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No, digital twins aren’t anything as nefarious as a Dopplegänger impersonating you online. However, it does refer to a copy of sorts. And with all the technologically advanced practical applications digital twins offer, it won’t be long before you find them positively impacting your lives in any number of ways.
A digital twin is an interactive virtual replica of a physical asset, process, system, or environment that bears an indistinguishable resemblance to its corresponding entity in the real world. This counterpart assimilates data and mirrors functionalities, enabling the anticipation of potential performance outcomes and issues that the actual product may encounter. It offers real-time monitoring and data collection, simulation and analysis, predictive maintenance, remote control and collaboration, and much more.
Almost like a digital carbon copy, it works like this: The real-world asset is equipped with special sensors that collect data and specific information to describe the asset’s situation. That data is then used to create a digital copy of that asset. It bridges the physical and digital worlds, allowing users to monitor an asset in real time through the digital twin (or copy) and even predict its future state.
Here’s an example of how the city of Orlando improved its urban planning sector, not just in the present but possibilities for going forward as well. In efforts to demonstrate the region and gather up-to-date information for informing decisions in infrastructure, utilities, and business development, Orlando constructed the largest digital twin in the world (there have been larger since). During a recent hurricane, the monitoring of lake levels through the digital twin aided in identifying areas where storm drains were becoming obstructed, enabling prompt assistance to address the problem. Looking ahead, the integration of sensors within the stormwater system has the potential to connect with the digital twin, transforming it into a central command center.
For JTC in Singapore, which is the country’s government infrastructure agency, digital infrastructure plays a pivotal role in the development of its highly anticipated smart region known as the Punggol Digital District. JTC’s digital twin technology also serves as a crucial foundation for driving operational functionality, offering a comprehensive perspective on infrastructure throughout the country, and promoting sustainability. By leveraging advanced capabilities, Singapore aims to optimize operations, promote holistic infrastructure management, and enhance its commitment to sustainability.
With vast applications across various industries, digital twins are truly unlocking the full power of complex data. From the automotive and manufacturing industry, urban planning, infrastructure, and more, digital twins are helping test and solve problems before they appear in the real world. During the COVID pandemic, Vancouver International Airport leveraged reduced traffic to create a comprehensive digital twin of every operational element within their airport. This initiative resulted in enhanced operational efficiency, streamlined passenger flow, and various other benefits.
Digital twins have also found intriguing applications in the healthcare domain. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is taking digital twins to an incredibly intricate level by developing a pediatric cardiac surgical planning application. This innovative tool allows surgeons to examine the hearts of young patients in great detail, facilitating the creation of personalized and precise step-by-step surgical plans. Furthermore, the immersive experience can be shared with families, helping to ease their concerns and reduce anxiety related to upcoming surgeries.
It’s an exciting new world in which the real and virtual worlds meet, and it’s just the beginning. Find out more about digital twins, their uses and applications — and how it’s changing the landscape across industries for the better.