The future of Digital Twins remains to be written, although what is going on now and what is going to happen in the coming 2-3 years is pretty straightforward.
DTs are a reality in manufacturing and their use will further expand to cover more equipment and processes. The association of a DT to products will keep growing. Whilst the DT used “inside” the factory are focussing on higher efficiency and flexibility, those associated to a product are considered tools to get data from operation. These are used to fine-tune production, smooth operation and support pro-active maintenance. In the next few years companies will learn to leverage on these DTs to offer services and generate additional revenue streams.
What is happening in the manufacturing area is spreading to several other areas, like construction, healthcare, insurance, finance and banking, retail, entertainment and education.
Healthcare is steering the creation and the evolution of personal digital twins, and these will soon percolate in other areas as well.
The step from DT to PDT is not easy, mostly because the “P” brings along ethical and societal issues. Besides, Personal today refers not to the ownership, rather to what is mirrored, a person’s set of characteristics. By the end of this decade I am pretty sure that the “P” will be associated with the ownership. Whatever mirrors a person need to be owned by that person.
The extension of DT and PDT to CDT -Cognitive Digital Twin- is in synch with the growing demand of managing knowledge. This is a need for both the single person that is going to compete on the market more and more on the executable knowledge available and at company level since knowledge is more and more a tool of the trade.
Cognitive Digital Twins offer the hope of capturing and delivering executable knowledge. Here again, as with the “P” in PDTs, the “C” gives rise to new and yet to be explored ethical and societal issues.
The Digital Transformation is transforming much more than the way of doing business. Is transforming the perception of values, it has societal implications. It is a transformation into a life in the metaverse, a Digital Reality where people no longer perceive a separation between the physical and the cyberspace and where business, companies, needs to reach a market that is both in the cyber and in the physical space.
Advances in AR and VR, that will change the rules of the game once effective interfaces will become available (seamless and affordable), will further blur the separation of physical and cyber on the one hand and on the other hand will make possible to live in both at the same time.
As shown in the graphic, both companies and customers/users will operate in the meta verse, a space where the boundaries between the atoms and the bits are fuzzy. DT and PDT will bridge these two spaces. In addition DTs and (p)PDT (partial PDT) will become products on themselves. Tools will be available to let people buy DT and (p)PDT creating their own PDT, a real alter ego in the cyberspace able to interact on their behalf with physical entities, people included, in the physical space.
These latter evolutions are still very much in the future, and may not happen any time soon as they will need to go hand in hand with evolution in many other areas, including AI, AR/VR transducers, cultural/societal acceptance and regulatory framework.