September 25, 2022

ACIO Senior Advisor and Executive Leadership at IRS.

The ongoing global digital transformation is fueling innovation across industries. One such innovation is called digital twin technology, which was originally invented 40 years ago. When the Apollo mission developed, NASA scientists created a digital twin of the Apollo mission and conducted experiments on the clone before the mission began. Digital twin technology is now becoming very popular in the manufacturing and healthcare industries.

You know that the densely populated city of Shanghai has its own completely digital twin developed (virtual clone) covering more than 4,000 km? This was created by mapping each physical device to a new virtual world and applying artificial intelligence, machine learning and IoT technologies to this map. Similarly, Singapore is preparing for a full development of her own digital twin. McLaren’s sports car already has its own digital twin.

Companies like Siemens, Philips, IBM, Cisco, Bosch and Microsoft are already miles ahead in this technology, fueling the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The aggregation of artificial intelligence, IoT and data analytics predicts the future performance of a product even before the final product design is approved. Organizations can create a planned process using digital twin technology. With a digital twin, process failures can be analyzed before production. Engineering teams can conduct scenario-based testing to predict failures, identify risks, and implement mitigation measures in simulation labs.

Digital twins produce a digital thread that can then enable data flows and provide a comprehensive view of asset data. These digital threads are key to the product life cycle and help optimize the product life cycle. Simulating a digital thread can identify gaps in operational efficiency and produce a wealth of process improvement opportunities through the application of artificial intelligence.

Another reason behind the overwhelming success of digital twin technology is its use in identifying problems and minor product design fixes while the products are in operation. For example, for a high-rise building, with a digital twin, we can identify minor structural issues and implement them in the virtual world before moving them to the real world, reducing long test cycles.

By the end of this decade, scientists may have a fully functional digital human twin that can greatly aid medical research. There may be a digital version of some of us walking around and when needed it can provide updates to our family or healthcare providers about any critical health conditions we may have. Some strong use cases for using a digital human twin include drug testing and proactive injury prevention.

Organizations starting to think about applying digital dual technology to product manufacturing should first look at the tremendous innovation that leaders like Siemens and GE have done. There are hundreds of case studies published by these two organizations that are openly available in the market. The next step is to build a core research team and calculate the cost of implementing this technology with proper ROI justification for your business stakeholder. This technology is difficult to implement, and it is also difficult to maintain. That’s why you should develop a long-term sustainable strategy for the digital double.

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