What’s the most valuable commodity we have in today’s modern world? The answer is time. We strive to spend less time on unnecessary actions, automating repetitive processes, and speeding up how we discover solutions. Businesses are losing billions on wasted opportunities or have passed the point of no return for structural and product changes. The size of the company is correlated with the complexity of the Product Life Cycle (PLC) they have. Highly automated manufacturing machines are tightly connected with human processes, supply chains, and logistics. Global industrial leaders are searching for solutions that help them manage, control, support, and develop competitive products. The key lies in the Internet of Things (IoT) and the digital twins’ paradigm.
IoT, IIoT, & Digital twins
The idea of connecting different devices into one network has been flying in the air since the 1980s'. Nevertheless, there were no such resources that could help bring these brilliant concepts to life. The idea of the Internet of things was formulated by Kevin Ashton in 1999. He represented the Internet of things as a sophisticated technology for the collaboration of computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, and physical objects in one system with the help of wireless technologies: microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), microservices, and the Internet. In more simple words, it’s how your thermostat can give commands to the heating system to increase/decrease the temperature in your apartment, or for your car to communicate with your coffee machine, and have it start making a latte when you’re 5 min away from home.
IoT has become one of the most, if not the most useful drivers for connectivity, efficiency, scalability, time-saving, and cost reduction for industrial and manufacturing organizations. The name has been a bit modified to IIoT – Industrial Internet of Things or Industry 4.0.
IIoT’s collaboration with Data Science, 3D modeling, Machine Learning (ML), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has given birth to the new revolutionary concept of the Digital twin. It helps industrial giants save time and sets the groundwork for customized mass production; even highly complex routes can be calculated, tested, and compiled with minimal cost and effort, and in a short period of time.
Benefits of digital twins
A Digital twin, by its nature, is a technology that creates a virtual representation of the physical world and its many relationships. All components of the system are connected in one chain. IIoT sensors collect the dynamics and send them to the data lake. It affects every aspect, from the machines and plant controllers to entire production lines in a realistic environment. Digital twins are beneficial in the following ways:
- Resource lifetime: They help increase the reliability of equipment, vehicles, production lines, and other resources. Reduced maintenance costs are achieved by predicting maintenance issues before breakdowns occur.
- Performance improvements: They provide an analysis of the virtual replica, helping companies find trouble zones. As a result, they help enhance production processes, and set up efficient supply and delivery chains. Achieving a reduced downtime is one of the usual requirements for digital twins.
- Planning: They offer a representation of occupancy levels of a given space, and over time, provide valuable insights into the best ways to configure building, supply processes, and workflows.
- Tracking system: They help track where assets are located within a given space in a precise manner.
- Risk management: Assessments of different conditions help provide a risk prognosis in various areas, including product creation, logistics, marketplace reputation, and maintenance.
- Product management: The process of product development and continual improvement is empowered by digital twins. The insights provided help improve product quality and enhance performance.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an overview in the article about digital twins and the digital thread where you can find more details about the digital twins approach.
Providers of digital twin solutions
Now I’d like to shed some light on 20 of the most exciting vendors which provide services for digital twins. The list is comprised of both mature and startup technology companies that are creating groundbreaking solutions within their respected industries.
#1 General Electric
General Electric is a pioneer in the Industrial Internet of Things, offering a wide range of disruptive services and solutions. GE can offer a company everything from digital twin assets and elements to systems and processes. They want to reduce risk within business environments in collaboration with increased reliability and improved production processes. That’s why they’ve created Predix Operations Performance Management (Predix OPM) — a complete on-premises, control-to-cloud analytics solution. The goal is management of process variability, prediction, and improvement of product quality. GE Predix OPM presents real-time visibility and insights into operations execution metrics to identify and solve performance problems faster.
#2 Azure Digital twins
Azure Digital Twins is a platform that presents organizations with the foundation to build the next generation of IoT solutions. They create data-driven workspaces that combine all necessary sources and create new production technologies. Azure Digital Twins can be connected to Azure Stream Analytics, Azure AI, Azure Maps, Azure Storage, Microsoft Mixed Reality, Office 365, or Dynamics 365. The aforementioned IoT and AI platforms significantly reduce the complexity of creating digital twin solutions by enabling functions that trigger automatic endpoint actions based on incoming information. Azure Digital Twins utilizes all types of environments, such as warehouses, offices, schools, hospitals, and banks. It can even be applied to factories, parking, stadiums, parks, smart grids, and cities.
