A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real world object, process or system. Making use of Internet of Things (IoT) connected sensors, it synchronises the digital environment with the physical world. Any change in the physical world is reflected in the virtual world, and vice versa, producing powerful insights and opening up a vast realm of energy, cost and time saving possibilities.
Digital twin technology has the power to enhance operations. To improve training. To get more out of product and process testing. To support predictive planning. To reduce energy wastage, and to improve working environments.
It’s all about examining ‘what if’ scenarios, in a safe and reduced-risk environment. Once a digital twin has offered up its findings and you’re happy with them, all you need to do is apply them in the physical domain.
The global digital twin market was valued at USD 7.48 billion in 2021, and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 39.1% from 2022 to 2030. The integration of digital twin technology with other technologies, such as IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing is further expected to boost market growth.
Gartner says that 12% of organisations that implement IoT projects already use digital twins, whilst 62% are either in the process of establishing digital twin use, or plan to do so in the future.
How does digital twin work?
A digital twin can be a replica of any physical object. It could be a machine, a vehicle, a building, a workspace or even an organ of the body. A digital twin can also mimic a process as well as a physical object. It’s like a computer program that calls upon data from the real world to simulate how a product or process works.
Digital twins use data from IoT connected sensors to document the story of an object or process throughout its lifecycle. They allow specific features to be measured virtually, such as humidity and temperature for example, providing insights into the health of assets, and their performance.
With a digital twin, it is possible to deeply analyse data, workflows and human behaviours, in real time, considerably aiding decision making processes.
What are the benefits of the digital twin?
There are numerous benefits when it comes to the use of a digital twin. Here are just some of them:
Faster production time and better risk assessment
Using a digital twin, organisations can test and validate products way before they even exist in the real world. By creating a replica of the product, or of the planned production process, it is possible to identify any potential failures in advance. Example situations can be tested to check ‘what if’ scenarios and analyse the reaction of the product or process, so that strategies can be put in place or changes made to avert problems. All of this improves the risk assessment process, and speeds the delivery of products to market.
Lowered maintenance costs
The IoT sensors within a digital twin infrastructure produce real time data, allowing organisations the opportunity to proactively identify any potential problems within plant and machinery. This enables the more accurate scheduling of predictive maintenance, which improves operational efficiency and reduces maintenance costs.
Remote monitoring, in real time
For a large physical system, such as the fire safety and security protocols for an expansive building, it can often be difficult to obtain a real time, in-depth view of how it’s operating. But with a digital twin, you get to access the system remotely any time, any place, allowing you to monitor and control the performance of the system and deal with any glitches before they turn into major issues, wherever you are.
Improved decision making
Using a virtual replica of a physical object, it is possible to integrate financial data, such as the costs of labour and materials. This makes it possible to see how implied changes and scenarios can affect not just the physical side of things, but how they can impact upon the bottom line too, making it easier, and quicker, to make financially sound decisions.
How is digital twin technology being used across various industries?
Organisations are using industrial IoT and AI technologies to collect and analyse behavioural data from existing IoT devices and connected devices, which can later be applied to the digital twin model to replicate the performance and usage of the existing device. This provides significant insight for product engineers and designers, who are able to observe product performance and identify any issues, as well as predict future issues.
Digital twin technology can also assist organisations in enhancing operations and system productivity, enhancing overall product performance in the process.
Many organisations use the technology to optimise their supply chains and operational procedures, and have done so in order to aid recovery from the pandemic.
Here are just some of the key sectors that have successfully adopted digital twin infrastructure:
Digital twin technology is widely used across the manufacturing sector. It has already revolutionised the automobile manufacturing industry, for example. Ford develops a number of digital twins for every model of vehicle it produces, with each covering a different aspect of production, from design to build. Over in their production facilities, the digital twin accurately detects energy losses, and highlights areas where energy usage can be better managed, and overall production line performance enhanced.
In the healthcare sector, the digital twin is being used to save lives. Medical specialists are using the technology to create replicas of patients or their organs, allowing them to simulate procedures and environments before rolling them out in real life.
Digital twin technology is being used to great effect in the energy sector, boosting productivity on the likes ofwind farms by as much as 20%. With real time information being fed to the digital replicas from sensors on the turbines, more efficient designs can be created.
By simulating real life events and situations in the likes of restaurants and hotels, the digital twin can help to improve the layout of kitchens, dining spaces and communal areas for better people flow. Hotels are also using the technology to analyse how their facilities are used, so that they can deliver improved and more personalised services to individual guests.
Towns and cities
In Shanghai and Singapore, digital twin technology is being used to improve energy consumption and traffic flow, and to help plan new developments. Smart cities are becoming a reality and are presenting a host of benefits that ultimately improve the well-being of residents.
With a digital twin, it is possible to boost the operational aspects of a building, to improve its indoor environment and make the workplace a comfortable, healthy space to be.
By recreating office workplaces with digital twins of specific spaces, plant and machinery, it is possible to draw insight into future maintenance and servicing needs, and overall operational efficiency, so that predictive decisions can be intelligently made. The efficacy of systems that control indoor air quality and lighting can be tested in real time, as can those of systems that manage energy consumption.
In other words, in the office workspace, the digital twin has the ability to create a better environment for workers, to streamline facilities management, to reduce costs and wastage, and to meet sustainability goals.
Smart Spaces, digital twins, and the future of work
Digital twins are being used globally in a host of industry sectors, providing a range of significantly valuable benefits. From optimising operational productivity and boosting workplace well-being, to reducing energy waste and enhancing the efficiency of maintenance programmes, there is little the digital twin cannot achieve.
Smart Spaces is a cloud-based, app-driven platform that uses IoT-connected sensors to collect priceless data about a workspace. The Smart Spaces Digital Twin 2.0 creates a live replica of a building, making it possible to streamline day to day management, periodic maintenance and general building monitoring, boosting efficiency and allowing objectives to be achieved safely by testing potential scenarios and solutions in a risk-free environment.
To learn more about how Smart Spaces and the Smart Spaces Digital Twin can deliver a host of benefits to your organisation, you are welcome to request a free demo, or get in touch.