactively adapting to change.

The relationship between infrastructure and the environment must be constantly measured and monitored. Using techniques such as lidar, radar and hyperspectral imaging allows access to geometric information and additional data about how the asset is functioning. Autonomous robots, vehicles and drones provide these measurements cost-effectively and without putting people in harm’s way.

Roames power assessing and managing vegetation for powerlines
Roames power assessing and managing vegetation for powerlines by creating a digital 3D model environment

The expert acquisition and interpretation of Geo-data lie at the heart of an effective digital twin solution. Without this knowledge of the composition of the ground and subsurface, owners attempting to build, operate, maintain and decommission assets are working in a void.
Creating digital twins for efficient asset management
Creating digital twins for efficient asset management with Fugro RailData

Specialist Geo-data analysis

Following acquisition, these various data sources need to be connected, with Geo-data at the centre, to analyse the asset’s current and future performance. Fortunately, data analytics have moved on a long way in recent years. At Fugro we are continually enriching our analytics toolbox in response to advances in artificial intelligence, deep learning, machine learning and cloud processing. Our in-house team of expert engineers then use these technologies to analyse the data patterns and use the findings to provide valuable asset management advice collated in a digital twin environment.

In conclusion…

Much of the world’s critical infrastructure is deteriorating. To slow this decline and prioritise repair and maintenance, the engineering profession must move swiftly to embrace the concept of Geo-data-enriched digital twins to be able to provide predictive models of critical assets.

By leveraging new and important insights resulting from this wealth of information, owners will be able to make faster, better decisions that optimise performance and achieve long-term asset viability to support a resilient economic growth in face of global challenges.

Did you know?

- The UK rail network is more than 150 years old

- More than 45,000 ageing bridges in the United States are at risk of failure

- The use of lidar has reduced Energy Queensland’s AUS $100m vegetation management spend by 40 %


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