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How digital twins are solving the Big Data mystery

To create a bridge between our physical and digital world, many organizations are embracing a trend called digital twinning. But what does it mean? 

Try to imagine making a digital twin that was an exact copy of any physical object or process. Businesses could take real-time data from IoT sensors and simulate different scenarios to see how these changes could potentially impact real-world situations.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang has already revealed plans to build a virtual copy of our entire physical world using its Omniverse 3D modeling software. Whether building a Metaverse will succeed in transcending the space-time of our physical world is still up for debate. But on a smaller scale, insights from digital twinning are offering a more proactive approach to identifying potential issues before they happen.

How did we get here?

Way back in 1970, NASA used mirrored systems to help rescue the Apollo 13 space mission. Many believe this was the spark that would inspire Dr. Michael Grieves 33 years later to explore the concept of digital twins in a university course about product lifecycle management. The story came full circle when John Vickers of NASA officially coined the term digital twin in a 2010 roadmap report.

Many of the successes in cloud computing can be attributed to the support of the adoption of this concept.

Digital twins are increasingly being seen as must-haves in the engineering industry.

Analysts predict that the creation of digital replicas of real-world infrastructure will see the valuation of digital twins reach $35.8 billion by 2025. Gartner also predicted that half of all large companies would use digital twinning by the end of this year. But where are we now?

The cities creating digital twins

Cities are already embracing the concept of digital twinning to help enhance planning, design, sustainability, and the building of smart cities. Singapore led the way by building a digital replica of the whole city. The project empowered teams to run virtual experiments in the digital version to run through test scenarios before implementing any new policies in the physical city.

The living digital twin of Singapore also enabled planners to see how the skyline would change if new building plans were signed off. It has helped the city maintain green spaces, increase recycling opportunities, and explore improvements around underground space optimization. But Singapore is not the only city using digital twin technology to help support policy decisions.

Shanghai also built a virtual clone of the city to improve operations, increase efficiency, monitor traffic, and even simulate floods for disaster planning using predictive data. By integrating anonymized information from buildings, transport, and a growing number of IoT sensors, the digital twin of any city can quickly highlight areas for improvement. All of which is tested in a digital environment to ensure developers and authorities can implement future solutions with confidence.

How digital twins are transforming multiple industries

The concept of creating a digital replica of anything is quickly catching on with businesses across multiple industries. IT projects have developed a bad reputation over the last few years for notoriously being late and over budget. With time and money being in a much shorter supply, there is an appetite for better planning and optimizing every IT deployment. Digital twins provide an attractive level of efficiency, accuracy and can help identify issues before they occur.

A Deloitte case study revealed how the usage of digital twins is already transforming manufacturing. The entire journey from design through to completed product can be optimized by leveraging historical and real-time data. Engineers are turning to digital twins to remotely diagnose the cause of a problem and make adjustments before ordering parts or visiting the site to repair the physical product.

The concept can also help in the development of new products based on real-world usage of existing products. Digital twins can provide insights into how customers are using products and tweak the design accordingly to improve customer satisfaction.

Tech companies and healthcare professionals are also exploring how the data captured by IoT sensors can transform healthcare. The data captured could be used to create a digital twin of a hospital, staffing, care models, and even the patient. By monitoring data in the digital twin, it can be easier to determine what actions to take next and identify other problems any action could create.

Although it might feel a little too much like science fiction, digital twins are already proving to add significant value in areas such as organ donation, surgery training, and other high-risk medical procedures. Although many are turning to digital twins to transform products or optimize customer experiences, the impact on healthcare could be the real game-changer.

Digital twins in the workplace

In IT, testing environments have long been considered the belt and braces approach to every new application rollout. Any problems created in a production system can be prevented from hitting the live environment and avoid costly disruption and downtime across the business. The introduction of digital twins upgrades the traditional approach to improving customer service, product performance and enables data-driven decision making.

Every workplace is surrounded by data. The room temperature, humidity, sound, and light levels could all contribute to employee wellness levels. People-counting software often captures occupancy levels in offices, meeting rooms, canteens, and gyms. This data can help improve how space is utilized and determine how successful new breakout areas or collaboration zones might be.

On the road ahead, we can expect to see more sensors being added to networks and the rise of new analytics platforms to further fuel the growth of IoT. As real-time data in every business area becomes the norm, digital twins can be created for almost anything. Connecting the digital dots might even help enterprises finally solve the Big Data mystery.

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