Preserving our past and protecting our future with digital twins

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In December 2017, my family and I walked in awe towards the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Beautiful and stoic, this architectural vision drew you closer. It was as if the cathedral embraced you at first sight. I remember standing in silence, on a particularly cold winters day, taking in every feature of the façade – the statues, the markings, the colours.

As we entered the cathedral, my family all walked in silence, each taking a different path. I sat on a pew, almost unable to take in a breath. The emotion overtook me, as I embraced every story etched into the walls and ceiling, and the unique reaction it had for every person in the cathedral on that very day.

Later, when I posted photos of Notre-Dame to Instagram, my Mum expressed how she hoped that one day, she too, would experience this wonder in all its glory.

On April 15th, 2019, the world watched in disbelief as a fire took over the cathedral’s spire. Initial investigations suggest that an electrical short-circuit was the cause of the disastrous fire.

I personally watched in horror, reflecting on that perfect morning in 2017 as I sat, enveloped in the warmth of the cathedral’s history and stories. My Mum reached out to me, saying simply, “I never had the chance to see the wonder of Notre-Dame.”

Today however, is this statement correct? In some ways, yes – the originality and authenticity are of course damaged. Yet, should this mean that we are unable to recreate every intricate detail of the cathedral?

Digital twins as a concept, have been in existence for many years. Used by NASA and oil rigs, digital twins in their original form, create a digital replica of the physical world.

Willow has created the digital twin for the built world. What does this mean for situations like Notre-Dame?

We can preserve the past

Through the creation of a digital twin, every intricate detail of the building – from the façade to the detailed sculptures, can be replicated and preserved in history. In Australia, Willow is doing this with Pontiac’s ‘Sandstones’ building. Whilst not of the same history and level of detail as Notre-Dame, the Sandstones building; designed by colonial architect James Barnet and built between 1873 and 1896, is heritage listed. Every architectural change – however small – must be made with respect and absolute integrity to protecting the heritage of the building. Singaporean property developer, Pontiac, plans to develop the current Government office into a world-class hotel, preserving the architectural building design and façade. WillowDigitalTM is engaged to provide architectural plans and models of Sandstones, ensuring every change and every new concept preserves the glory of the past.

We can protect for the future

All static and live data can be audited, collected and integrated from disparate systems into one intuitive software platform. Overlaid with the 3D model and geospatial data, WillowTwinTM enables data at scale. Now, instead of simply managing the impact of problems, you can predict and prevent issues from occurring. The ability to model a disaster, such as a fire, is an invaluable benefit to owners of buildings and infrastructure. The event requires a view on where sensors and alarms are located, and where the escape paths are. In Rottweil Germany, thyssenkrupp Elevator is leveraging WillowTwinTM to sense, predict and prevent maintenance issues for their lifts. In addition, by integrating people counting analysis into the data set, and modelling this in the WillowTwinTM, thyssenkrupp can now see where humans are located in their building, and should disaster strike, clearly see that every individual is evacuated safely.

We can recreate from the ashes

Disasters happen. We have seen this all too often across the globe. With a digital twin, it is literally possible to rebuild physical structures from the ashes. To recreate those monuments by which the stories of our past are told and have shaped our today – and tomorrow.

I sit reflecting on Notre-Dame. As I close my eyes, I can sense and feel the cathedral around me. I remember its glory. And now I hope, with all my heart, it is redeveloped so that many more people, including my Mum, have the opportunity to share the same experience in the future.

Michelle Zamora is the Chief Marketing Officer at Willow.

About Willow

Willow is the digital twin for the built world.

Our mission is to empower every person and organisation to connect with the built world in a whole new way.  

For more, visit

For media enquiries, contact Michelle Zamora, Global Chief Marketing Officer at
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