Digital twin technology from Siemens has become one of the Industry 4.0 foundational basics. This technological approach has opened the way to the creation of a seamless connection between system objects. They’ve created the Siemens Digital Enterprise Suite that can coordinate integrated software and automation solutions for industrial companies. The digitalization of communication networks helps contribute all the data on an ongoing basis to the MindSphere, which is one of the best IoT operating systems designed by Siemens.
IBM is another leader who has had a priceless impact on the digital twin revolution. IBM’s Watson Internet of Things system unites capabilities for system design, Engineering Lifecycle Optimization, and Rational Lifecycle Integration. Digital twin technology is used by IBM for virtual creation, testing, monitoring of products, and processes. The extended IBM Engineering Lifecycle Management (ELM) solution, with integrations to a number of third-party tools, helps reduce latency in the feedback loop between design and operation. TThe IBM Engineering Systems Design Rhapsody (Rational Rhapsody) products offer a comprehensive solution for design, development, and test environment for system engineers. Simplifying the operations of software engineers is achieved through the support of UML, SysML, and AUTOSAR.
#5 Cisco Systems
Cisco invests in the Digital Twin method to keep today’s businesses running safely and smoothly towards a faster, go-to-market strategy. Cisco’s industrial infrastructure creates a highly reliable, intelligent, and secure connectivity solution within the plant, manufacturing facility, or production space. The Cisco DNA Center helps configure all your network devices in minutes. The implementation of Wi-Fi-connected, non-disruptive PLCs and sensors on each machine helps collect production data with the use of Cisco Kinetic IoT platform and Field Network Director — corporate products that enable the enhanced production control.
Oracle’s digital twin helps businesses create virtual twins that assist them in building representations of physical assets and devices in the cloud, speeding up the performance of a specific process. They are concentrating on the product lifecycle management and improving production scalability. The data from the physical assets transmit to the complex event processing (CEP) engine in the Oracle IoT Cloud Service, and through the Oracle Stream Explorer, an event-processing engine. Data analysts subsequently create models using Oracle R, an Advanced Analytics for Hadoop (ORAAH). They’ve also created an additional tool, Oracle Big Data Discovery, for non-technical specialists, that enables them to create simple models using a user-friendly interface
#7 QiO Technologies
QiO Technologies is another technology company that provides digital twins solutions for industrial leaders. They’ve created QiO Foresight Platform that unites energy, maintenance, production, and performance applications. The Foresight Platform extracts data from the industrial equipment, Smart Meters, Manufacturing execution systems (MES), and Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions to create a real-time energy efficiency index. This information makes it possible to switch from a reactive to a predictive maintenance model. The software can create effective diagnostics, particularly when root-causes are challenging to identify issues, ensuring that future operations do not face similar concerns.
#8 PETRA Data Science
PETRA is concentrating on data processing systems for the global mining industry. They have three main solutions: FORESTALL for real-time predictive intelligence, MAXTA for data integration service, and FRAGx algorithms for 3D mapping of point cloud data. These products unite Domain expertise, Computer science, mathematics, and a Data Science approach. They can simulate numerous real-world scenarios, enabling them to make better-informed decisions. Machine Learning algorithms permit the company to simulate the planning of the mining process and the process control options, while predicting the overall plant performance.
#9 Dassault Systems
Dassault Systems products are used to plan and optimize complex production value networks, combined logistics operations, and schedule large geographically diverse workforces. Their internal product platform, Delmia, unites solutions for leading global manufacturers, driving product performance and innovation throughout the supply chain. They collaborate with such companies as Honda, Tesla, and Kreisel Electric.
Synavision is a Germany-based company that broke into the market with its Digital Test Bench software. It verifies building performance and accelerates commissioning. Their main competitive advantage is that they check the operation of the building quickly, efficient, and transparently. The approach doesn’t require any additional installations or long-term contracting. On the other side, Synavision has created Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) — a cloud-computing solution for engineers that helps with planning, commissioning, and technical monitoring.
#11 Sight Machine
Sight Machine is another fascinating startup that adopts Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for manufacturing companies. The Sight Machine Platform receives and analyzes data from Historians, Energy Meters, Images, Quality Systems, MES, ERP, PLCs, Logs, SQL, PCs, Batch Reports, and MTConnect. As a result, they’ve created AI Data Pipeline and Plant Digital Twin, which is a dynamic mirror of the real production. Sight Machine’s Global Ops View creates dashboards to present the right information to the right people.
