Nearly 3 in 4 organizations, as per a survey of 2000+ professionals, report using digital twin technology in 2022. As the internet of things (IoT) matures, it is only a matter of time before IoT data makes detailed and responsive models of real machines and environments possible, at an unprecedented scale. Let us explore why.
Defining Digital Twins in IoT
A digital twin digitally replicates a physical asset or device. It may facilitate the deployment and use of IoT applications. Sensors or other IoT components provide the data required for creating digital twins. And therefore, the two technologies have a symbiotic connection. A digital twin can sometimes be known as a twin or a shadow. Digital twin technology is additionally referred to as device virtualization and may be used in a number of ways.
NASA was the originator of the digital twin notion: full-scale models of early space capsules used to detect faults in orbit were eventually replaced with totally digital simulations. Gartner’s designation of digital twins as one of the top 10 key technology trends for 2017 catapulted the term to mainstream recognition.
How Does a Digital Twin Work?
A digital twin is first developed by professionals, often data science or applied mathematics specialists. These developers investigate the physics behind the actual item or system being replicated and use this data to generate a mathematical model which duplicates the genuine item in digital space. With an IoT platform that contains a ready-to-use machine and real-world object data, digital twins can now be generated relatively easily.
In any case, it is intended to receive inputs from sensors collecting data from its real-world counterparts. This enables the twin to imitate the actual item in real time, sharing information into its performance and potential complications.
A twin might be designed based on prototypes of its physical doppelganger, in which case it may provide feedback while the product is adjusted; a twin might even act as a prototype before the real version is built. After this, the twin behaves similarly to how the real-world object might under the analogous circumstances.
For instance, technicians may utilize a digital twin to ensure that a suggested patch for a machine is effective prior to implementing the fix.
Types of Digital Twin
There are various types of digital twins depending on the level of product magnification. Some of the most notable types, as per IBM and Oracle, are:
- Digital twins of processes: Process twins illustrate how systems collaborate to construct a full manufacturing plant. Are these systems synced for maximum efficiency, or will interruptions in one system influence the functioning of the others? Process twins may assist in identifying the interdependencies that ultimately impact overall performance.
- Specific to each component: Component twins are the fundamental unit of a digital twin, representing the tiniest operational component. Component twins are essentially identical, but refer to components with less relevance.
- Simple models: In this scenario, users construct and employ JSON documents that hold machine-related data. This comprises the title, serial number, as well as location, in addition to a set of observed characteristics that the device’s sensors detect (such as the machine’s current speed) and a list of intended qualities. With this approach, one uses the machine features that an IoT sensor may capture.
- Twins at the asset level: Whenever two or even more components function together, they constitute an asset. Asset twins enable you to examine the interplay between these components, generating a plethora of performance data which may be converted into meaningful insights.
- Industrial twins: This approach offers details about the architecture of a machine and the modeling of a sensor, which reflects the machine’s physical qualities. This strategy is effective for industrial Internet of Things (IoT) applications that receive data from product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions. It permits the representation of a machine’s physical features, design information, and real-time data in an asset-versus-model graphical representation.
- System or unit levels: The next stage of magnification is system or unit twins, that allow you to see how various assets combine to create a fully functional system. System twins provides insight into the interactions of assets and might even propose performance improvements.
Uses of Digital Twin Technology
Digital twins and the internet of things can work together to achieve the following outcomes:
1. Analyze the status real time operations
As the Internet links all devices and equipment within an IoT ecosystem, a digital twin assists in determining their real-time operations. This makes it simpler and faster to access information on one’s state, which is advantageous in sectors such as patient healthcare.
2. Maintain virtual documentation
Every machine has its own set of behaviors and operations. The creation of a digital twin simulation facilitates the comprehension and documentation of these activities. One needs not depend on paper documents anymore, as a result of this technology.
3. Reduce risk exposure
IoT allows simultaneous access to an enormous number of devices. A tiny security flaw could allow hackers to obtain unauthorized entry into the IoT network. Digital twins reduce this risk and enable engineers to freely experiment with numerous operationally viable and secure scenarios before deciding on one.
4. Conduct experiments in a safe environment
As IoT is a relatively fresh field of study, there is tremendous scope for research and exploration, which must be conducted in a resource-efficient and secure manner. Digital twins provide the virtual infrastructure required to perform various experiments when there are insufficient physical devices.
5. Integrate systems and processes
Beginning with manufacturing, storage, transportation, and shipping, the supply chain consists of a vast array of processes. Several backend apps may be integrated to obtain real-time, reliable data about supply chain systems.
6. Build predictive models
The digital twin technique helps in analyzing the future condition of a machine or item. This enables the suppliers of IoT development solutions to establish a functioning IoT model that can anticipate if the IoT machine under consideration will be in a better state within a particular time frame and whether it will adjust to evolving processes in the future.
Is a Digital Twin the Same as Simulations?
This is a question frequently asked, and with good reason. Both use digital models to simulate a system’s operations. The primary distinction between a digital twin and a simulation is one of scale: although a simulation normally investigates a single system, a digital twin may perform any number of appropriate simulations to investigate multiple processes.
However, simulations often do not benefit from real-time data. Digital twins, however, are based on a two-way information exchange that happens when IoT sensors provide pertinent information to the processor and thereafter, when the processor shares insights with the original IoT device.
Which Industries Can Gain the Most from Digital Twins?
Industrial sectors (manufacturing, mining, etc.) as well as process-intensive fields (like healthcare) stand to gain from this technology. Here are a few examples:
- Healthcare: There are an unlimited number of uses for digital twins in healthcare, ranging from the creation of virtual duplicates of entire laboratories to the simulation of organs to illustrate how patients react to certain treatments.
- Utilities: Digital twins let engineers gain access to virtual “as-built” or “as-operated” versions of the utility. This reduces the probability of incidents leading to downtime.
- Smart cities: The digitalization of cities may optimize resource management and safety measures. For instance, data gathered from IoT sensors may be used to anticipate the risk and effect of natural disasters on city infrastructure.
- Vehicle manufacturing: The automobile industry creates digital replicas of vehicles utilizing digital twins. They provide insights into the vehicle’s physical behavior in addition to software, structural, or electrical models.
- Construction:Architects may use digital twins during project planning by merging 3D building modeling with digital twin technologies. It’s utilized by commercial building managers to monitor real-time and historical data on temperature, occupancy, air quality, etc.
Digital twins in the Internet of Things may boost performance, allow predictive capabilities, enable remote monitoring, and accelerate manufacturing timelines. Nevertheless, remember that digital twins are not always necessary and can raise complexities unnecessarily. Also, it requires specialized skills and a robust IoT infrastructure already present in your organization.
Overall, digital twins are among the most important IoT trends of our time. Eventually, most sectors will implement it in a small to medium-scale manner to gain from its undeniable benefits.