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Digital Twin Computing

Digital Twin Computing will support interaction among humans and Things mediated by their respective Digital Twins. Image credit: NTT

I received a comment to one of my posts on Digital Twins pointing to a White Paper produced by NTT researchers and introducing a new twist on Digital Twins, Digital Twin Computing.
We are seeing a tremendous uptake of Digital Twins by industry, their adoption in the IoT framework and in the Industry 4.0 is a given. We are also seeing an expansion to other areas, building constructions, smart cities, healthcare and the first research on the possibility to use digital twins to represents cognitive aspects (cognitive digital twins).

More than that. We have seen the growth of Digital Twins from:

  1. specification of a product – using Computer Aided Design
  2. use of Digital Twin to guide the manufacturing process – feeding into Computer Aided Manufacturing
  3. flanking of the Digital Twin to its Physical Twin, shadowing it to keep mirroring the present status of the product/service/process
  4. recording the evolution of the Physical Twin (Digital Thread) to perform regression analyses

In this evolution the essence of a Digital Twin has mutated. At level 4 a Digital Twin is more than a representation of its Physical Twin, it is a representation of its life time, a memory the physical object does not have.

Now we are moving into stage 5: the Digital Twin and the Physical Twin overlap in terms of delivering functionality. To get the full set of functionality of a product you need to have the physical part collaborating with the Digital one. One might claim that at this point there is no longer a Digital Twin, nor a Physical Twin. Digital Reality and Physical Reality becomes one and the same.

The NTT White Paper is in a way a reinterpretation of this stage 5. In the paper they are proposing to use the Digital Twin as an intermediator taking care of (part of) the interaction among people and between people and physical objects. They are also foreseeing the combination of Digital Twins in the cyberspace to mirror complex real world interactions. The idea would be to simulate the real world as well as to “run” the real world in the cyberspace.

An even more ambitious goal (bordering science fiction in my opinion) is the expression (mirroring) of consciousness and thinking. That would allow the creation of a computational environment for consciousness interactions.

The NTT researchers claim that the creation of Digital Twin Computation – DTC- would enable the creation of complex virtual societies where interactions among humans and things will be taken to a next level, being no longer constrained by physical limitation.

As I said, I have doubts on this vision, nevertheless their paper is thought provoking and surely worth reading.


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.