What is a digital twin?
How does a digital twin work?
A digital twin is a virtual model designed to accurately reflect a physical object. The object being studied — for example, a wind turbine — is outfitted with various sensors related to vital areas of functionality. These sensors produce data about different aspects of the physical object’s performance, such as energy output, temperature, weather conditions and more. This data is then relayed to a processing system and applied to the digital copy.
Once informed with such data, the virtual model can be used to run simulations, study performance issues and generate possible improvements, all with the goal of generating valuable insights — which can then be applied back to the original physical object.
Digital twins vs. simulations
Although simulations and digital twins both utilize digital models to replicate a system’s various processes, a digital twin is actually a virtual environment, which makes it considerably richer for study. The difference between digital twin and simulation is largely a matter of scale: While a simulation typically studies one particular process, a digital twin can itself run any number of useful simulations in order to study multiple processes.
The differences don’t end there. For example, simulations usually don’t benefit from having real-time data. But digital twins are designed around a two-way flow of information that first occurs when object sensors provide relevant data to the system processor and then happens again when insights created by the processor are shared back with the original source object.
By having better and constantly updated data related to a wide range of areas, combined with the added computing power that accompanies a virtual environment, digital twins are able to study more issues from far more vantage points than standard simulations can — with greater ultimate potential to improve products and processes.