by David Daniels & Dan Mandell | 11/2/2023
Engineering organizations are investing their time and resources looking into a variety of technologies to streamline the product development process while increasing innovation, eliminating waste, reducing costs, maximizing resources, and limiting their carbon footprint. This will allow businesses to gain competitive advantages and win industries. One of those technologies, digital twins, share growing synergies with other technologies, such as generative AI, 3D interface design, Internet of Things (IoT), metaverse, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR).
Digital twins have the potential to deliver more agile and resilient operations. At VDC, our survey showed 29.2% of companies are using AR/digital twin capabilities as part of IoT Cloud Platforms, which is increasing to 32.8% in three years. This is important to note as many companies would invest and build up their AR capabilities before diving into digital twins. For example, Tesla combines digital twins, AR, and the cloud by creating a digital simulation of every one of its cars, using data collected from sensors on their vehicles and uploaded to the cloud. This allows the company’s AI algorithms to determine where faults and breakdowns are most likely to occur virtually and minimize the need for owners to take their cars to service stations for repairs and maintenance.
To create a digital twin, strong data infrastructure is a must. Data can be individual, historical, longitudinal, or multivariate time-series and collected through embedded sensors or historical datasets. This allows digital twins to be linked to real data sources from the environment, which means that the twin updates in real time improve on the original version of the product/solution. This data is used to build new types of edge machine learning (ML) models, which then trains generative AI to create digital twins where more data can be analyzed to accelerate innovation.
Another important crossroads between technologies is using generative AI to develop digital twins paired with 3D. This is seen in the B2C domain where businesses are engaging consumers in the retail sector, for example, as customers are in virtual stores trying on products before purchase. B2E scenarios are when businesses create the environment for their employees. In the medical field, digital twins of patients are constructed through generative AI to simulate ‘what if?’ scenarios. Unlearn.ai’s technologies allow doctors to practice surgeries, reduce human experimentation, and predict future health outcomes. B2C and B2E domains are bridging the gap between businesses, employees, and consumers through digital twins.
On the B2B front, AI is used to improve operations by specifically simulating events that are hard to replicate in the real world, such as natural disasters and attacks. This innovation has the potential to significantly enhance government emergency response efforts, allowing officials to virtually witness the impact of a simulated disasters on virtual citizens. In a more lighthearted application, McLaren joined forces with Deloitte to create digital replicas of their racecars and simulate Formula 1 (F1) races under various scenarios, eliminating the need to physically construct multiple vehicles or run additional, costly real-world laps at various tracks or racing conditions. Deloitte then uses the collected data from the twins and turns it into digestible material to reduce errors, time, and costs for McLaren. B2B digital twin projects attempt to solve the most ambitious problems.
Digital twins harness other technologies to become a powerful tool in the business landscape. As noted, these technologies have generated realistic textures, movements, and behaviors for digital twins in the automotive, retail, medical, government, and other spaces, such as F1. Looking ahead, the evolution of digital twins is expected to transcend the confines of the business realm, paving the way for a future in which mankind can seamlessly craft digital replicas of our very own planet Earth.
To learn more about the adoption of digital twins and other emerging technology trends, view VDC’s Voice of the Engineer report, which examines the preferences and pain points of more than 700 IoT and embedded engineers, decision makers, and influencers.