What is a Digital Twin?
A digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical asset, process, or system.
In addition to sharing the physical characteristics of their real-world counterparts, digital twins also replicate status and behaviour by incorporating real-time data from connected IoT (internet of things) sensors.
Companies can utilize digital twins to analyze and monitor data to prevent issues before they occur, avoid downtime, and even simulate future circumstances and events.
Use-cases for digital twins include everything from simulating and testing whether product designs meet requirements, to demonstrating how a change in a manufacturing process might impact costs or schedule, to training service staff on how to perform maintenance on the specific asset/problem they’re presented with.
Why is now the time to start caring about digital twins?
Along with augmented, mixed, and virtual reality (AR/MR/VR), digital twins made Gartner’s list of the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018.
This forecasted rise of digital twinning is due in large part to the continued growth of industrial IoT, and the emergence of Industry 4.0. While there were an estimated 15 billion IoT connected devices worldwide in 2015, that figure is expected to double by 2020, and double again (to over 60 billion) by 2024.
“Digital twins are becoming a business imperative, covering the entire lifecycle of an asset or process and forming the foundation for connected products and services. Companies that fail to respond will be left behind.”Thomas Kaiser SAP Senior Vice President of IoT
Digital twinning is the way of the future, and will likely continue to find its first footing within heavy industries. For companies that take early steps to evaluate and adopt this technology there are tremendous advantages to be gained. For companies that delay – within a few years it may already be too late to catch up on lost ground.
3 industries in which Digital Twins are already making an impact
Digital twins are not only a technology of the near future – they are already being leveraged by some of the world’s leading companies and industries to unlock positive business benefits today.
Oil & Gas
Within oil and gas, BP uses digital twins to model physical projects such as new oil fields and associated infrastructure. These digital twins are then leveraged to plan maintenance, identify equipment for decommissioning, and plan for equipment installation.
According to BP’s global head of upstream technology, Ahmed Hashmi: “Once our engineers trust the digital representation of the physical asset, the digital twin can be used to plan and manage the asset to ensure that it runs as efficiently as possible… This can all be carried out from the safety of an office, which is particularly important as the facility is regularly covered beneath snow”.
If NASA is doing it, it’s got to be cool – NASA was one of the first companies ever to explore the possibilities of digital twinning. They now use digital twins to develop their roadmaps, and next-generation vehicles and aircraft.
In an interview with Forbes, NASA’s leading manufacturing expert and manager of its National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, John Vickers, said “The ultimate vision 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.”
Similar to within Oil & Gas, digital twins are an ideal means for optimizing mine site operations.
Common and difficult to identify inefficiencies in mine operations (ex. haul truck operators taking sub-optimal routes) are currently losing mining companies millions of dollars each year. One of our current products at LlamaZOO is a digital twinning of a mine site designed to solve this very problem.
The AR/VR/desktop application we are developing enables mine supervisors to monitor their operators’ vehicles (haul trucks, shovels, bulldozers etc.) and progress through a data visualization dashboard, and make modifications to routing or actions operators should take based on real-time data analysis.
On the operator side, drivers are displayed directions, performance, and route feedback, through a HUD projected onto their cab windshield.
Any number of data-sets (ore bodies, dig faces, drill holes, routing etc.), infrastructure details (facilities, tailings, roads, powerlines and sensor data), environmental information (accident hotspots, wind behaviour, wildlife migration, etc.), and explanatory content can be layered on to the supervisor dashboard for added utility.
Digital twinning makes this solution possible, and unlocks millions in annual savings for mining companies.
- A digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical asset, process, or system
- Digital twins incorporate IoT data to facilitate data analysis, monitoring, and forecasting
- Digital twinning is already becoming one of the top technology trends worldwide
- The time for businesses to start evaluating the potential for digital twins in their workplace is now