What Is Digital Twin Technology and Why It Matters Most Now

Sometimes all one needs is a second chance at success. The same thing happened with the digital twin technology. Though the technology came into our lives about 15 years ago in the year 2002, it's only recently that it has started gaining traction. This sudden burst of interest in the technology is courtesy another technology, Internet of Things. It is the IoT that has provided digital twin technology a new lease of life by making it cost-effective to implement.

The technology has now become such an imperative part of the business world that it had found a place in the top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for the year 2017 which were announced by Gartner’s Vice President and a Gartner fellow himself David Cearley at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo held in Orlando, Florida last year.

What Is A Digital Twin?

Simply put, a digital twin can be best described as a virtual model of a product, service or a process. This innovative paring of the physical and virtual worlds together opens doors for monitoring of systems and analysis of data that help in warding off glitches/problems even before they occur. This further results in preventing downtime, development of new opportunities and even plan for the future ahead by making use of simulations.

The technology has become imperative to the business industry as it is an efficient way of working that involves a cloud-based virtual image of an asset maintained throughout its lifecycle and easily accessible at any time of the day. It also allows all experts to come together under one platform and work cost-effectively, reduce errors and improve efficiency. All this ultimately results in a more safe, profitable and sustainable operation environment.

How Does A Digital Twin Work?

From the definition above, we can come to the conclusion that a digital twin is a bridge between the digital and physical world, the two worlds known to the humankind.

The first step involves smart components that make use of sensors to gather data about real-time status, working condition, or position being integrated with a physical item. The components are then connected to a cloud-based system that has the responsibility of receiving and processing all the data that the sensors monitor. This input is then analysed against business and other contextual data.

The virtual environment can prove to be a great space to test existing learnings and uncover new ones, which can then be applied to the physical world and ultimately lead to transforming businesses.

NASA-The Pioneer of Digital Twin

It was NASA which first tried it hands at pairing technology, which is the precursor to today’s digital twin. This was during the early days of space exploration.

During those days, NASA’s research department faced a huge challenge in how they would operate, maintain, or repair systems when they will not be in physical proximity to them. This is when the digital twin technology came to their rescue. In fact, during the unfortunate Apollo 13 in incident, it was the innovation of mirrored systems still on earth that gave engineers and astronauts a chance to determine how they could bail the mission out of the problem.

NASA is now using the digital twins technology to develop new recommendations, roadmaps, and next-generation aircraft and vehicles.

According to a statement given by John Vickers, NASA’s leading manufacturing expert and manager of NASA’s National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, the ultimate vision that they have for the digital twin is to create, test and build our equipment in a virtual environment. “Only when we get it to where it performs to our requirements do we physically manufacture it. We then want that physical build to tie back to its digital twin through sensors so that the digital twin contains all the information that we could have by inspecting the physical build," he said.

Why is Digital Twin Important?

Today, machine intelligence and connectivity to the cloud presents mankind with an unprecedented potential for large-scale implementation of digital twin technology across a number of companies in a variety of industries.

The Digital twins are being helmed as a powerful masterminds that will drive innovation and performance in the world. According to IDC, by the year 2018, companies investing in the digital twin technology will witness almost 30 per cent improvement in cycle times of their critical processes.

In the next 5 years, mankind will see billions of things being represented by digital twins. The technology will give birth to a sea of new collaboration opportunities among the physical world data scientists and product experts whose duty is to make out what data is telling us about operations.

The digital twin technology helps the companies in understanding customer needs, developing enhancements to their existing products, operations and, services, and thus significantly improve customer experience. It can even extend a helping hand in driving the innovation of new business.

So, one can conclude that we are currently on the brink of a digital twin technology explosion and the companies who don't catch on the trend soon, will be left behind.

[Top Image: imeche.org]

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