The Digital Twin Is a Novel Derivative but Is It Really So Novel?By Joaquin Saldaña | Thu, 11/11/2021 - 13:51
A Digital Twin is a representation of reality that allows you to understand and study that particular reality in a simple way. This concept has been used for many years: it is common for engineers and designers to speak about models, which are representations of certain objects or situations, as it is possible to speak of scale models through which tidal behaviors are simulated, wind tunnels to understand the aerodynamic behavior of the wings in the design process of planes … there are plenty of examples. These models have the disadvantage of being a representation, usually on a scale, of a part of reality, since it is very complicated to incorporate all elements; yet, they have proved to be a fundamental tool in design and construction processes.
So, what is the advantage of Digital Twins? Well, the overall development of ICTs provides the ability to handle large volumes of information (big data), to have a large number of interconnected devices (IoT) at a time (broadband, 5G) and to process information in near real time (cloud). With all these, we can now generate digital "models" through which we can reflect the reality of a certain environment, by having multiple variables (images, video, temperature, position) dynamically interrelated. The digital representation of all these digital variables that are helping us to understand what is happening in reality is called a Digital Twin.
Understanding how each of the variables can affect the behavior of reality can now be achieved in a very simple way with the use of ICT. “What if” scenarios can be run to predict behaviors, simulations can be carried out to develop improvements without having to invest quantitative amounts in making physical models. No need for capital investments in physical scale models as a representation of reality because we can now have the entire reality at our fingertips through the Digital Twin.
Digital Twin applications can be found in many fields and in very diverse ways. For example, you can build a Digital Twin of a communications radio base station. The operation and maintenance process will benefit because all service engineers when first arriving at a site will be perfectly familiar with the entire environment by knowing it through their digital twin. They arrive at the site with prior knowledge of the site and the exact work to be done, increasing efficiency in a very important way: they will no longer invest time getting to the site prior to performing their tasks. In that same example, all remote operations performed can be done first in the Digital Twin to make sure that it will not affect the real environments applied in reality. This provides a very important tool to maintain the SLAs of each site.
Now, let us take this example at the level of a city. So-called Smart Cities allow the generation of Digital Twins in a very agile way, greatly facilitating the work of analysis and development of improvements, such as transit, sewage, transport and security. They make it possible to run and test “what if” scenarios in digital environments without affecting the real operation of the city. As such, Digital Twins have huge potential in industrial environments, to support production line reconfigurations and to reduce production interruptions, for example.
So Digital Twins are among the major byproducts of the operation of technologies applied to the digital transformation: access to broadband, cloud computing, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. I invite you to incorporate this concept into your operations and enjoy the great capacity that Digital Twins provide in operational tasks, maintenance and improvements of existing systems.