Digital Twins: Carbon Copies of Real-Life Products, Processes & Services

17th Sep 2021
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An identical twin can be described as one part of two identical people, two identical animals, or two identical things.

This definition also perfectly describes what a digital twin is: A carbon-copy digital representation of a physical object, a process or a service.

Why would we need an identical representation of a physical object, process or service? How do digital twins work? And what would we use a digital twin for?

Let’s find out.

What is a digital twin and where did the concept come from? 

A digital twin is a digital replica of an object, process, or service. So, for instance, a digital twin could be used to replicate a jet engine, a manufacturing process or a healthcare service.

The concept of digital twins was first created by author David Gelernter in his book “Mirror Worlds.” But the idea was turned into reality by NASA in the 1960s. It pioneered the use of digital twin technology during its space missions to build replica space capsules for research and testing purposes.

How do digital twins work?

A digital twin is a virtual representation of an object or system that spans its lifecycle, is updated from real-time data, and uses simulation, machine learning and reasoning to help decision-making.” -  IBM

In essence, a digital twin is a computer program that uses sensors, real-time data and machine learning to create simulations that show, and also predict, how a product, process or service is performing, and will likely perform, in real-life situations.

The way it works is this: A real-life object, process or service is fitted with sensors that generate data about the performance of that object, process or service: Aspects such as energy output, operating conditions and temperature, for instance. This data is sent to a processing system and applied to the digital twin program. The digital twin then uses this data to replicate the real-life object, process or service and mimic what’s happening to it, in real-time. Access to this type of real-time data enables the digital twin to continuously evolve and accurately reflect the changes that are happening to the real-life object, process or service.
 

Anyone looking at the digital twin can now see crucial information about how the physical thing is doing out there in the real world.” - IBM

 

But to truly understand the concept of a digital twin, we need to see it in action.

 

What are digital twins used for?

As we’ve established, a digital twin allows its operator to see how a physical product, process or service is performing in real-time. Not only that, but the insights gathered by the digital twin also allows them to predict how the product, process or service will perform in the future.

They help companies visualise how products, processes and services are being used by real users, in real-time. They’re able to predict outcomes, enable remote troubleshooting, highlight problems and offer potential improvements or solutions.

 

This means that digital twins and the insight they bring, are becoming vital tools for the manufacturing, healthcare, automotive and urban planning industries.

Evidence of this can be seen by the rise in global demand for them: In 2020 the digital twin market was valued at $3.1 billion, but by 2026 this is expected to have reached a whopping $48.2 billion.

Let’s look at some examples of how digital twins are being used across different industries:

Digital twins in industrial manufacturing processes

By replicating manufacturing processes and analysing performance data, digital twins can provide manufacturers with the insight they need to spot where inefficiencies are in their production processes and co-functioning machine systems.

Digital twins in healthcare services

Digital twins can mirror healthcare services such as healthcare apps. The sensor-driven data can track a patient’s core health indicators and provide them with updates on their current health, risk factors for future conditions and solutions to specific health problems. They can even model hospitals to determine and improve operational strategies, capacity management, staffing flows and care models to determine what action needs to be taken and help them plan for future challenges.

Digital twins in automotive products

Cars are complicated, technical beasts that need thorough testing and constant improvements. Digital twins can be used to test and improve vehicle performance and increase the efficiency of the production of automotive parts and products.

So that’s how digital twins work and how they’re being used by certain industries, but the question is: Why are they being used?

What are the benefits of a digital twin?

A digital twin virtually represents a problem so that a solution or improvement can be created and tested within the program rather than in the real world.

So, the ultimate goal of a digital twin is to offer key insights, run simulations, study performance issues and provide potential improvements to products, processes and services. 

This enables companies to continuously optimise their products, production, and performance at minimal cost.” – PLM

 

This ultimate benefit brings with it a myriad of other, sub-benefits: 
 

A competitive edge

A digital twin can be used to represent how a product is being used by your customers after they’ve bought it. This means that you have real-life insight into what is and isn’t working, customer preferences and expected customer experiences. This allows you to make high-quality products that can meet your customers’ needs, better than your competitors can. You can use the sensor-generated data to eliminate or improve features, functionality, or components which will not only save you time and money but will give you a competitive advantage.

Reduced costs

Digital twins can replicate the impact of design changes, usage scenarios, environmental conditions, and other variables. This eliminates the need for costly, physical prototypes, it prevents costly mistakes and failures, it reduces development time and it improves the quality of the finalised product, process or service.

Ability to work on problems remotely

With a digital twin, engineers and operators are able to get a detailed view of a physical object from far away. There’s no need to be in the same room as the object, or even in the same country. 

Better R&D

The use of digital twins allows organisations to conduct more effective research and development into new products, processes or services. The data that’s collected by a digital twin can lead to insights that will help companies make better decisions.

This R&D work can also be supported with R&D tax credits. Through the government-funded R&D scheme, companies can claim up to 33% of the costs associated with the research and development of a new product, process or service.

To find out more about the R&D tax incentive, speak to Myriad Associates.

Who are Myriad Associates?

Myriad Associates are R&D tax specialists who have been filing R&D claims on behalf of their clients, some of whom are accountants, for over a decade. With their meticulous right-first-time approach, they pride themselves on working with accountants and their clients to get the maximum amount of tax relief possible.  With a 100% success record and their seven-star customer service, speak to the team today on 0207 118 6045, or drop them a message here.