Rameshwar Balanagu is the Head of Digital Automation at Avaya and focuses on operational excellence and innovation.
You may have heard of a new technology called a “digital twin,” but might not have been sure what it is or how it could apply to your business. So, let’s take a look into this technology and how it can help deliver that “x-factor” that can set you apart from the competition.
The Birth Of The Digital Twin
First, the definition of a digital twin, according to the Digital Twin Consortium, is “a virtual representation of real-world entities and processes, synchronized at a specified frequency and fidelity.” A digital twin — sometimes called a “living model” — was conceptualized by NASA in the 1960s and later used during the Apollo 13 mission. An explosion in Apollo 13’s oxygen tank had critically damaged the main engine and left oxygen leaking into space. NASA used 15 simulators to evaluate every aspect of the failure to ultimately physically maneuver the rocket to safely land in the Indian Ocean. To accomplish this, NASA converted a physical model of Apollo 13 to a digital one, which provided a continuous stream of data that led to recreating the event. Thus, the digital twin was “born.”
In 2002, digital twin technology started getting the attention of GE and Siemens, which were pioneers in IoT devices that utilized digital twins for large applications such as manufacturing and avionics. These models connected the physical to the digital, simulating real-time applications to understand the interactions between external and internal factors. They used the living models to make timely decisions and mitigate the risks and costs involved in such immense projects.
The Benefits Of Digital Twin Technology
The ability to ingest data in real-time and technological advancements that made it more affordable spurred the adoption of digital twin technology for building digital replicas. Progress in artificial intelligence has led to optimization, better predictability and improved value.
Once a digital twin is analyzed and better understood, both proactive and predictive maintenance can be done to respond to and recreate unplanned situations, thereby making timely decisions possible. This can help optimize a company and also contribute to the bottom line by making customers happy through more personalized experiences.
The pandemic has taught us that digital transformation has become imperative. It’s a “disrupt-or-be-disrupted” world now. For companies to innovate and create new models, and at the same time support their existing models and comply with the standards and laws, it’s imperative that they need to understand their existing value chains and business capabilities, and process much more in real-time. They need to adjust, adapt, evolve and disrupt, and at the same time, maintain their relationships with existing clients, improve the customer experience and protect their brand identities.
A digital twin could be considered a lifeline for an enterprise, providing real-time insights and the ability to predict the next best offer or fix leaks in a process. It can also help optimize a network and perform automation akin to surgery to remove blockages or bottlenecks, such as in fulfilling an order in a timely manner. This, in turn, leads to greater customer satisfaction and protects the customer base.
How Can Digital Twin Technology Be Used?
Digital twin technology has caught fire in the IoT industry and spread to physical industries, such as construction, which are increasingly moving toward digitization. Let’s use the commercial building industry as an example. In this industry, digital twin technology can:
1. Provide a real-time blueprint instead of a static one.
2. Generate real-time data from sensors from all parts of a building.
3. Offer live surveillance and monitoring.
4. Provide environmental sensors.
More generally, a digital twin can help enterprises across horizontal and vertical capabilities. Here are a few examples:
1. An enterprise architecture team can use it to help align projects with the company vision and build road maps accordingly.
2. It can help customer experience teams by recommending the shortest path to customer satisfaction, highlight pain points, optimize service and suggest areas of automation.
3. As the digital twin is a living and breathing model, an enterprise can detect compliance issues in real-time and react in a timely fashion to reduce the legal hurdles associated with compliance violations.
The success of digital twins ultimately lies in the hands of the people. Therefore, it’s imperative that the C-suite is fully aligned with the concept and the implementation of the technology is purpose-led rather than guided by a data-first strategy.