Let us start with the first real example of “Digital Twins”: The Apollo 13 mission, in 1970. About 210,000 miles away from earth, something went wrong with the tiny spacecraft. Three astronauts were trapped inside the damaged cabin. Astronauts and the mission control used 15 simulators at NASA to save the mission and rescue the astronauts. A simulator by itself is not a digital twin. The crew constantly adapted and modified the simulations to suit the conditions and to develop perfect strategies. Therefore, the Apollo 13 mission was the first use of digital twin. As you can see, digital twins can be pretty helpful in critical situations. Let’s see what this technology is and what its use cases are.
What Is a Digital Twin?
A virtual representation of a physical object or a system is called a digital twin. The object could be a building, a factory, a spacecraft, a city, or even a human being. A physical object connects to sensors so we can collect the data. The gathered data is then mapped onto a digital model. Digital twin uses machine learning, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, simulations, and reasoning to help with decision making. The twin is constantly updated to reflect the current state of the physical object.
A digital twin is not a simulation. It begins as a simulation, but it needs real-time updates. Using this technology helps increase situational awareness and improve responses to unstable conditions. So, it’s more effective than traditional analytical methods, particularly for asset optimization and preventive maintenance. The accuracy of the digital twin you make depends on how much data you use to build and update it. The twin you make can be too simple or too complicated based on your preference. Digital twin technology is not new. But the underlying technology has progressed to the point that extremely high-fidelity twins with previously unthinkable functionality are now possible.
Digital Twin Benefits
Digital twins connect the physical and digital worlds to each other. The perks of utilizing digital twins are too many to name. But the main benefits are as follows:
- System performance enhancement
- Product refinement
- Reliability improvement
- Risk minimization
- Maintenance costs reduction
- Future performance guesstimate
- Possible failure detection
- Sales increment
Digital Twin Use Cases
The main idea of digital twins might seem like science fiction movies. We will use this technology more in the future, but big organizations have already started to use it. For instance, NASA is using digital twins to diagnose problems and take the aircraft and vehicles to the next level. We can even make a digital twin using a product prototype to predict its performance and provide feedback. Now, let’s take a brief look at some other applications of this technology.
By predicting the future rather than analyzing the production process, digital twins offer significant competitive advantages. We can make a digital replication of a product even before it is built in the real world. This way, testing and validating the product becomes much simpler. In case of bugs or failures, we can implement design changes and enhance the product. When the product is built, the digital twin can be its real-time digital replication. Therefore, it can help with live performance tracking, earlier fault detection, and feedback provision.
Digital twins have the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry. Health professionals can attach sensors to patients and derive real-time data to produce digital models and improve patient care. Surgeons can practice procedures on virtual models in simulated environments. Also, you can have a digital twin of your heart to monitor and prevent specific events like heart attacks. Doctors can treat a digital twin computationally with different kinds of drugs. Therefore, they can find the best medicine and the right dosage for that particular case. In hospitals, digital twin and IoT technology can reduce facility operation costs, lower energy consumption, and optimize resource usage.
Believe it or not, Singapore has a digital twin. Singapore city planners use it to improve the life quality of citizens and make energy consumption more efficient. We can implement this technology in other cities, too. The complicated system of the city is transferred to the digital world using Big Data, IoT, Cloud Computing, and VR. Also, urban planners can test ideas and solutions without taking risks. Digitally modeled cities result in better city life.
Other examples of digital twin use cases are in industries like aircraft engines, wind turbines, locomotives, offshore platforms, etc. Mentioned applications are just a glimpse of what this futuristic technology is capable of. So, it won’t be surprising to see it further in the future.
In the future, digital twins will help in more industries and areas. Digital twin technology will combine with other technologies like augmented reality (AR) to break the walls of reality even more. There will be lots of digital twins around the world, but imagine connecting them to each other. The possible applications will expand exponentially. Digital twins will become a key IT tool in many industries, especially in manufacturing. Digital Twins are the future, even though they are still a new technology.