Tech Terms: Digital Twin

A digital twin is a digital representation of a real world physical resource.  A digital twin is used to represent a complex real life system, such as a factory’s manufacturing plant, an infrastructure network, a building and even a city.

The digital twin is more than a model, it is a replica of the original which mirrors its real world behaviour and environment. The twins are connected by a flow of data and the ability to influence each other. For example in a piped network, sensors in the real pipe send live data about flow rates to the digital twin. The twin can then run projections, test alternative scenarios and other analytics to decide on a response. The digital twin can then issue instructions to actuators in the real network to close or open parts of the network to better manage the flow in the pipe.

While you may not have heard of digital twins before, you may have heard of the Internet of Things. These are related technologies as they are based on the widespread availability of both fast internet connection and a range of sensors and actuators which can now be deployed throughout the physical world.

In the last post, we looked at BIM, as a information-centric way to manage construction projects. BIM is not the same as a digital twin, however many digital twins of buildings start from the BIM records of the building.

The applications of digital twins are growing to more and more complex systems. Singapore has created a digital twin of its city to allow designers and planners to test real life scenarios in a digital replica. It is known as Virtual Singapore, and is a test case to watch in the application of digital twins to whole city systems. The United Kingdom is currently in the early states of creating a digital twin tof all its major infrastructure networks.

 

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