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London-based Sensat raised another $20.5 million to help commercialize digital twins for infrastructure projects in energy, rail and telecommunications. This comes on the heel of several successful trials with large customers since its $10 million raise in 2019.
The company launched in 2018 with an ambitious plan to help infrastructure companies achieve the same productivity gains as in other sectors.
Sensat CEO, James Dean, told VentureBeat, “Sensat’s digital twin automates manual workflows and decision-making, boosts productivity by double digits, and consolidates information for more transparency and better-informed decision-making.”
Contextualizing regular workflows
Over the last few years, Sensat has fleshed out its digital twin technology, added new features like support for CCTV feeds and scheduling, and grown the customer base. It’s now used to build, plan and manage over $150 billion worth of infrastructure worldwide such as the UK National Grid, Heathrow Airport and Network Rail. National Grid was so impressed with the tech, they led the latest funding effort.
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Dean said they have been exploring various ways to contextualize data within everyday workflows. For example, Sensat’s new CCTV API fetches camera footage from across a larger project to provide a real-time view overlaid into the digital twin. On a construction site, the CCTV feed might capture the movement of trucks, people and machinery and then use machine learning analytics to re-create those objects within the 3D virtual scene.
“These analytics are helping us to measure, quantify and learn how site operations work with real intimacy so that we can tweak their operations to be as efficient as possible,” explained Dean.
Sensat has also launched an integration with Oracle’s P6, the leading scheduling software for the infrastructure sector. This allows teams to load up their schedule, and Sensat will link it to activities and designs in the digital twin, helping to visualize workflows and rehearse precisely what will happen. Sensat’s single environment allows users to visit their project’s past, present and future to help with more effective decision-making.
Lessons from the trenches
Dean said they have learned a lot from working with different site operators.
First, he expects most infrastructure asset owners to operate multiple digital twins. He often finds that infrastructure owners want different digital twins to support various stages of construction and operations.
He has also found that it is vital that a digital twin should look like the site. This helps people link new information to their physical experience working on the project.
The most successful projects focused on how to improve human productivity, safety and costs. They are using them to streamline processes that save teams time. He has seen teams struggle to solve functional problems rather than helping people do their job more efficiently and effectively.
Infrastructure digital twins could play a key role in helping to drive digital transformation across construction and infrastructure. Competitors working on various aspects include giants like Bentley, Autodesk and ESRI. In addition, several smaller firms are using digital twins to improve various construction workflows such as Agora, Buildots, Cupix and UrsaLeo.
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