#12 Pratiti Technologies
An Indian startup, Pratiti Technologies, provides digital twin data analytics systems for solar energy assets. They are focusing on SMAC (Social, Mobility, Big Data Analytics, and Cloud Computing), and IoT driven by digital transformation. Their APOLLO is a Digital Twin-based analytics engine that serves the renewables energy sector on improving the solar Photovoltaic (PV) power plant procedures and performance. Real-time updates on external weather conditions and failure warnings in the system made digitally, enable better-informed conclusions on whether the preset benchmarks can be reached or if adjustments are required. Another solution integrates Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) to deliver features such as benchmarking, root cause analysis for failures, intra-day power prediction, and performance forecasting.
PTC is a driver of the industrial digital transformation and innovation with Augmented reality(AR), IIOT, and Product Lifecycle Management solutions. Their Vuforia is an enterprise AR technology with advanced computer vision, calibrated performance, and a cross-platform extension. Creo is the best instrument for 3D CAD tool development in today’s market. Windchill is an industry-leading PLM software, with comprehensive out-of-the-box functionality, and the highly-configurable role and task-based apps that can expand access of valuable product data to stakeholders. ThingWorx is an IIoT platform with the functionality and flexibility needed to drive rapid ROI. It offers the security and scalability required to expand IIoT solutions throughout a given enterprise. Digital twin use cases are being adopted across the value chain, coupled with increasingly powerful analytics and simulation capabilities standard in industrial enterprises.
ANSYS is a global leader in building simulation. ANSYS’s physics-based simulation consolidated with analytics allows companies to make accurate predictions about future product performance with close assessments of their digital twin developments. Ansys’s portfolio consists of collaborations between automotive, aerospace & defense, construction, energy, and healthcare industries. The variety of applications grants the possibility to provide markets with solutions specific to the needs of a given business or industry. They’ve created the ANSYS Store with paid and free applications.
Visualiz is a digital twin enterprise platform for enhanced collaboration, data visualization, and business intelligence through Virtual Reality (VR). Visualiz is focusing on the connection of business data to a 3D representation of operations. Coupled with multi-scaled aspects, a business can better comprehend their internal processes and assets. They take advantage of VR and customize it depending on the scope of the project.
SenSat is a London-based startup concentrating on the digital twins of real-world locations. Their solution Mapp is an intuitive and easy-to-use, cloud-based digital twin platform that enables its users to visualize and interact with multiple types of datasets. Visual representation allows for the control of physical projects digitally, in real-time, and provides the ability to discuss plans in a visual and intuitive sense. SenSat can install IoT sensors on a company’s territory and feed automated operational updates directly to the team responsible for flagging potential concerns.
Swim is a robust AI-based digital twin startup. They’ve created DataFabric, a solution that seizes data from end devices or streaming foundations, and works with WebSockets, MQTT, and Kafka, to utilize regional and cloud computing. It expedites the time-to-insight while dramatically decreasing application complexity, infrastructure, and operating costs. Swim’s software has various use-cases in businesses, ranging from manufacturing to smart cities.
Bosch has built Eclipse Ditto — a modular structure framework that is arguably the best solution for managing the state of digital twins. This solution builds a crucial bridge between real-world devices in the IIoT space and their virtual twins. Ditto helps devices communicate efficiently and directly over an API. The IoT devices can be connected via Eclipse Hono. It helps to interact with them uniformly regardless of the device communication protocol (HTTP, MQTT, and AMQP). Bosch pays extra attention to security and supports common authentication mechanisms like username/password, and X.509 client certificates in order to verify a device’s identity.
NavVis creates digital indoor solutions based on either the technology using the API for the NavVis IndoorViewer or NavVis Positioning SDK for the Navigation App. These products can be shared with a broader ecosystem or customized for individual indoor spaces. Their system works on scanning mechanisms, which allows for the creation of 360-degree immersive images and photorealistic point clouds. NavVis creates digital maps of a building and provides users with a digital companion in order to get around.
Simplifa is a Germany-based company that structures, optimizes, and manages elevator portfolios on behalf of the owners, and positions itself as a neutral connection between the owner’s representatives and the elevator service companies. Each elevator undergoes a technical examination which is recorded in 360-degree shots to simulate a virtual “elevator twin.” In the event of system malfunctions, the maintenance company can ensure a much quicker and more targeted replacement or repair.
The companies listed above have proven that leveraging integrated digital platform solutions can help firms, enterprises, and industries grow faster and operate smarter. Their digital twins' approach, in combination with IIoT, can digitalize industrial business, create new learning curves, and foster new approaches and beneficial growth over time.
We’ll continue watching the industrialization progress of these platforms and solutions.