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Digital Twins: where we are where we go – I

Digital Twin US market value as it grew and forecast for the coming 5 years. What is interesting is the penetration of DT in new areas. Graph source: Grand View Research

Digital Twins are relatively new, less than 20 years old, but in these last 5 years they have moved from a research idea to practical industrial application. In these last two years they have started to be used, or considered, in a much broader slate of applications from healthcare to education. In a nutshell, they are a digital model of a real entity –the physical twin- (an object, a process, a complex aggregation, like a city), a digital shadow reflecting the status/operation of their physical twin and a digital thread recording the evolution over time of the physical twin.
They are becoming a key component in the Digital Transformation, sometimes an enabler of the Digital Transformation. Over these years they have evolved and they will keep evolving in the next decade. Market&Markets is foreseeing their market value to reach 15.3B in 2023.

In this series of posts I will try to take a look at their current use, the expected evolution and their likely impact. These considerations have been prepared for the December issue of IEEE Computer on Predictions for 2020 Technologies. Comments are welcome.

General Electric has been using Digital Twins since 2013 in their manufacturing processes and in monitoring / managing the operation of assets (like turbines in windfarms and aircraft engines). They estimate that Digital Twins can avoid 1 billion $ losses a year in their deployed assets.
Mevea is using Digital Twins in creating a virtual model of a product (specialized backhoes) enabling its (virtual) operation by the end user during the specification phase. Once the specification meets the need of the customer that virtual model is used in the manufacturing phase. The Digital Twin, enriched with the manufacturing data, is used to monitor the operation of the backhoe, providing information upstream, to the design and production phases, and downstream to the user for fine tuning of operation and preventive maintenance.

MS Azure platform provides comprehensive support to Digital Twins streamlining access to IoT generated data and simplifying modelling. Image credit: Microsoft

Other companies have developed platforms to support Digital Twins, particularly in the manufacturing area (in close associations, usually, with IoTs) as pointed out by Gartner and they are entering in mainstream use.

Siemens with Mindsphere and in cooperation with ATOS is providing the support to manufacturers to exploit Digital Twins (watch the clip) hence enabling the shift towards a Digital Industry (aka Industry 4.0).

Cumulocity IoT (now owned by Software AG) is another widely adopted platform to support IoT and Digital Twin.

Microsoft Azure IoT platform has announced support to Digital Twins (see image).

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.