Published: Dec 03, 2022

what is digital twin and why it matters


Digital Twin Technology is an innovation that allows the digital copy or counterpart of anything in the real world. The persistence of virtual realities means a digital version exists for every physical object, service or system. Digital Twins serve as a way to measure, analyse, and predict real-world data.

Industries and future business trends benefit from the rise of digital twin technology. Anything in the real world can be very unpredictable. Natural phenomena influence the way business works. Market behaviours can manipulate the outcome of business and technology. Digital Twins take real-time data and work with given data to project future results. 

Digital Twin Technology touches many aspects like Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The rise of created digital models is starting to gain traction among various industries. The value of digital twins helps businesses think ahead.

According to L. Vailshery's 2022 report, "Manufacturing, automotive, aviation, energy, utilities, healthcare, logistics, retail, and other industries have adopted digital twins to boost productivity and efficiency. By 2025, the manufacturing industry is forecast to reach a market size worth over six billion U.S. dollars."

What Is a Digital Twin?

Digital twin technology is a concept that builds on predictive capabilities and simulation. The term "digital twin" was originally coined by Dr. Michael Grieves in 2002. NASA was one of the first to use this technology for space exploration missions. 

A digital twin is a computer program simulating any product, good, or service. Digital twins create a digital copy of a physical object and apply real-time analytics and virtual model development to ensure businesses are one step ahead.

Example: New product by a company

Let us take as an example a company that wants to offer a new product to the market. Say this business invests in digital twin technology, which means they can create a digital footprint of that new product, study its performance, predict downfalls and forecast numbers. The digital footprint of the new product is enough for companies to know how it will fare if they launch it in reality.

More than developing the business by making new products, one way to prevent significant expenses and potential market failure launches is to think ahead. Digital twin technology ensures that companies can access a digital representation of the physical assets, run simulations and predict potential data.

How Does It Work?

The process of how Digital Twin works boils down to data collection. Afterwards, digital twins are subjected to other technologies to collect data created. These are some methods of how digital twins work in businesses and industries.

Step 1: Model development

First, engineers collect and synthesise data from the real world. Data engineers and experts collate various physical object data and apply mathematics and operational data research to create a working mathematical model for the developed digital twin prototype.

As professionals collect data to turn them into a model, they gather insight into the physical object. Eventually, the model development leads to a digital twin concept that the business can immerse in simulations. Depending on the complexity of the product or service, the amount of data varies.

The data collected is then immersed in a physics model to serve as a basis for the physical object in a digital environment. The model development stage means businesses can already create a digital prototype long before production makes the physical object of the digital twin.

Step 2: Feedback collection

Once the business creates the digital twin from the immersed mathematical and physics models, it is time to use equipment to gather data from the real world. The digital twin is already in the digital world. Now businesses need to use sensors and real-world devices to monitor the behaviour of physical objects for the digital twin.

With the use of sensors and other equipment, the digital twin can mimic the behaviour of the real thing. As the digital twin gathers real-time data from the physical world, it can act in its virtual environment resulting in more data. Feedback and data collection become the source of future decisions for the company regarding the product.

The company can then formulate insights about the current performance of the digital twin. This is where businesses can predict or know potential information about the physical product if they ever launch it in real life.

Step 3: Product prototype

The data build-up of the digital twin means that the business has enough information to shape how the physical object will be. The digital twin can serve as a basis for product prototypes with the added twist of improvements, developments and informed changes.

On the other hand, digital twins can serve as a basis for long-run studies on the current product prototype instead of companies producing tens of thousands of replicas to be offered in real life and studied. The digital twins in the virtual world serve as the test runs that the business needs to perform to know more about how the product or service potentially performs.

The collected data's complexity directly affects the digital twin's precision. The more data professionals will collect, the higher the accuracy of the digital copy when the business develops its digital twins.

Types of Digital Twins

There are various types of digital twins in the digital twin market. Different digital twins' biggest basis is their application areas and product magnification. This means that the smallest type of digital twin builds up towards the biggest type of digital twin. Organisations can use various types of digital twins simultaneously in one digital environment.

Part Twins

Part Twins are the most basic form of digital twins. These digital twins are called Component Twins, where companies create digital copies of a specific, less important part of an actual physical object. Component twins are the smallest functional part of an object. These basic digital parts can eventually be standalone digital objects that engineers can build from. Parts often produce results of individual data for a specific functioning component.

Product Twins

Product Twins are collections of parts twins. The entire digital twin counterpart becomes a functional product when various parts are put together to simulate a complete physical object. Another term for product twins is Asset Twins. 

Companies can collect various performance data when two or more component twins work together. The interaction of product twins leads to more actionable insights for businesses to analyse.

System or Unit Twins

System Twins are collections of product twins that make up an entire system and have many connecting parts serving specific functions and purposes. System Twins are product twins that work together to complete a functional unit. Businesses can gather performance enhancement insights from the data collected from full system twins. An example of a system twin is the entire simulation of a production line.

