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What is a digital twin anyway?

The technology is being used by companies in many sectors to optimise processes and boost productivity

What is a digital twin anyway?
Leveraged by leading manufacturers, digital twins are a core component of Industry 4.0 that help to enable the continuous optimisation of manufacturing processes throughout the product lifecycle.

Digital twins were first conceived by NASA in the 1960s when the US space agency needed to create physically duplicated systems at ground level to match systems in space. “However, it wasn’t until recent advances in innovative technologies – such as internet of things (IoT) devices for pulling massive amounts of data – that digital twins began to truly mature,” said Todd Richmond, member, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Now, Gartner predicts that the digital twin market will reach $183 billion in revenue by 2031. It is easy to see why this is so when one considers that the world’s foremost companies in a variety of industries are leveraging digital twin technologies to optimise…well, everything.

According to Paulo Miyagi, senior member, IEEE, a digital twin is, in essence, “an exact digital replica of an object or system existing in the physical world that is constantly updated with real-time data to inform decision-making.” To achieve this, the object or system in question is outfitted with IoT devices that serve as sensors to produce data related to performance – for example, in the case of a wind turbine, sensors are utilised to source data, focusing on energy output, weather conditions, etc.

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Once this data has been captured, a digital twin can be utilised to run simulations to better understand issues related to performance and generate insights that can be applied back to the analog object or system. Amol Gulhane, senior member, IEEE, highlights three sectors where digital twins are being applied to great effect:

Manufacturing: Leveraged by leading manufacturers, digital twins are a core component of Industry 4.0 that help to enable the continuous optimisation of manufacturing processes throughout the product lifecycle.

Transportation: Digital replicas of complex transportation systems can help researchers and developers better understand, create and manage the infrastructure responsible for moving people and goods from Point A to Point B.

Life sciences: As researchers raced to develop safe and effective vaccines to combat Covid, manufacturing planners leveraged digital twins to simulate industrial processes, supply chains and logistics and scale up production quickly and efficiently.

A country like India has enormous scope to utilise the technology. The IoT is revolutionising many aspects of manufacturing operations, including real-time production monitoring, metrics accuracy and production efficiency. These are the very domains India needs to invest in for boosting productivity. India’s service sector can also leverage technologies like digital twins by adopting the latest offerings of Web 3.0.

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