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The term digital twin is cropping up everywhere. Is it just another buzzword or is it really here to stay? The consensus is a resounding yes. In fact, trends suggest that we’re on the verge of a digital twin explosion. Research by Gartner has found that 48 percent of organizations using IoT are also using or plan to use digital twins. Moreover, 50 percent of large manufacturers will have at least one digital twin initiative launched by 2020, and the number of organizations using digital twins will triple by 2022. So, what is digital twin technology and how can it be used?
At its simplest, a digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical product, process, or system. Digital twins act as a bridge between physical and digital worlds by using sensors to collect real-time data about a physical item. This data is then used to create a digital duplicate of the item, allowing it to be understood, analyzed, manipulated, or optimized. Other terms used to describe digital twin technology over the years have included virtual prototyping, hybrid twin technology, virtual twin, and digital asset management.
Digital Twin Technology connecting physical world (left) and digital world (right)
Digital Twins have been traditionally used for single assets, such as wind turbines or jet engines. In recent years, however, digital twins have become more complex - connecting not just one asset, but rather systems of assets or even entire organizations. This expansion means digital twins can now be used for a wider variety of use cases. By bringing together multiple assets and combining them with information about processes and people, their ability to help solve complex problems has been fundamentally expanded. In fact, they’ve opened up incredible opportunities for use in organizations and built environments, and solving big challenges in various built environments, like in commercial real estate buildings, hospitals, and smart cities.
One place where digital twin technology has a big impact at the organizational level is in commercial real estate buildings, and smart offices. Digital twins allow building operators to bring together previously unconnected systems—from security to HVAC to wayfinding systems—to building automation, building energy management, gain new insights, optimize workflows, and monitor processes remotely. Digital twins can also be used to give occupants more control over their own workspace experience and environmental conditions, thereby enhancing the tenant experience and workplace productivity.
By optimizing systems and connecting people, owners and operators can use digital twins to reduce costs, avoid future costs, increase occupancy rates and occupant experience, and improve building productivity, overall asset value. In fact, we’ve calculated that digital twins can lower operating costs in some buildings by up to 88 cents per square foot per year. Get a free ROI assessment for your commercial property.
A good example of where digital twin technology is being used at the organizational level is in health care. By creating a digital twin of a hospital with healthcare data integration and , hospital administrators, doctors, and nurses can get powerful, real-time insight into patient health and workflows, and clinical decision support. Using sensors to monitor patients and coordinate equipment and staff, digital twins offer a better way of analyzing processes and alerting the right people at the right time when immediate action is needed.
As a result, emergency room wait times can be reduced and patient flow can be improved, decreasing operational costs and enhancing the patient experience. One hospital measured a 900 percent improvement in cost savings after implementing digital twin technology to remove bottlenecks in patient flow. Moreover, digital twins can predict and prevent patient emergencies like cardiopulmonary or respiratory arrest, known as code blues emergencies, resulting in more lives saved. In fact, one health care network that implemented digital twin technology in their hospitals saw a 61 percent reduction in code blue events.
Where digital twins offer new and remarkable possibilities is at the organizational level in the built environment. Implementing digital twins in hospitals or commercial real estate buildings, for instance, offers the potential to create beneficial outcomes not only for building administrators or owners but also for the people inside of those buildings. In this way, digital twins can be used to take a people-centric approach (starting with people) then looking at problems and context, and finally adding IT systems and connected devices to try to solve big problems and create long-term value.
In summary, for companies and organizations that already use IoT, digital twins are the next step along the digital journey. Digital twins can be used to improve efficiencies, optimize processes, detect problems before they occur, and innovate for the future. If your organization is interested in producing not only better business outcomes, but also better outcomes for everyone, digital twins are worth exploring.
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