Deciphering Digital Twin Concept—an Emerging Player of Industry 4.0

Oct 22, 2018 posted by Sushil Kumar Tripathi under Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Internet of Things

“Creating a digital representation of heavy machines, valuable equipment, buildings, systems, and the whole caboodle of physical assets, Digital Twin concept can be said to have completed the literal definition of digital transformation.”

Digital Twin concept is still evolving and is yet to reach its zenith. It is making a roaring sound across businesses worldwide. Right from retail, manufacturing, healthcare, automobile to oil and gas, industries have started singing paeans of Digital Twin. The fact becomes more agreeable with Gartner’s prediction that, “more than 50% of the large industrial companies will use Digital Twin applications by 2021.”

So at a time when unprecedentedly and perpetually evolving technologies continue to boggle the mind—is Digital Twin concept worth knowing and understanding? 

Perhaps the answer is YES, as far as the reports suggest. 

According to a recent news report, the Digital Twin market is expected to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 37.87% in between 2017 to 2023. The valuation which was just $1.8 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $15.66 billion by 2023. 

There is a volley of questions this new player of Industry 4.0 poses. And, so it becomes imperative to know more about this emerging player.
      
What is Digital Twin?digital twin concept

Digital Twins are about creating a digital representation of physical assets of an organization or a manufacturing plant for that matter. Be it facility, buildings, heavy machines, equipment of high value or be it a system or a structure, the Digital Twin concept brings the whole shebang—both tangible and intangible—to a digitized platform.

Empowered and backed by AI (Artificial Intelligence) algorithms and consistently increasing adoption of IoT (Internet of Things), Digital Twin can be said to have completed the literal meaning of digital transformation. It not only helps in predictive analysis of the future performances of an organization’s physical assets but also enables in quickly running through the historical performances, ultimately leading to efficient business functioning.     
   
However, the Digital Twin as a concept dates back to 2002. It has frenetically evolved to create a niche amidst major technology disruptors. Prior to this, companies used the Digital Thread framework, which works on a similar concept but has its own limitations.

Digital Twin vs. Digital Thread

Digital Twins

Digital Thread

 

Digital Twin makes use of technologically enhanced sensors, which are connected to physical assets of a manufacturing plant, for instance, to offer a robust information management solution. This predominantly supports companies in the efficient monitoring of past, present, and future performances of industrial machines and high-value equipment’s, products, and services, etc., through digital and agile methods. Unlike Digital Thread, the Digital Twin concept is more about the continuous analysis of an asset’s lifecycle.

Digital Thread, on the other hand, is a framework that plays an imperative role in the effective functioning of Digital Twins. It manages data by implementing seamless communication channel across platforms. Digital Thread supports in digitizing the physical assets, but it is more about traceability on their lifecycle.

The framework interconnects diverse stages of products, systems, and other assets. Furthermore, it also records data, facilitates storage, and provides ready access to Digital Twins, which enables continuous analysis of the asset’s performance and their lifecycle.

A report published by Deloitte says that the information provided by Digital Thread provides life to Digital Twins.  

 

Why Invest in Digital Twin?

There’s no denying the fact that the continuous innovations and disruptions in technology are transforming businesses, which makes gaining competitive advantages more challenging. With Digital Twins getting pervasive, business leaders/owners seem to be relying on it. 

In the contemporary business world, where right from the functioning of processes to customer’s behavior, everything is driven by data, Digital Twin helps build a scalable business platform using the power of technology convergence. In other words, Digital Twins implements multiple technologies that together support complete optimization of business performance through robust data management.

It may be a threshold for Digital Twins. But if we go by the predictions made by International Data Corporation (IDC), a market intelligence provider, 30% of the companies in the list of global 2000 will use Digital Twins to generate data by 2020. Such facts give us cogent reasons to believe that Digital Twins are certainly going to be pervasive across diverse industry segments.    

Following are some of the important points that make Digital Twins a concept supreme than other major technology disruptors.    

Effective Data/Information Management

Digital Twin is designed to work continuously and consistently. In other words, it deploys evolving technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to analyze tasks, and learn and evolve from experience. The data generated in the process is continuously analyzed and saved in the cloud. This helps the human workforce in getting an instant access to valuable business insights and various other analytics in real-time, which essentially supports their call-to-action (CTA) needs. 

Predictive Analysis of Product’s or Physical Asset’s Lifecycle

Another paramount feature which gives Digital Twins an edge over other major disruptors is its ability to empower businesses with predictive analysis. Digital Twin enables, let’s say the maintenance team or operations team, in predicting how will an asset perform in the long run and how will they add to the overall business performance. In fact, it would be appropriate to say that predictive analysis supports lifecycle analysis. In other words, it generates data on assets right from their design to the end of their lifecycle. Thus, preventing failures of industrial machines and mitigating various other business risks.  

Operational Excellence 

Digital Twins offers an immersive information management solution, which enables users in accessing, identifying, analyzing, and resolving issues with physical assets even from a remote location. In other words, it helps in predictive maintenance of the system or industrial machines by analyzing data on their lifecycle. So no matter what is their geographical location, the concerned team can remotely work to prevent failures, breakdown, or any other flaws in the functioning of business processes.   

Converges Existing and Evolving Technologies 

Digital Twin’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it is an approach to providing a holistic solution to business organizations across the globe. In other words, it converges major technology disruptors such as Big Data, ML, Cloud Computing, AI, and most importantly IoT—all at one place. With the convergence of innovative technologies, Digital Twins supports a comprehensive understanding of the performance of diverse company assets. Besides this, the digital sensors deployed by Digital Twins play a key role in the instant identification and elimination of performance bottlenecks.  A clear view on assets and resources, thus, helps in optimum utilization.    

Digital Twins Proving its WorthDigital Twin 2

Considering the above facts, it can well be deduced that Digital Twin is gradually emerging to be a prodigy of excellence. 

Offering a seamless, accurate, instant, and a robust information management solution—through perpetual analysis of both tangible and intangible assets in the real-time—Digital Twins is perhaps going to become one of the best concepts that will aid to the smooth functioning of businesses in the contemporary data-driven world.

At a juncture where various other innovations and disruptions continue to gain a huge traction, Digital Twin seems to be moving firmly to become an eminent player of Industry 4.0.

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