Process Twins

Process Twins are digital twin counterparts that encompass multiple system twins. With each higher level of the digital twin hierarchy (in terms of size), the Process Twins include all types of digital twins. Process Twins are massive and focus more on the macro point of view of products, whereas a system twin is an entire production line. The process twin is the whole production facility in the virtual world.

Benefits

These benefits of digital twins rely on application and use cases in the real world. In reality, digital twin technology can serve as virtual representations of any business and industry. 

The question is, do all businesses benefit from investing in digital twin technologies? Let us acknowledge that despite the persistence of various economic progressions and advancements in technology, many enterprises remain unchanged but still stay strong.

Gartner's survey states, "While only 13 per cent of respondents claim to already use digital twins, 62 per cent are either in the process of establishing the technology or plan to do so in the next year. This rapid growth in adoption is due to extensive marketing and education by technology vendors, but also because digital twins are delivering business value and have become part of enterprise IoT and digital strategies."

Digital twins are changing the way organisations and enterprises collect and project data. Here are some reasons why businesses should invest in digital twins:

Lower maintenance expenses

The predictive capabilities of digital twin technology mean that businesses will have insight into potential product or system issues beforehand. The company gathers more data and insights via the digital twin; it can think ahead about what to do with the physical object when it experiences the issues that the digital twin forecasted. 

Companies can reduce the cost of maintenance expenses or choose not to offer the products altogether.

Companies save money by thinking ahead. Not all products and services survive changing market behaviour. Digital twins can also point out maintenance procedures that will not add value in real life. Businesses cut expenses by preventing the incursion of these expenses in the first place.

Faster production cycle times

Simulations also hasten and improve efficiency by monitoring the time data of physical objects via digital twins. Digital twins provide data on potential issues or problems the physical object can undergo. This means that the business can avoid and address these issues, preventing possible downtimes in production due to enhancements and maintenance processes.

Digital twins save companies from expenses. Moreover, digital twins can improve companies' cycle times by up to 30 per cent on critical processes. Bigger organisations plan things years ahead before launching product offerings. Some businesses look into developing and expanding offerings to the market. 

Digital twins become the necessary simulation that looks into future product performance, including time consumption.

Extensive testing before product launch

The testing phase of the product development cycle can be one of the most crucial aspects before launching. No business wants to offer a faulty good or a product that does not give value to its consumers. 

Digital twin technology is one way to test the performance of the product. Any good present data and multiple exposures to various digital environments can further assess and evaluate the product. Companies can keep modifying, changing and improving the product via the digital twin before actually creating large batches in real life.

Better Research and Development

Digital twin technology is a development for businesses. How many companies and organisations have research and development departments that cater to creating more product ideas? The existence of the digital twin means that organisations can keep creating and simulating products and objects from real life and tweak them accordingly in the virtual world.

One effect of digital twin technology is the abundance of data. R&D departments can design, simulate, and keep assessing asset performance. There is no need to receive market backlash from product inefficiencies and failures. Improve the product or goods before launching it in real life.

Improved business results

Nothing in business and industries is set in stone — trends always come and go. Changes can mould the way the market demands from existing businesses and enterprises. Everything changes around the world. How can businesses adapt and stay afloat with how the world shifts?

The most significant benefit of digital twin technology is replication and foresight. Companies that know what lies ahead have better chances of improving and surviving how consumer trends react. Always remember that businesses rely on customer experience and satisfaction. Businesses that are more adept at changing consumer demands are more resilient and will last longer in their respective industries.

Applications

In simpler terms, Digital Twins are just digital models and copies of existing physical objects and systems. Any business in the real world that uses and produces tangible things benefits from digital twins technology. Digital Twin technology allows businesses to gain insight and use collected data for business development.

The application of digital wins persists in certain sectors. Industries that deal with big data will surely benefit from the application of digital twins. Here are some of the applications of digital twins:

Manufacturing

Manufacturing is one of the biggest industries that changed with the introduction of digital twin technology. Manufacturing businesses integrate a lot of processes and procedures. Big manufacturing companies put together various equipment, production sites and digital systems for their products and services.

With digital twins, businesses can simulate these processes before taking on the market's demands. Entire process times can track down the production time of goods, analyse bottlenecks along the way and optimise the production behaviours of the company. Digital twins can simulate how organisations can streamline tasks and specific process steps to ensure efficient results.

For example, Company A creates a system twin for a manufacturing process. Company A can analyse current data and machinery performance, devise ways to speed up the process and perform run tests of production using the digital twin.

Healthcare

The applications of Digital Twins are endless, especially in changing times. The Healthcare Industry has some of the most prominent applications of Digital Twin technology. In the Healthcare sector, executives expect about a 66% increase in investments in Digital Twin technologies for the next three years (Accenture, 2021).

The Healthcare industry holds some of the biggest volumes of data. This information comes from millions of professionals, workers, patients and consumers in the industry. The most recent evidence of Digital Twin technology in Healthcare is the pandemic.

