The Technology of the Digtial Twin
The concept of the digital twin has been around since 2002, but it wasn’t until the Internet of Things (IoT) that it became cost-effective to implement. It has become so important to today’s business world that it was named one of Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends for 2017.
A digital twin is, in simplified terms, a virtual model of a process, product or service. This linking of the virtual and physical worlds allows data to be analyzed and systems to be monitored to prevent problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new capabilities, and even plan for the future through simulation.
As Thomas Kaiser, SAP Senior Vice President of IoT, puts it, “Digital twins are becoming a business imperative, covering the entire lifecycle of a plant or process and forming the basis for connected products and services. Companies that don’t respond to this will be left behind.”
In the context of product lifecycle management, Dr. Grieves (University of Michigan) defined the following digital twin terms:
1. Digital Twin Prototype (DTP): A DTP describes information about the creation of an asset. For example, a DTP could include the 3D model of the asset and the material and process bill of materials that describe how that asset is
manufactured. The DTP does not refer to a specific instance of the asset. Rather, it is a recipe for how to manufacture an asset.
2. Digital Twin Instance (DTI): A DTI refers to a single specific physical instance of an asset. It could contain the list of exact part numbers that went into the production of that specific asset, as well as the exact process steps that were
followed to produce that asset. The DTI also contains the current operating conditions recorded by the sensors associated with the assets. Multiple separate physical assets can be produced with a single DTP, and each of these assets has its own DTIs.
3. Digital Twin Aggregate (DTA): A DTA is simply a compilation of multiple DTIs and allows for the retrieval of information about a group of assets.