A ‘Digital Twin’ of the new ITC building

Dr. Ville Lehtola hopes that the University of Twente becomes a forerunner in Digital Twins research and education. “Our university has the potential to benefit from the Digital Twin era. The first step is to create a Digital Twin of our new ITC building.” This idea came up as a continuation of the collaboration on using point cloud data for 3D modeling, between the departments Earth Observation Science and Urban and Regional Planning and Geo-information Management at the Faculty ITC

What is a 'Digital Twin'?

In March 2021, the Dutch governmental deliberation on geo-information discussed a draft investment proposal of 37 Million euros on Digital Twins of the physical environment as part of the implementation of “a green and digital transformation of the EU”, signed by all EU states. The term Digital Twin covers many interpretations ranging from a general 3D model of an object, to a highly detailed Building Information Model. “It is our intention to use the new ITC building to give meaning to the buzzword Digital Twin, describing the different flavors in capturing the data, generating a Digital Twin and using it for multiple purposes”, says Lehtola.

Dr. Ville Lehtola
“Digital Twins are all about planning. Planning is done to save expenses. The better you plan, the more expense you are going to save.”
Dr. Ville Lehtola

The next chapter on geo-information

Recently, Lehtola wrote a book chapter that describes the underlying concepts that lead to Digital Twins. At ITC, Lehtola uses its content to teach about laser scanning. “I decided to write the chapter, with my colleagues Shayan Nikoohemat and Andreas Nüchter, mainly to have indoor data stand as a part of geodata.” Lehtola hopes that this book chapter motivates students and professionals to get an interest in this line of study.

Back in time

During the construction of the new ITC building, there will be laser scans and multiple high-resolution images captured of geo-data. These measurements, most of them hidden once the building is ready, are used to map the progress of the building and help create a Digital Twin. It will allow a 4D digital representation of the building construction process. “Back in the days, cartographers and land surveyors made maps that were used for decades. Nowadays, we can make 3D maps that are always up to date. These digital twins can be used as a playback, to go back in time. The digital twin of the new ITC building is very useful for educational purposes. In the future, we know this building by intuition, because we work and study there. We can for instance use augmented reality goggles to look at the past, through walls, because by then we have made multiple scans through time.”


These 3D models that Lehtola describes are now already being used for simulations. Because this technique can easily map objects inside a building, it can be helpful when running evacuation scenarios.

“We still do not know the full potential of digital twins, but we are eager to find out. The whole endeavor with our project when twinning the new ITC building is multidisciplinary. The idea was started together with my colleagues Sander Oude Elberink and Mila Koeva, and we invite academics with different talents, from different fields to join in. Together we can have a good understanding of this. We plan to work closely with the Digital Societal Institute of the University of Twente. By making the data and research output publicly available and by actively seeking partnerships around the use of Digital Twins – the project will allow us to engage in shaping connections by externally communicating novel techniques developed and used by ITC researchers and students working with the data.”

More information

The chapter ‘Indoor 3D: Overview on scanning and reconstruction methods’ by Ville Lehtola, Shayan Nikoohemat and Andreas Nüchter can be found in the Handbook of Big Geospatial Data. More information on the relocation of ITC can be found on the website https://www.utwente.nl/en/ltsh/langezijds/.  

R. Kwakman MSc (Robin)
Communication Advisor (Faculty ITC)