We all have grown used to the concept and practice of digitization: books turned into e-books, paper information turned into electronic formats and digital processes, music in bits and bytes, the list goes on. We start to understand the opposite as well, for instance with 3D-printing. Digital twins are something different. They are digital (software) copies of a physical asset. That’s the really simple definition. Let’s take a deeper look.
What is Digital Twinning?
Digital Twinning is a cloud deployed software model representing physical machine or objects or service process based on sensor installed data or system generated data. The data varies based on each product or service such as:
- Environment data i.e. location, temperature etc.
- Product data i.e. classification, composition, structure, operation etc.
- Event data i.e. time series, operation cycle, real-world performance feedback etc.
- Customer data i.e. consumer feedback, operational data etc.
- Analytics i.e. algorithm, rules, prediction etc.
These data create a software mirror of physical product or service and helps enterprises in various ways such as:
- Understanding the actual state of the product before production & improve design if required understanding real-world performance of products.
- Predicting equipment fault or defect in actual operation & repair proactively.
- Developing new product, visualizing service process & customer engagement point minimizing product or service failure or downtime.
- Reducing manufacturing or operational costs.
Digital Twinning Types
Digital Twinning can be four types such as parts twinning, product twining, process twinning, and system twinning.
- Part twinning can predict problems earlier and can warn about potential failure.
- Product twining can optimize lifetime of assets minimizing maintenance cost.
- Process twins optimize the operational process and help field engineers maximizing utilization.
- System twinning optimizes KPIs and makes the balance between revenue and lifetime of the system or maintenance cost.
Why Digital Twinning for IoT?
With the growth of IoT system and networks, Digital Twinning emerges as a means of establishing virtual control over real objects, vice versa, and virtual to virtual control. In virtual to the real scenario, the virtual software model of objects or things is provisioned and administered to interface with real product or object or service allowing monitoring and control.
In real to virtual scenario, real product or object will provide feedback, alerts, and control of virtual objects (software programs via Software Defined Networks) and platforms (hardware and software put in place to orchestrate IoT networks and assets). In virtual to virtual scenario, virtual objects simulate and test IoT networks including end-nodes and assets.
In real life, you’ll notice that digital twins today are predominantly used in the Industrial Internet or Industrial Internet of Things and certainly engineering and manufacturing. The technology of pairing digital to physical objects was developed by NASA research back in the early days of space exploration whereby a digital model helped in operating, simulating and analyzing an underlying system governed by physics. You can imagine that the budgets, means and needs in space exploration were a bit higher than those of companies. NASA still uses digital twins but now also for similar reasons as in other ‘industries’.
That’s also why, when we speak about investments in and solutions for digital twins, we will typically encounter the names of companies that are very active in the Industrial Internet. GE, for instance. PTC, Siemens, CSC, SAP, the list goes on.
The future of digital twins
In the future we’ll see twins expand to more applications, use cases, and industries and get combined with more technologies such as speech capabilities, augmented reality for an immersive experience, AI capabilities, more technologies enabling us to look inside the digital twin removing the need to go and check the ‘real’ thing and so on.