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What if …Reality+Digital Reality becomes … Reality – X

Factory Chief Engineer Wearing VR Headset Designs Engine Turbine on the Holographic Projection Table. Futuristic Design of Virtual Mixed Reality Application.

In the previous post I pointed out that Digital Reality is becoming Reality not just for products but also for Systems, including complex systems like telecommunications networks.

Here I point out that Digital Reality is becoming “Reality” also for processes. This is of particular interest, and significance, for the manufacturing industry and its value chain. Digitalisation starts at the design phase and keeps evolving through the whole value chain. Co-design is performed on the digital model, simulation of single components, and of their resulting assemblage, is performed on the digital model. Most importantly, the tool design and the simulation of their deployment / operation is done at the digital level. Impact of failure in any component on the assembly line is simulated and evaluated at the digital level.

Furthermore, along the value chain some components (software ones) become part of the digital space and are seen both as digital representation and as real components.

The whole process results in the development of the final product’s digital twin and is recorded in the digital twin’s thread. At the delivery point (where the product is packaged and shipped) the digital twin is instantiated and becomes the mirror of that specific product instance.

The connection between the digital space and the workspace is supported by virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. Virtual reality comes into play in the design phase, where only a digital model exist and in the subsequent phases where no connection to the physical reality exist (e,g, looking at ways to organise the work of several robots over an assembly line, showing an end customer the intended product and the possible result of its customization, engaging the user in the operation of a product in a virtual space…). Augmented reality comes into play when additional, digital information can enhance the understanding of a physical reality overlaying the former on the latter.

Industry 4.0, by making digital reality a fundamental part of its paradigm, will both benefit and stimulate the evolution of Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies, as well as all technologies that can leverage data, like data analytics, data rendering, artificial intelligence in all its forms, and, of course all data transmission technologies.

In a way, it will lead the digital transformation of the whole biz and society. Healthcare will follow suit taking human bodies into the “digital processing”: predictive medicine and social medicine will be based on Digital Reality, on the creation and leverage of Digital Twins mirroring people.

The Industrial adoption of Digital Reality will include workers’ skills and knowledge (Cognitive Digital Twins). These will be seen as resources mirrored in the digital space, to be managed and leveraged by the industrial processes.

The mirroring of people behaviour in the digital space will become important in the modelling, planning and operation of smart cities.

Fintech is already largely based on Digital Reality and the inclusion of people “mood” and investment trends is already subject to study giving rise to ever more sophisticated analytics.

Digital modelling of skills and knowledge will change the approach and delivery of education, particularly of continuous education. Add to these the modelling of moods and perceptions and you see the impact of  Digital Reality in Government and the reshaping of democracy.

All of this means profound changes in the Society and along with it the arise of new ethical questions and societal challenges.

The shift to a new Reality resulting from the merging of Physical and Digital is taking place today, through the process of Digital Transformation. It will probably take two decades to reach maturity and consolidation. The 2020 activities of the Digital Reality Initiative will be focussing on this transformation process, on the enabling technologies and on the market steering resulting in a White Paper. I hope you will contribute to that.

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.