Digital twins are becoming both more sophisticated and more widely adopted by companies, utilities and governments, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).
How they work: If you’re not familiar with digital twins, they are virtual replicas of real-world assets, whether equipment or facilities, that operators can both experiment with and use to adjust the physical structures in real time.
What’s new: In the past five years, the interest in digital twins has skyrocketed among companies in all sectors, according to the Journal.
- Firms “are looking at the technology to help them improve processes, reduce costs, conserve resources, boost employee safety and productivity, or some combination of these possibilities, says Alfonso Velosa, a vice president analyst at Gartner.”
- “Last year, 17% of organizations in a Gartner survey said they have or plan to deploy digital twins.”
Getting better: The technology has gotten much more advanced, too. Not only do today’s digital twins use sophisticated sensors to produce real-time data, but many now use artificial intelligence to make better use of that data and improve their predictions.
- These new and improved twins “can eliminate the need for physical prototyping of products such as automobiles, and offer a way to test different configurations for spaces such as warehouses and stores, potentially saving time and money.”
Everybody’s got one: Digital twins are popping up everywhere, from San Francisco International Airport, which created a “centralized” digital twin in 2014, to Lowe’s department stores.
- “In one instance [at the airport], when a construction worker hit a water line at a job site, the plumbing team used the digital twin to direct the construction crew to the shut-off valve within minutes, limiting the damage and avoiding a costly delay, according to [Geoff] Neumayr [the chief resiliency and sustainability officer].”
- Meanwhile, “home-improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. is using the technology at a handful of stores to explore the impact of different store layouts, and to give associates insight into inventory stored in hard-to-reach places.”
Thinking bigger: Soon, every place you go may have a digital twin humming along with it.
- “A collection of digital twins representing everything from stadiums to freeways to public parks has the potential to change the way governments build cities and provide services, experts say.”
Learn more: The Manufacturing Leadership Council helps manufacturers with all phases of technological advancement, including deploying digital twins.