Will There Soon Be A Digital Twin For Everything?

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Will There Soon Be A Digital Twin For Everything?
May 27, 2018

Digital twins will evolve from concept to reality for nearly everything—everyone, every service, and every network.

 

The digital twin, as the virtual representation of the physical product, service or person, acts as a mirror of the real world to provides a means to simulate, predict, forecast, service, and self-heal. As such, it presents huge opportunities for businesses and to improve people’s lives.

 

A digital twin is not really new. For decades, weather forecasts have captured real-time conditions measured by numerous sensors and devices, simulating and visually representing them in digital form to make long-term climate predictions and short-term forecasts.

 

Now, with the massive technology push in the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, and cloud solutions, the potential of digital twins is no longer just a concept, but a disruptive driver of innovation, and it is more affordable than ever.

 

With sensor prices dropping more than 50% between 2010 and 2020 and new technology like IoT and cloud solution now much more affordable, this technology can be applied to even low-value goods and consumer products. The digital twin, in combination with IoT sensors and emerging technologies, is now entering a new phase in market acceptance. After several years of evaluating, it becomes more and more an indispensable component of life. According the Gartner Hype Cycle, IoT will reach the plateau of productivity between 2019 and 2022, followed by digital twins from 2022 onwards.

 

Digital twins will touch every area of our lives: things, services, people, and networks.

 

The value of a digital twin

Digital twins offer a huge business potential moving away from analyzing the past towards predicting the future.The live representation of reality via digital twins allows us to evolve from ex-post data gathering and analytics towards real-time and ex-ante business practices. Based on the digital twin, formerly impossible practices can now be performed. Examples include real-time simulation, self-healing processes, and increased predictability. Imagine how customer satisfaction and customer loyalty will increase when products will let people know there’s a problem before they break down.

 

Things (products/assets)

The digital twin has huge potential spanning across the entire product lifecycle, from R&D engineering, manufacturing, service and maintenance, to operations. Here are some examples:

 

The digital twin helps manage the manufacturing of the “segment of one” more efficiently. Each physical product has a live representation in the digital world that can be tailored, designed, and created to individual needs. The individualized demand will be channeled into the digital supply chain. Hence a drastic change will happen: Production will evolve towards mass customization and individualization.

 

The maintenance business of products and assets will benefit from reduced downtime and time for inspection. The effort for physical inspection could be significantly reduced. Usage and performance data will provide insight into the physical state of a product or asset. Based on usage patterns combined with machine learning, the optimized, cost-effective maintenance plan will be derived for industrial assets and as well as in your home. The digital twin allows establishing predictive maintenance strategies: Fix it before it breaks!

 

In manufacturing operations, the digital twin innovation is a tremendous opportunity to simulate production and plant operations. Leveraging simulation of real scenarios using digital twins will help to optimize plant layout and accelerate production line design.

 

People

Another area where digital twins offer huge opportunities is the representation of people. They can improve lives in three main areas: Medical health, sports, and employee training and education.

 

The representation of an individual person, including personal data like weight, health data, activity tracking data, and medical treatment data can help to establish predictive alerts and guide people to healthier lifestyles. It will give better insights and transparency on the individual’s health situation by offering more data points. Data shared with doctors will help define better preventive strategies and recovery plans and shrink health care costs.

 

Athletes can benefit from digital twins by designing training programs for their specific needs based on physical fitness level. In addition, the technology can have a dramatic impact on individual performance in conjunction with IoT such as smart tennis racquets and other sports equipment.

 

In the business world, employee training plays an important role in time to market. Workers can be trained in the digital world first, leading to tremendous resource optimization for on-site training.

 

Services

Using a digital twin offers new opportunities for value-added services, some that are brand-new services and others that are attached to products and assets. For example, you can add value by analyzing a product’s current state and providing the perfect service in time to prevent downtime. Improve service by delivering the right information at the right time on product state, diagnostics, spare parts, and technical information.

 

In addition, new service models, such as remote service, are now becoming reality. With the digital twin,  equipment acts as a service delivery unit and can self-heal, adding new services or features via software updates.

 

Networks

The network of digital twins is a game-changer. By connecting things, people, and services, every aspect of business can be virtually represented. Connecting distributed digital twins within companies, across companies, and across the ecosystem will allow companies to build virtual connected supply chain networks. Leveraging Big Data capabilities, this strategy provides unprecedented visibility into operating performance conditions and states of health, and creates the possibility of predicting future needs in a network of digital twins. Finally, it will add tremendous value by:

- Offering new choices

- Enhancing decision-making capabilities

- Performing corrective actions before a system breaks

 

Imagine having the opportunity to manage air quality in big cities. By connecting data on traffic, weather conditions, air pollution, and health impact, measures can be taken to improve people’s lives significantly.

 

Conclusion

Digital twins will be a disrupter for many industries and will radically change business models. Ultimately, capitalizing the power of IoT and data regarding things, services, people, and networks, digital twins will change how businesses create, simulate, perform, predict, and self-heal.

 

Don’t wait—stay ahead of the curve by moving now. Start with a proof of concept, to better understand the technology’s value for your business. Be the disruptor of your industry rather than being disrupted.

 

This blog is the first one of a series to share insight into digital twins.

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