Most of us who saw the movie ‘Iron Man’, were inspired to see Tony Stark build an Iron Man suit in a cave. And over the years (and many sequels), iterative virtual simulations, enabled by the huge amount of real-time data captured from the suit itself, helped him perfect physical prototypes faster than one could fathom.

For most of us, knowingly or unknowingly, that was the first glimpse of Digital Twins, albeit a bit over-dramatized. Digital Twins are real-time virtual representations of physical objects, services, or processes. A Digital Twin leverages technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), as well as data analytics to help the virtual model change in sync with its physical counterpart.

At the core of Digital Twins are Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that are coupled with objects in the physical world and measure performance outputs such as speed, temperature, power, torque (angular force), and more. These sensors send measurement data generated by the associated object to help operators understand its performance and potential issues. With Digital Twins, companies can study a product’s performance, analyse customer service, and make more informed decisions.

How Digital Twin technology is currently used in different industries

Organizations combine the real-time information and visual representation that Digital Twins offer, to better design, build and operate their products, processes, or services. Here are some of the applications of digital twins across several industries where companies are looking to build more futuristic smart products and services that rely heavily on real-time dynamic data:

Manufacturing

Digital Twins are being deployed by manufacturers to build efficient smart factories. Real-time insights about workers, equipment, production-line, and the entire factory, enable manufacturers to optimize operations. For example, Aerospace & Defence conglomerate Raytheon Technologies leveraged digital twins to build a missile defence radar faster than before. They did so by examining and re-calibrating digital twins of missile defence radar prototypes in real-world conditions. The Absolut Company, a subsidiary of Pernod-Ricard, implemented digital twins to digitally test, validate and calibrate their production runs. This helped them increase their overall equipment efficiency by more than 70 percent.

Automotive

In 2021, BMW announced that it would design a Digital Twin to replicate 31 of its factories, which is estimated to optimize the production planning processes by over 30%. Formula 1 racing teams build simulators with the help of Digital Twins to replicate the exact racing conditions in terms of traction, aerodynamics, electronics and more. This allows the drivers to practice better given the limited on-track test duration allotted. Automotive manufacturers use Digital Twins to study prototypes in real-world conditions to make them production ready.

Retail

Amazon Go stores have been leveraging Digital Twins since 2018 to operate its “Just-Walk-Out” technology, which has scaled to over 30 stores to date. With this technology, consumers can walk into the store by simply scanning their mobile phones and leave without having to stand in a queue for billing. The technology combines sensors, computer vision and deep learning AI/ML models to help deliver consumers a seamless shopping experience. Data insights from IoT-enabled shelves and sales systems, also help optimize inventory management, store layouts, logistical bottlenecks, and more.

Healthcare

Healthcare providers are using Digital Twins to replicate and study internal organs of a patient. Technology companies operating within the healthcare domain, are leveraging real-time data from a Digital Twin coupled with patients’ medical health records to build AI/ML-based algorithms. These algorithms play a pivotal role in improving diagnoses, preventive care, and treatments, thus delivering better health outcomes.

Why implementing Digital Twins has been challenging

One of the earliest implementations of Digital Twins was in Singapore, when the island nation invested USD 58 million to create a digital replica of the entire city in 2014. Despite the many obvious virtues of Digital Twins, full scale adoption remains lower than expected. Some of the challenges that above listed industries face include uncertainty over development and deployment costs, difficulty in predicting ROI, lack of proficiency in the concept, data security and confidentiality concerns.

How the Orion IoT Accelerator can help you expedite your Digital Twins journey

There are ways to initiate and accelerate the Digital Twins journey with comparatively low investments and leveraging expertise in available Digital Twins implementations. Microsoft’s Azure Digital Twins is an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that enables you to create a digital representation of real-world things, places, business processes and people. Orion has a long history partnering with Microsoft and deep expertise in Microsoft technologies.

Orion has built a solution, the Orion IoT Accelerator, that accelerates the set-up of Digital Twins on Microsoft’s Azure Digital Twins IoT platform by defining the corresponding model in Microsoft Digital Twins Definition Language v2 (DTDL). This model-driven IoT solution delivers a customizable web client on the Azure platform with the ability to monitor and manage remote devices and sensors. Orion works with clients to understand their Digital Twins set-up requirements in terms of devices, inter-connectivity, operating logic and outcomes and implements the customized Digital Twins set-up on Microsoft Azure.

In addition to accelerating concept-to-launch, the modular, serverless architecture offered by the Orion IoT Accelerator ensures a lower cost of ownership and flexibility in terms of device configuration. This type of implementation based on Microsoft technologies future-proofs a client’s Digital Twins set-up.

Digital Twins to survive and thrive in the competitive landscape

Over the years, lack of meaningful real-time data has meant that organizations have some big opportunities to bring new and efficient smart products and services to market faster. Digital Twins is a critical technology to provide real-time data to companies to refine products, services and processes, which if implemented correctly, can provide an advantage in a hyper-competitive world.

Learn more about the Orion IoT Accelerator or contact us for a consultation.

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