This article is the start of a weekly series about the digital twin technology. What is a digital twin, what is Beamo's take on the definition and why do you even need one. Today we explore the present definition of the digital twin to try to understand its scope and potential.
What is a digital twin? The Digital Twin is an emerging concept, even if it has been around for decades, and it just started getting some real traction with the pandemic. It was a trendy keyword in 2020 and is already in the Top 5 technology trends in 2021. When speaking of digital twins with people around you, as I am sure you do every other day, depending on their background, industry and degree of expertise, they might end up describing entirely different things. So let’s just get things straight, there are as many interpretations as kimchi recipes. Indeed, the digital twin comes in different flavors and the ingredients involved in its conception depend greatly on the intended level of spiciness and desired benefits for your health or the health of your organization. So let’s go together… beyond the cabbage.
Part I - The truth about digital twins.
As any fast growing exciting new field, the digital twin industry is not yet driven by any form of standardization, framework or regulation, and is therefore still up for grabs. There is no magic recipe to date and it is up to the actors of its ecosystem (i.e. you and me) to unite our efforts and guide our markets toward more awareness, and action. After all, there is a whole word that beg to be digitized.
After some research, my first instinct is to rally to the definition of the Digital Twin Consortium that states that:
A digital twin is a virtual representation of real-world entities and processes, synchronized at a specified frequency and fidelity.
To explain this definition, the “what” is the first thing to consider when talking about digital twins. In the definition, the term “entities” (another word for physical “asset”) completes “processes” (sets of actions that bound “assets” together); the term “systems” which is also usually considered is here only implied. So let’s explore these first:
Digital Twins of Assets come from the digitization of physical objects like parts, equipment or machinery and even entire properties like a road, a building, a parcel of land or any existing place in general. These assets can be monitored remotely to monitor their status and overall good behavior — Simple, right?
Digital Twins of Processes are the replication of the sequence of workflows that are orchestrated together to produce a defined result. An example can be an industrial manufacturing process where real-time data from individual assets is collected, combined and analyzed to optimize production or avoid downtime in the manufacturing line.
Digital Twins of Systems are also to be considered since they are a simulation of the combination of assets and processes that produces both tangible and intangible value motivated by a specific objective. If you take the example of a transportation system, individual assets like planes, coupled with processes like ticketing or maintenance, form a system whose collective value is to bring people and goods from point A to point B.
And here is where the kimchi starts to get really spicy—it is all about perspective. Each individual asset can also be, in a sense, its own system, where processes coordinate different equipment/assets and so on. Take a space or a building for example: a building can be an asset if your ambition is to build a Smart City system where you can monitor a smart energy or water grid. A building can also be a process if your goal is to monitor your Natural Gas Liquid fractionation process. It can also be a system on its own if your ambition is to monitor the synergy of different moving yet interconnected parts/processes like in a manufacturing plant. Ultimately, several systems can also cohabit within one space or building like in a Data Center (security system, data management system, power supply system, cooling system…).
In that sense, and that is what we find particularly exciting at Beamo, is that the sheer scale and potential of the digital twin are driven by what you need and what you want to achieve. And it is your opportunity to define your requirements and create your own digital twins.
Come back next week where I will share Beamo’s take on the digital twin. If you are a bit lost, just watch the ending of Men In black (1997) and you will get the idea (spoiler alert – you have no excuse).