Complex Made Simple

Digital twins: From saving costs to businesses to saving life as we know it

The technology behind digital twins acts as a way to bridge between what is real and what’s virtual and makes use of IoT devices and real-time data to visualize and test products, Can it also save lives?

Digital twins to be among the top five tech trends of 2021 Researchers are using computer and data sciences to develop a digital twin of individual patients The Earth Archive Initiative is a scientific effort to create a digital twin of the entire surface of the Earth

The technology behind digital twins acts as a way to bridge between what is real and what’s virtual and makes use of IoT devices and real-time data to visualize and test products, helping reduce development and maintenance costs.

Today it is transforming medicine and the surrounding world around us as a way to digitally and safely test and dissect humans and nature. 

It has the potential to save us and the planet.  

Digital twins in business  

Especially in the manufacturing sector, digital twins have allowed customers to visualize products in use and in real-time and enabled troubleshooting in a virtual manner. In a production line, the combination of the digital twin and IoT allows the use of real-time data from connected sensors to illuminate the asset’s health and performance. 

Many industries are building digital twins, virtual 3D and 4D replicas of operations, assets, and the relationships in space and time that tie them together, to see more clearly when making business decisions.

Multinational consulting firm Accenture, reported digital twins to be among the top five tech trends of 2021. They predicted, “businesses that start today, building intelligent twins of their assets and piecing together their first mirrored environments, will be the ones that push industries, and the world, toward a more agile and intelligent future.”

VentureBeat recently reported that successfully deploying a digital twin means extending a geographic information system (GIS), the technology that delivers location intelligence, across a business’s domains. 

Digital twins in airport operations can, for example, offer a mirror view of real-time operations from a close-up perspective. If something is amiss on one end of a sprawling commercial campus, for example, those on the other end can know in real-time. The digital twin can be updated whether from human input or IoT sensor feeds, saving time in assessing a problem, mitigating its impact, and devising a solution.  

At two of the world’s busiest airports, tech teams created digital twins using real-time sensors to track moving parts and fixed objects spread across thousands of acres of terminals and runway.

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A human’s digital twin

Researchers are using computer and data sciences to develop a digital twin of individual patients, on which sensitive therapies involving trial-and-error dosages could be tested, before the flesh-and-blood patient is subjected to the real deal, according to a recent blog post from Empa, a research institute of the ETH Domain.

Digital twins will enable medical practitioners to know the exact dosage of drugs they need to reduce pain for example, which is otherwise potentially harmful to patients with life-threatening side effects. Today, such painkillers can be applied to patients through the skin via a drug patch bit it can take time to find the right dosage for each patient, forcing medical professionals to practice trial-and-error on individual cases, which sometimes risks under- or overdoses.

Empa researchers have joined with a team from the University of Bern to develop a digital twin of a human body, with which doctors and scientists may test potential treatments to see how each patient’s simulated body will react.

Mathematical models serve as the basis for a digital twin or avatar, and researchers include a wide spectrum of variables from real people like lifestyle and age into the virtual patient. These and many others are necessary to accurately predict a drug’s effect on a person. 

The digital twin can also be updated with psychological and physiological feedback from real patients, to reverse-engineer emergent complications after dosages are given to real patients. 

Self-reporting systems to a diagnostic AI updating your digital twin could rapidly expand accessibility for literally millions. 

Enabling doctors to kill your digital twin, again and again, might advance experimental treatments or drugs to stages safe enough for patients to enjoy more options, potentially saving lives.

Earth’s digital twin

The Earth Archive Initiative is an unprecedented scientific effort to create a digital twin of the entire surface of the Earth, and everything on it.

By scanning the planet’s land surface with very high-resolution lidar, the Earth Archive will create a true three-dimensional digital twin of our world, an open-source, digital record of the Earth that will serve as the baseline for understanding and exploring our world.

Lidar can enhance archaeological, anthropological, and conservation studies and provide needed information to help advance sustainable development. 

The oil and gas industry is also pursuing digital twin technology to enhance sustainability in the sector. 

The latest Future offering from Cavendish, Future Digital Twin, was launched as a direct response to the high level of delegate interest generated during the digital twin technology streams at Future Oil and Gas in December 2020 and Future Downstream in March 2021.

Kongsberg Digital “Sees four main pillars playing a prominent role in digital twin today and in the future: digitalization, scalability, collaboration, and decarbonization.”  

For Shell Upstream, an early-stage digital twin is enabling everything from early-stage concept selection through simulation to production optimization and predictive maintenance. The company is monitoring more than 6,000 pieces of equipment in real-time across upstream-downstream integrator gas businesses and enabled over 5,000 workers on the front line with iPads with a connected worker program.