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A platform for a Factory Digital Twin

A digital twin is used to model a factory, with its physical space, the various robots at work, the manufacturing processes and so on. Engineers can monitor the factory and its components by looking the digital twin through virtual reality. Image credit: InfiniteFoundry

Infinity Foundry is a Portuguese startup, founded in 2017, that is now in the scale up phase having acquired over 30 large customers that use their platform. It has recently joined the scaleup program of EIT Digital.

What is very interesting in their platform is the support to a digital twin that mirrors a factory, a city, a healthcare institution… The actual, physical entity is modelled into a digital twin and then the DT can be used to train workers on the various operations and procedures. In this sense it can also be used for training before the actual physical “thing” is available and this of course, if done in the design phase can be used to incorporate the feedback from the prospective users into the design.

Moreover, the DT can be used as a bridge to operate the physical entity from remote. The platform supports the use of virtual reality goggles so a technician can don the goggles and feel like being present at the plant and can operate the various components by acting on their virtual counterpart.

I find this approach fascinating. On the one hand it will be a powerful enabler in change the way work is done (you can operate equipment in noisy and potentially dangerous environment from the convenience of your living room (or comfortable office space). This is also decreasing the cost of plants since they would no longer need to be designed to accommodate human workers on site (on site maintenance can be performed when the machines are switched off). On the other hand this approach can extend to several other areas, including education. A student, or a professional engaged in continuous education, could get the same kind of involvement created by being on site and yet take the course from far away. I guess that the stumbling block, today, is the lack of really good VR devices that could provide the seamless immersion required to make the whole really felt “real”. But I am sure it is just a matter of time. The rumoured Apple glasses may provide a first step towards this seamless merging of the cyberspace with the physical space. We’ll see.

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.