Digital twin: All you need to know

Digital transformation -

By Nexus Integra  /

17 February, 2020

The creation of a digital twin will take the lead in the industrial and business world in the coming years. It is a revolutionary technology as it is capable of improving processes at many levels: from the moment of product design to the interaction with the public, including machinery maintenance.

The research company Gartner put digital twins as part of the top 10 strategic trends from 2017 and estimated that by 2020 there would be billions of processes related to this technology. In addition, according to Markets and Markets, the market related to the generation of digital twins is estimated to grow to 35. 8 billion in 2025.

But what is a digital twin and how can it help companies improve their efficiency? We discuss it in this guide.

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical product, process or service. They are digital representations connected to the real system that is represented by Cyber Physical Systems (CPS). With all the information gathered from the operations and their history, a highly accurate model can be obtained that closely resembles that of the real system. Its creation allows to understand the product or process at a deeper level, from data analysis, with several very valuable functions for business:

  • Make better and more efficient decisions.
  • Apply simulations on the digital model itself before starting them in the physical world. This way you can test until you find the right formula, without modifying the actual production chain.
  • Identify opportunities to improve products and systems.
  • Performing a predictive analysis, in this way you can anticipate future errors that the product could have once it is on the market and avoid large economic losses.

In other words, a digital twin is a virtual copy of an object or process in the physical world. Through sensors placed in this object or process, data are transmitted in real time about its state, so that when analyzing your digital twin it is possible to obtain the same information that would be obtained if the physical product were examined.

To do this, digital twin technology uses and integrates IoT, Artificial Intelligence or Big Data allowing the analysis and prediction of processes in the physical object through its digital twin.

NASA is cited as the first organization to develop digital twin models for its equipment so that they could simulate operations in remote mode before applying them to running systems.

How does a digital twin work?

To start up a digital twin, the first step is to use components that, through sensors, collect real-time data on the process or object to be cloned. This data may include information on the physical condition of this subject or his position.

This information is then integrated through tools that collect data , so that it can later be analyzed and compared with other external data (e. g. about the company).

From there, it is now possible to digitally generate the process, product or service and test any changes in it that will only be physically implemented when their success in the digital environment has been proven.

This whole process is carried out from the work of professionals and experts in data science. To do this, they must also study the characteristics of the object or process, so that a reliable model can be created in the digital world of the object in the real world.

Benefits of using a digital twin

The use of digital twin technology is bringing revolutionary advances in many areas of business, bringing innovation and better performance. 275 billion will be invested in industrial IoT in 2021. Half of the large companies behind these investments will have at least one digital twin in place. For starters, this technology will increase efficiency by 10%.

Improved design and experience

The application and analysis of a digital twin model, reduces defects in the product design phase and shortens the time it takes to market a new product. Similarly, revenues can be increased by identifying products that can be upgraded or renewed by optimizing their efficiency, as can product-related services.

Similarly, by generating simulations and accessing real-time data, companies can make corrections and updates to physical objects remotely.

Lower costs

Many industries face high costs (economic and productive) when testing their physical products. Manufacturing with a digital twin allows you to run tests and simulations quickly and with reduced resource usage. It allows you to accurately determine your product warranties, reducing the variability of your operations and processes and thus be able to anticipate possible claims to reduce costs.

This is particularly important in the industrial sector, where testing in a physical environment can mean shutting down production for a while and therefore losing money.

Predictive maintenance

Breakdowns and failures in the production chain can mean great costs and lost opportunities for any company, improving satisfaction with the customer who is usually the one who suffers these consequences. Predictive maintenance in manufacturing with a digital twin consists of applying this technology in such a way that it is possible to predict production failures and act accordingly.

Thus, the U. S. Oil company has announced the application of digital twin technology to predict setbacks in its equipment, forecasting the saving of thousands of dollars in maintenance. The idea is to take a proactive approach to know what elements can cause problems during production before they occur.

Customer relations

A digital twin can be geared towards improving the customer experience, so that their needs around the product and the purchasing process, among others, are better understood. It allows customers to create virtual environments to see the final result. For example, the room or the dining room and see how it will be decorated beforehand.

Digital twin & IoT: how they complement each other

Digital twin and IoT are two technologies that, to a large extent, go hand in hand. In fact, Gartner Consulting claims that 75% of organizations that have implemented the IoT in their processes are already using a digital twin or plan to do so in the coming year.

The improvement in connectivity brought about by the application of IoT, together with cloud systems, is to a large extent what will enable the development of digital twin technology.

Specifically, the IoT sensors connected and controlled through the network are in charge of sending data in real-time about a system or product, so that companies have access to this information and can make use of it.

Later, a digital twin uses these same sensors, in an advanced way to collect data and use it for a specific purpose.

Cases of use of the digital twin

The digital twin models have already proven their effectiveness in providing real-time data and simulations in industries as varied as energy, automotive and manufacturing, among others.

Companies are experimenting with the application of this technology in a creative way, discovering their potential at different levels:

  • Training: the generation of training centres for aeroplane pilots or ship captains, using the real-time data received from real means of transport, as well as airports or ports.
  • Health sciences: the application of sensors in the human body can lead to the generation of digital twins of people, improving processes such as diagnosis or medication, among others.
  • Emergency management: hospitals or emergency shelters can benefit from digital twin technology to provide the right response to unexpected problems, where the right application of resources can make a big difference.
  • Transport of fragile or dangerous goods: where strict control of environmental conditions is essential.
  • Marketing: the generation of digital twins of a physical store can allow the tracking of user behaviour so that the way of promoting products is improved.
  • Smart cities: technology can also be applied to improve the infrastructure of smart cities.
  • Industry: it allows you a protected and safe environment to experiment with new scenarios and future projects, thus reducing the margin of error and predicting future results.

The use of digital twin technology together with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is paradigmatic, to find or predict possible failures in complex systems and machinery, giving companies the possibility to practice predictive maintenance.

In fact, according to a study by Mordor Intelligence, about 35% of US industrial and manufacturing companies are already collecting and using data generated by their smart sensors to improve their manufacturing processes. Thus, it is in manufacturing with a digital twin where this technology is currently giving the best results.

In particular, the automotive industry is emerging as the leader in the use of digital twin technology, using it as an opportunity to improve its design, maintenance or after-sales service processes, among others.

In this sense, the appearance of Nexus Integra is a great step forward for the management of industrial goods and assets through digital twin, IoT, Artificial Intelligence and process automation. With Nexus Integra you will be able to achieve an integral operation environment that combines the control of the process with its analysis.

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