Digital Twin Streamlines ‘Rip and Replace’ for Carriers


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Watch the webinar replay here.

The FCC’s “Rip and Replace” equipment recall mandate creates unique logistical challenges for many carriers, as they remove equipment from “untrusted” manufacturers and replace it with “trusted” equipment. Carriers face funding deadlines, inadequate tower legacy data, repetitive and redundant site visits, engineering analysis backlogs, seasonal installation windows, and skilled labor shortages.

A digital twin of a tower can help carriers identify the installed equipment to be replaced and evaluate loading scenarios for structural integrity. Armed with this information, carriers can streamline the process, reducing tower visits and saving money.

Spencer Crawford-White of Visual Intelligence, a sensor and auto navigation software company, Apurba Tribedi of Bentley Systems, an infrastructure engineering software company and creator of OpenTower iQ, joined John Celentano of Inside Towers for a webinar to discuss how a digital twin approach can help carriers streamline the process of recall activities by rapidly identifying equipment make and model, automating structural analysis, facilitating drawings and simulations, and documenting site modifications.

A few years back, national security issues were raised about wireless equipment from foreign manufacturers. Congress went on to enact legislation that required carriers to remove equipment or services currently used in U.S. networks from companies deemed “untrusted” within one year. In this case, Chinese companies — Huawei, ZTE, and a few others — were deemed security and intelligence risks for the United States.

Here’s how Bentley Systems and Visual Intelligence work together to aid the Rip and Replace process. Visual Intelligence handles the planning and the capturing, Bentley Systems then creates the digital models within Open Tower IQ. Within the application, all necessary analysis can be performed and engineering documents can be created. The result is an engineering-grade digital twin, which is delivered to not only the customer, but all of the engineers that are going to be working on the Rip and Replace project.

“We see a distinct lack of good quality legacy data to make these engineering decisions,” Crawford-White said. “We brought together the power of Visual Intelligence’s capture and visualization and millimeter engineering data and Bentley’s digital modeling and engineering processes to combat this and save time and money.”

Visual Intelligence uses a patented sensor, which is 20 times more accurate than Lidar and 100 times more accurate than off-the-shelf drones and adds the software to manage and collate the data. During the webinar, Crawford-White showed the differential between inspection class analysis, which gives centimeter accuracy, and the engineering class analysis, which provides detail down to millimeter accuracy.

“When scanning these sites in the Rip and Replace scenario, using AI, we need engineering accuracy to have the confidence factor that we have the millimeter accuracy needed to define the exact piece of equipment on the tower,” Crawford-White said.

General contractors also need to be able to make decisions about what tools, equipment, brackets, nuts and bolts are needed before they go to the site, so they are properly prepared when entering the job site. The information gleaned from the digital twin speeds up that process, reducing extra visits, delivering a higher quality product, the first time.

Tribedi discussed the factors that are needed to make an authentic digital twin. It takes more than just the 3D computer graphic model, which he called the “reality” model.

“Unless you have the ‘design’ model and the analytics coming out of the ‘reality’ model that reconcile the data — unless you do all these things together — then it is not really a digital twin,” he said. “The purpose of the digital twin is to create and maintain a source of truth to manage a telecom tower’s entire lifecycle.”

The first phase of the Rip and Replace process is to keep all the existing equipment on the tower and add new equipment. Then crews go back to the tower, remove the old equipment and readjust the new equipment.

“The source of truth is actually extremely important,” Tribedi said. “Instead of going to the site every time, all stakeholders can take advantage of the source of truth for future planning, installation and then reconcile post construction as-built data.”

Access more information about the Open Tower IQ platform here. Watch a replay of the webinar here.

By J. Sharpe Smith Inside Towers Technology Editor

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