Imagine trying different situations with your products, processes, or facilities before adopting them in your business. That’s why we have digital twins. Companies worldwide are already making and using this technology to improve their processes, supply chains, management of facilities, and other things.
Businesses worldwide want to use Digital Twins for a wide range of things, such as designing complex equipment and creating 3D immersive environments, as well as for precision medicine and digital agriculture. But so far, applications have been highly customized and only available for high-value use cases, like running jet engines, factories, and power plants. Now, top tech companies like AWS are working hard to lower costs and make it easier to use this technology. AWS IoT TwinMaker is making it easier for companies of all sizes and types to build their own Digital Twins.
What’s a Digital Twin?
A digital twin is an exact copy of something in the real world, like a machine, a building, or even a city. It can be made digitally. Michael Grieves at the University of Michigan coined the term “digital twin” in 2002. But NASA has been using digital models of real things for about 50 years, most notably in the Apollo 13 mission.
Digital Twin combines ideas like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), the metaverse, and virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) to make digital models of real-world objects, systems, or processes. Then, these models can be used to change and tweak variables to see their effect on whatever is being compared. This can be done for a fraction of the cost of doing experiments in the real world.
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How Does a Digital Twin Work?
A digital twin is a virtual model that accurately reflects a physical word. Objects being studied, like wind turbines, are fitted with sensors that measure important parts of how they work. These sensors give information about how the physical object works, like how much energy it uses, its temperature, the weather, and more. This information is then sent to a processing system, which is used to change the digital copy.
Once the virtual model has this information, it can run simulations, study performance problems, and develop possible improvements. The goal is to gain valuable insights which can be applied to the original physical object.
Real-Life Examples of Digital Twin Technology
In the past few years, some innovative digital twins have been made that are inspiring the industry and helping to push the limits of what is possible in science, medicine, engineering, pharmaceuticals, sports, and many other fields. Here are some examples of the most interesting and unique ones.
One of the most important ways digital twins are changing operations is in manufacturing. Digital twin technology has changed how cars are made by the companies that make them. For each model of car it makes, Ford makes seven digital twins. Each twin is responsible for a different part of the production process, from designing to building to running. The digital twin accurately finds energy losses in their production facilities and points out where energy can be saved. The overall performance of the production line can be improved.
Digital twins are used to simulate the process of making things in factories. Manufacturers can make virtual copies of a real product, equipment, production process, or whole system using data from industrial IoT solutions, sensors connected to machines, and manufacturing tools.
For maintenance, digital twins make it possible to check on the health of equipment and spot any problems quickly. They track how the equipment works in real-time and add historical data on failures and maintenance data. The solution predicts when maintenance work must be done using machine learning and artificial intelligence. Based on this information, companies can take steps to keep production from stopping.
Real Life Example: Consumer Goods Manufacturing
Unilever PLC is using digital twins to improve the efficiency and flexibility of the production process. The company has made models of its factories that can be used online. IoT sensors send real-time performance data to the enterprise cloud at each location, such as temperature and motor speed.
An IoT digital twin simulates what-if scenarios with the help of advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to find the best operational conditions. This makes it easier for manufacturers to get the most out of their materials and reduces the amount of waste from products that need to meet quality standards. Unilever runs eight digital twins across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.
Real Life Example: Pharma Manufacturing
A collaboration between the digital transformation consulting firm Atos and the engineering company Siemens is a good example of digital twin technology in the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical companies are working on a digital twin solution for the pharmaceutical industry. The system makes a digital copy of a certain step in the production process. When connected to Internet of Things (IoT) sensors installed on the plant, it gives a real-time view of everything happening. AI and Advanced Analytics power the solution and come with optimized quality and reliability measures for the process.
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2. Digital Twins in Retail
Digital twins could be useful in the retail industry, supply chain, and stores. Retailers use data from ERP and other business systems and data from real-time sensors and equipment to make supply chain simulations. The models give an overview of the performance of a supply chain, including its assets, warehouses, material flows, inventory positions, and people. Retailers use data from RFID readers, motion sensors, and smart shelves to make digital copies of items in the store. With these models, they can look at how customers move around and what they buy and test the best way to put products.
Real-Life Example: French Supermarket
Intermarché, a French grocery store chain, made a digital twin of a real store using data from Internet of Things (IoT) shelves and sales systems. Now, store managers can easily keep track of stock and see how different store layouts work.
