First is was the digital model of an engine (General Electric), then it was enriched with communications capability to remain in synch with the physical entity it was modelling and to keep record of all changes. The Digital Twin was born.
Moving from a single engine to a whole car (Tesla) was a tiny, natural step, although it required some architecture to cluster several digital twins into a whole (the one mirroring the engine, those mirroring the suspensions, the tyres, the chassis, …). If you can mirror a car why not mirror with a Digital Twin the entire factory with the assembly lines and the variety of tools, the suppliers, the delivery chain (Siemens)?
OK, you can use Digital Twins to mirror an object as well as a clustering of objects. What about mirroring a person? No problem, go back to square one and again find General Electric, this time with its Health division, developing a digital twin that can mirror a person’s health status, getting data from wearable and other streams (like medical exams, prescriptions…). It is not alone, several other companies are now creating and using digital twins of people in the healthcare domain.
IEEE FDC in its Digital Reality Initiative is experimenting with personal and cognitive digital twins to mirror a person’s (or a company’s) knowledge.
What could be next? Well, of course, the Digital Twin of our Planet Earth!
The European Union has funded the 10-year Destination Earth Initiative that involves the creation of a Digital Twin to mirror the whole planet. The Initiative aims at monitoring climate change and simulating the effect of what is going on and of actions that might be taken.
The initiative will start in June this year and over a period of 10 years will gather climate data from around the planet incorporating all of them into a digital twin. Simulation software will be continuously tuned to the new data and the algorithms (based on AI and Machine Learning) will match the prediction against the real data finely tuning themselves.
If you feel that the Earth is too small, you may want to take a look at a computer simulation and rendering of 14 billion evolution of the observable universe. Notice that this is a simulation, it is not -yet- a digital twin.