By Devon Maresco
Digital twins are an exciting piece of technology that’s becoming ubiquitous across industries. It’s easy to see why as they take their place alongside proliferating IoT and other tech such as machine learning. There are a bevy of digital twin use cases out there to showcase the power of digital asset monitoring. The interesting thing is that despite the same technological framework, almost every industry has found new and exciting ways to utilize digital twin technology.
What are digital twins used for? That depends on the industry. Let’s take a look at some of the most prevalent functions and features of digital twins across a diverse array of industries and applications.
Energy production and management are a huge market for digital twins. They’re already established technologies in the oil and gas sector, utilized by multinational companies such as British Petroleum (BP) and Shell. The reason? Digital twins aggregate the abundance of data that comes with downhole drilling operations—everything from visualizing well production to condition monitoring for the equipment extracting resources.
Fossil fuel producers aren’t the only ones using digital twins. Solar and wind farms also rely heavily on digital twins to monitor the performance of critical generators: solar panels and wind turbines. Smart technologies make it easy to monitor equipment off site and get real-time insights that enable proactive service. And, of course, digital twins make it easier to visualize the flow of power into a traditional grid.
Hospitals and healthcare facilities are filled with critical assets. In this sector, digital twins serve the role of integrated asset management and life cycle maintenance. From ultrasound machines to radiography equipment, these are investments totaling between tens of thousands and millions of dollars. Facility managers and maintenance professionals need to know where they are, what condition they’re in, their service records, and more to ensure they remain fully operational.
Healthcare facilities are also increasingly intelligent environments. Everything from access control, to networked devices, to patient wearables, and more all generate data—and that data needs to go somewhere. Digital twins embrace and route data from these many signals to help coordinate care within the cloud, at a digital level. Moreover, they provide relevant data to stakeholders that need it most: the individuals responsible for orchestrating a healing environment.
Digital twins were born in the world of manufacturing. They’re used for everything from asset maintenance and monitoring, to predictive maintenance and shop floor improvements. They tie into many Lean manufacturing initiatives because the focus is on using data to drive solutions. Manufacturers rely on digital twins to show them where bottlenecks are in their production lines or what machinery is due for preventive maintenance based on real-time performance.
The growing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has made digital twins even more robust. Manufacturing is inching closer and closer to an era of dark factories, where off-site monitoring and a skeleton crew are all it takes to keep major production lines running. With digital twins serving as the backdrop for production insights and a strong IIoT to support it, factories will soon run in the cloud.
Retail is a fast-paced environment that requires no small amount of coordination. From feature displays and fixtures to stockroom management and inventory, digital twins have a role in retail. Where they really shine is in efforts to improve customer experience—especially in the post-COVID-19 world. Digital twins are also instrumental in coordinating inventories during the rise of omni-channel fulfillment. As businesses pivot to meet changing shopper habits, digital twins serve as a constant to support new operations.
This list of digital twin use-cases wouldn’t be complete without a mention of commercial office buildings. In an age where remote work, flex work, and distributed teams are the new norm, digital twins help businesses reevaluate the physical workplace and understand its capacity for change. Digital twins serve as the great integrator for intelligent sensors and beacons, and interface with critical IWMS software to provide meaningful insights to decision-makers. Roll in asset management and digital twins become a must-have tool for businesses striving to make the most of their overhead.
Digital twins are becoming must-have tech
Digital twin industry use is on the rise, and it’s easy to see why. From energy to healthcare, manufacturing to retail and commercial applications, this tech offers critical support for operational excellence. And it’ll only continue to get better. As the IoT expands and more integrations come online, businesses will find digital twins instrumental in maximizing their efforts.
The beauty of digital twins is that they’re a transcendent technology. No matter the industry, no matter the application, so long as they’re configured and maintained accordingly they provide value.
Keep reading: Digital Twins – A Revolution in Workplace Management