3. Digital Twins in Utilities: Water Supply
Digital twins are used by water utilities to make sure that water is always available and to be better prepared for emergencies. With digital copies, they can get a good idea of how the current water system works, find problems before they happen, and try out “what-if” scenarios.
Water utilities make virtual models of water systems based on the data that sensors and actuators collect about how the real systems work. They also use data from information systems in the water industry, such as CMMS (computer maintenance management systems), GIS (geographic information systems), and SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition).
Real-Life Example: Water Supply in the City
The Portuguese utility company Aguas do Porto (AdP) is responsible for getting water to Porto. AdP uses digital twins to predict flooding and water quality problems, improve city services and response times, and ensure that water infrastructure is resilient.
The solution makes virtual models based on data from sensors, telemetry, and 20 other sources, such as customer service management, billing, maintenance, asset accounting, etc. Digital twins let AdP watch the systems that supply water in real-time. They also predict how much water will be used and simulate pipe bursts and pump and valve shutdowns.
4. Digital Twins in Healthcare
Digital twins can be used to design medical devices, like vena cava filters, in healthcare. They need two virtual copies: the digital twin of the patient, which has information about the patient’s anatomy and physiology, and the digital twin of the medical device, which has information about how the device works. By putting the two models together, researchers in health care can see what happens when a certain device is put inside a patient’s body.
Digital twins also help improve the performance of a device by running hundreds of simulations with different patients and conditions.
Real-Life Example: Human Heart Models for Device Design
The Living Heart Project is an international group of researchers working together to make and test very accurate digital models of the human heart based on MRI images and ECG data. In the project, the FDA is working with some of the best researchers, educators, makers of medical devices, and practicing cardiologists. They use the digital twin heart to simulate conditions in-vivo (in a living organism), see anatomy that can’t be seen, and make improvements to the designs of cardiology devices more quickly. The team hopes this experiment will be a playbook for future in-silico clinical trials done on a computer.
Digital twin technology is used in the construction industry to make digital copies of buildings, infrastructure, and other physical assets.
These virtual models show in detail how the asset is built and how it works in real-time. For example, it lets construction companies see how people use the space, how much space is used, and how people move through the building.
The virtual model also lets construction companies try out different scenarios, like changes to the design, bad weather, or security problems, without stopping the construction. It also lets you gather all the data in one place and see it all at once.
Real Life Example: Bentley BIM Model
Bentley BIM Modelling services use Bentley software to help architects, engineers, contractors, and construction site workers solve problems that can come up at any point in a building project. The software takes point cloud data into a 3D building information model with lots of information.
BIM Managers can do quality assurance and quality control checks with this model to ensure the client gets accurate results. Also, Bentley’s clash detection feature can find differences and stop electrical or plumbing systems from not talking to each other properly.
6. Smart Cities
Digital twin technology is becoming increasingly popular in designing and running smart cities. A city’s digital twin can simulate and study different situations, like how traffic moves, how much energy is used, and how to handle an emergency.
Cities can use digital twin technology to simulate and study traffic flow, find traffic jams, and improve the timing of traffic lights. Because of this, it can lead to better use of the roads and less traffic.
Smart cities can simulate and analyze how much energy they use, find ways to use energy more efficiently and make the best use of renewable energy sources. Because of this, it can help save money and cut down on carbon emissions.
Cities can also use digital twin technology to simulate and study how to respond to emergencies like natural disasters and terrorist attacks. It can help cities get ready for emergencies and help them deal with them better when they happen.
Digital Twin Example- Virtual Singapore Platform
The Virtual Singapore platform is a digital version of Singapore that lets people from different fields make tools and apps to test new ideas and services. It is also used to make plans, make decisions, and look into technologies that can help solve difficult problems in the country.
The platform will have different features for different types of users, and it will be rolled out in stages to protect data privacy and security. Currently, government agencies can use the platform to make decisions about different projects.
Digital Twin Technology is the Future
A digital twin sounds like an avatar you’d choose for a video game or virtual reality experience. It’s a technology becoming increasingly common and will change the world (and the universe) in ways we’re just starting to understand. It’s already helping energy companies make their wind turbines more efficient, letting whole countries plan for climate change, and even letting fast-food restaurants serve you that burger a little faster.
Deloitte says that IDC predicts that by 2022, 40% of IoT platform vendors will integrate simulation platforms, systems, and capabilities to create digital twins, and 70% of manufacturers will use the technology to process simulations and scenario evaluations. If your company already uses IoT technology or is thinking about doing so, you’ll want to keep an eye on how digital twins will help your industry change in the future.