Digital twins are recognizing rapid adoption across virtually every industry and continue to evolve. In 2021, Amplify published its first digital twins edition, which focused on expected value based on this Digital Twin Consortium definition: “A digital twin is a virtual representation of real-world entities and processes, synchronized at a specified frequency and fidelity.”1 The issue included some use cases and opportunities we envisioned for digital twins.
Over the last three years, we have seen great progress at the Digital Twin Consortium. Membership has grown from start-ups to large global organizations and end users that are implementing digital twins.
In this latest issue of Amplify, we take a lessons-learned approach — revisiting the concept of digital twins with an eye toward how organizations are using digital twins, the implementations, and the challenges encountered.
As you might expect, digital twin implementations can fail if organizations start in the wrong place or start too big without building on smaller successes. Such challenges are typically nontechnical and must be addressed at the organizational level by first understanding the goals and the strategy, then by using digital twins to achieve the desired ROI.
We hope the information about digital twin challenges and successes in this issue will help business leaders avoid some common missteps and accomplish their digital twin goals. A great deal has been achieved in three years, but there are still many opportunities and other challenges:
No single company has a complete digital twin solution, so businesses must rely on several vendors.
The market is still shifting, so leaders must carefully select vendors — some are likely to modify their products, merge, or be acquired.
Digital twins make use of many IoT and other related standards, but digital twin–specific standards (e.g., how to integrate simulation engines from different vendors) have not been developed just yet, so integration and interoperability are still opportunities for differentiation.
Several vendors offer digital twin frameworks designed to make digital twins simpler, but it’s important to avoid vendor lock-in.
Skills, including expertise in various model types, tend to be scarce and costly.
Despite this, progress is being made in leaps and bounds. The Amplify authors identified security as a challenge two years ago, and guidance is constantly emerging. For example, a collaboration between the Digital Twin Consortium and the Industry Internet Consortium in the area of the IoT Security Maturity Model (SMM) has developed a digital twin profile for the SMM.
Using the SMM to IEC 62443 security standard mapping, industrial organizations like manufacturers and mining companies can use a combination of these documents to identify the specific control-system capabilities they need to implement to match their investment goals. This type of actionable guidance for product creators, integrators, and asset owners is the type of ecosystem collaboration needed to address gaps and accelerate the market.
The Digital Twin Consortium’s academia and research group, which includes a number of universities, is looking to develop curriculum to address skills shortages, and a planned digital twin certification program will close the gaps.
In the first digital twins issue, we recommended that organizations: (1) learn more about digital twins and digital transformation, (2) understand potential use cases and how their business could benefit, and (3) develop proofs of concept and pilots they could build on.
Today, organizations can do more. Digital twin implementations are advancing from initial dashboards to controlling assets in a feedback loop. They provide an opportunity for improved decision-making and performance-tuning.
Organizations that are already executing on our earlier recommendations should consider:
Moving from a single digital twin deployment or a single type of digital twin to a broader deployment across other business systems, using multiple types of digital twins
Integrating their digital twins with enterprise resource planning and other business systems for greater value
Analyzing earlier experiments to determine the best place to achieve ROI
Picking a core set of partners and providers to accelerate the path to success
Expanding the vision for achieving value from data integration to achieving compliance, testing large and expensive assets before they are built, and improving safety
Identifying which data is most useful for themselves and their supply chain
Integrating digital twins with emerging technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and the Metaverse
In This Issue
The articles in this issue were selected to provide important lessons about real-world deployments and case studies. They also provide insights about industries where digital twins have gained early traction and what types of organizations are adopting digital twins, including those focused on sustainability and those seeking to enable Metaverse scenarios.
In our first article, Carl Faulkner presents a mining industry case study with a focus on data collection, integration, and storage challenges. The article includes lessons learned from the application of a solution designed to facilitate user-friendly access to digital twins as well as the importance of connecting digital twins to other business systems to get the most value.
Next, Jason Radel explores the application of a digital twin framework for the ingestion, application, and visualization of digital twins and the integration of light detection and ranging data, photographs and scans, and other engineering documents. The article includes case studies from the energy and defense sectors, demonstrating how such an approach can be used in managing digital twins in different industries.
In our third article, Ruth Kerrigan and her colleagues describe the application of digital twins to building-performance twins at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. They discuss tracking electricity and heating performance in campus buildings and lessons learned, many of which are organizational in nature, not technological. The authors conclude with a methodology for the deployment of performance digital twins and recommendations for addressing some of the issues they encountered.
As mentioned earlier, sustainability has become a recent focus for digital twins, and our fourth article, by David McKee and Tim O’Callaghan, contains a case study from a UK town using digital twins to achieve its net zero obligations. The authors discuss the use of tools to visualize historical data and utilizing new data from various sources to simulate possible outcomes and manage risk.
In our fifth article, Alexander Weber discusses the use of digital twins in radar systems. This is a good example of using digital twins to simulate products that are costly to build (especially if they are built incorrectly) and their use in addressing compliance requirements. Weber explains how the model was verified and how the simulated data corresponds to the real data.
Next, Tim Giuliani discusses how digital twins are being used for regional planning by the city of Orlando, Florida, USA. Here, digital twins are employed via VR to offer an immersive environment so users can experience the impact of various scenarios. The article shows how organizations are bringing together vendors and partners to integrate data, digital twins, and emerging technologies.
Finally, Colin Dominish discusses a variety of revenue opportunities that could be realized by applying digital twins to real estate and buildings. He discusses improving building performance and some opportunities to enhance tenant experiences.
What’s Next for Digital Twins?
We have entered a new phase of the digital twin market, moving from experimenting with digital twins and seeing what they can do to deployments where value is being realized. The lessons from these real-world activities can provide insights and guidance for those beginning their digital transformation journeys.
There are still some challenges that need to be addressed, so digital twin ecosystems and consortia are bringing together end users, vendors, governments, and academic institutions to address gaps and ensure we have the foundation we need to achieve greater value over time. We hope this issue of Amplify inspires you to leverage digital twins as part of your digital transformation.
1 “Definition of a Digital Twin.” Digital Twin Consortium, accessed April 2023.