The digitisation of predictive technology: digital twins

Antonio Ramírez    10 January, 2022

I still remember talking to my colleague Miguel Mateo after his presentation at the Telefónica Tech stand at MWC21 (Mobile World Congress 2021) about how the union of Predictive Algorithmics and 5G has led to an unprecedented predictive maintenance revolution.

We both agreed that the immediate future of this new 5G+Predictive technology was the Digital Twins and their application to many sectors of the economy and industry, and yet they are still largely unknown for what they can bring to industries

Digital twins

In a simple and broadly understandable way, a digital twin has the ability to interpret information captured in a physical world and display it to humans in a graphical format so that they can do two things.

If you imagine the engines of a factory assembly line or those of a lift bridge, the entire piping network of a warship, or the rotor of a wind turbine, to give a few examples, you will understand what I mean by physical world.

The first thing that a digital twin brings, apart from having a digital image of the infrastructure and/or asset it represents, is the ability to see in real time the status of that infrastructure, being able to show you in a simple and easy way the important and/or critical information of all your assets. At the same time, it can make decisions by activating internal processes, triggering alarms or others depending on the information collected thanks to the machine learning algorithms it incorporates.

A tool for decision-making and cost savings

The second contribution, and in my opinion just as important as the first, is the ability to be able to draw different scenarios, as the user wishes, so that he/she can analyse them and make decisions based on what he/she sees.

You can imagine the benefits a factory operations manager can get from being able to build performance and failure prediction scenarios for the assembly lines.

Or how much better the investment made every year in the maintenance of national infrastructures can be managed if engineers can see in their digital twin the current state of roads, tunnels, bridges, railways, ports and predict when any of them might have problems, depending on the scenarios under study.

These two scenarios are a mere sample, but now think of other sectors and industries that need to monitor the state of their infrastructure or assets and maximise them for optimal performance and better productivity and competitiveness.

Just to give you a quick sample. The estimated growth for the next 5 years for the implementation of digital twins is 41.5% (Source: Researchdive.com)

But how does a digital twin work?

If you are one of those who are in doubt about which technologies support digital twins, think of 5G technology, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) platforms and predictive technology and you will have a clear idea of what they are.

The way it works, although it may seem simple to you, involves the work of many decades and the knowledge of many experts.

First you must monitor the assets and/or infrastructure you need a digital asset of, and for that you need to put sensors (pressure, vibration, temperature, oil, noise, … or others).

These sensors collect information in real time and send it wirelessly or via Edge Computing technology to a Cloud IIoT platform. And for this we need to have the best possible communications. That is why the role of 5G, since its existence, has become essential for the existence of digital twins and their benefits.

Once the information is on the IIoT platform, it is interpreted, analysed and compared with other databases. This is done using Big Data, and predictive Machine Learning algorithms created by Predictive Analysts and Data Sciences customised for the client and/or industry.

The final part, but just as important, is to represent it graphically and link it with AI (Artificial Intelligence) processes for decision making and/or scenario generation.

How do I know if I need a digital twin?

If you ask me how to decide whether or not you would benefit from a digital twin in your organisation, let me ask you a few questions that will help you think and come up with an answer.

  • Does creating scenarios of your business help you improve your strategies?
  • Does predicting what and when you need to hold an asset help you invest better?
  • Does having all the information related to your asset regardless of the source benefit you?
  • How long do you think it will take your competitor to integrate this technology?
  • Do I have another effective strategy to digitalise my infrastructure?
  • Are there experts who can help me?

As I don’t want to be a pain, I’ll stop asking you questions here, but I’m sure a few more are starting to cross your mind.

Digital Twins are a reality as true as mobile phones, the Internet, aeroplanes and computers were in their time.

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