For example, Hospital H aims to optimise the facilities and resources in the institution to maximise COVID-19 patients. One way Hospital H can track the hospital bed space in real time, monitor staff schedules, and note and gather specific test results is by building a Digital Twin hospital.

Automotive industry

Automotive companies are the main sector for vehicles. Any vehicular unit can contain complex parts that work together to move. The automotive industry is prone to a lot of machine breakdown, resource wastage and depreciating product performance. Before a company launches a new car model, it requires a ton of changes, revisions and redesigns.

Digital twins technology helps automotive brands keep their vehicular offerings more valuable and safer for consumers. As to collecting more data on the current performance of a specific vehicle unit, professionals can derive more analysis and insight on which component twin or asset twin to improve.

For example, Company B wants to launch Car X to the market. They can invest in a digital twin of a working prototype, launch all necessary tests in the virtual space, and implement new designs according to test results. Once Company B is sure of the product, it can create an actual physical object. This saves them a lot of money from building endless prototypes and designs.

AR/VR

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are new advancements in the market. Nevertheless, the augmented world and virtual space concepts are not new. Until this decade, there were little to no improvements in the virtual world and environment. There were only recent product introductions that involved offering AR and VR capabilities to the market.

The idea of Augmented Reality is older than Digital Twin Technology. The nuance between AR/VR and digital twin technology is very far. AR and VR often only scopes augmenting the real world, while digital twin technology means real-time difference and data transfer, machine learning and AI integrations. The only way to recreate, remodel and recalibrate AR and VR worlds is by using digital twins.

For example, Company C wants to offer businesses a new augmented reality product. One way to do this is via digital twins. Company C can pattern from specific locations and geography, gather data, and create the new AR.

Smart Cities

Smart cities are the future, and urban development benefits largely from the existence of digital twin technology. There are many locations and areas around the world that do not have access to real-time data. Implementing digital twins for smart cities ensures that these locations stay on the grid, gain access to critical aspects of life and receive all necessary support during emergencies.

More countries and locations are making sustainability a priority. As more countries implement changes to make cities better, one way to keep a sustainable development is replicating a city via digital twin technology. Local administrations and governments can study the virtual models of any city. They can design more economical, greener and sociable cities that improve people's lives.

For example, the local council of the county wants to make residences more integrated and responsive in real-time. They can invest in a digital twin of the city, study current data about the county and implement changes for improvement. After conducting feasibility tests on the digital county, they can execute the changes in the real set-up.

A smart city is supposed to elevate the life of citizens. Learn more about how digital twins of smart cities can become the standard level of higher living for citizens with more real-time police protection and efficient transportation report.

Industrial IoT

Organisations and IoT industries require much capital to operate. Everything on the industrial scale requires a lot of work and large amounts of data gathering. The entire backbone of digital twin innovations is the Internet of Things. 

As companies invest in more smart devices for the internet, data engineering becomes the basis for forming and keeping businesses more informed about real-time performance.

The Internet of Things is a network of devices that have internet functionality. The essence of digital twins comes from the work of high-end industrial IoT. The IoT is designed to collect data. These include industrial machinery for monitoring, sensors, trackers, and control systems that cater and scale to extensive AI functions, advanced machine learning functions and a lot of cloud computing work.

For example, the same Company A wants to keep a digital system for the entire manufacturing line. Company A then needs to invest in industrial IoT devices, equipment, and machinery that will be part of the manufacturing processes even after setting up the digital twin for the manufacturing processes. 

Any industry that works most of the time with wide-scale data collection benefits from digital twin technology and integration of IoT.

The Future of Digital Twins

The beginnings of digital twin technology started from the value of the IoT. Suddenly, more than real-time physical functions, IoT evolved into an innovation that creates high-scale digital modelling of everything. Physical objects are the basis of digital models, and the more industries release refined, new and improved devices, the better virtual models become.

The digital twin has evolved from IoT. Everything is a part of bigger twins, such as buildings, robots, offices, factories, buses, sensors, logistics, etc. With new advancements in cloud computing, AI and visualisation technologies, digital twin allows us to have a clear and accurate understanding of our environment, thus further enabling sustainability.

Digital twins are slowly making changes in big industries and sectors. In the future, more existing and new business segments will integrate the function of digital twin technology. 

Digital twin technology is also progressing towards higher functions, better IoT devices and elaborate virtual systems. As the world slowly makes way for another digital revolution, creating a digital copy of anything can make people more informed.

Conclusion

The future of digital twin technology continues to grow. These changes and developments do not only give the typical consumer or business to experience technology in a more beneficial way. Digital twin technology presents a lot of growth to organisations that aim to improve and help other businesses build and manage their digital landscape.

Scale the digital experience of your business with NCS, one of the leading industry businesses. Here at NCS, we offer our expertise to other enterprises. Whether you are looking for ways to build your digital workforce systems or want to improve the overall IoT business structure, time is essential. Focus on building the future of your business and let the power of technology in NCS work for you.


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