A digital twin is a digital copy of an actual physical product, process, or ecosystem that can be used to run virtual simulations, using data to update and change the digital copy to reflect any changes in the real world.
Learn More: What is a Digital Twin?
In Industry 4.0, digital twins are part of a perfect storm of technology, encompassing the Internet of Things, robotics, AI, and automation. Yet, the appeal of digital twins is set to expand far beyond the manufacturing sector. Let’s look beyond the manufacturing environment to discover how organizations are successfully deploying digital twin technology in new and surprising ways.
1. The Energy Sector
GE has used digital twin technology to create what it calls a Digital Wind Farm, a cloud-based model of a wind farm. As GE’s general manager for wind products, Keith Longtin, puts it, “We thought if we could capture data from the machines about how they interact with the landscape and the wind, we could build a digital twin for each wind farm inside a computer, use it to design the most efficient turbine for each pad on the farm, and then keep optimizing the whole thing.” What this means in practice is, thanks to digital twin technology, engineers can mix and match different turbine configurations according to the conditions on the wind farm. Then, once the wind turbine is installed, the digital twin model can collect and analyze data from the real-life version and suggest ways to make it even more efficient.
Digital twin technology can be used to simulate real-life events and situations, and this could play a major role in the hospitality industry in the future. As an example, CKE Restaurants Holdings has been using digital twin technology to increase productivity in its Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s restaurants. Restaurant floors and kitchens were digitized, allowing the company to test different configurations that would help to reduce employee traffic and improve the environment for customers.
3. City management
If you can have a digital twin of a wind farm or restaurant, why not an entire city? Digital twin technology helps city planners understand and improve factors like energy consumption. There’s already a digital twin of Singapore, and we can expect other cities to follow suit in the future.
4. Retail environments
The digital twin is still a relatively new concept in retail, but it could prove very valuable, particularly when it comes to modeling customer behavior in stores. Analytics company Pygmalios is highlighting digital twin technology as part of what it calls Retail 4.0 – an approach that gathers granular, real-time data from physical retail environments and uses that data to improve awareness of customer activity and behavior.
Just as you can create a digital representation of any physical item or environment, it should also be possible to create a “digital patient” – a digital model of a human body that represents various measurements of the body, providing a personalized model of a patient over their lifetime. That’s the ultimate vision of health technology company Philips. The idea of a complete digital patient is still some way off, but digital twin technology is already being applied to one particular part of the body and showing great promise. Philips has created a clinical application called HeartModel, which creates a personalized 3D view of a patient’s heart based on 2D ultrasound images. One day a virtual heart could save your real one.