MAY 31, 2022
15 min read
Time is the most valuable commodity we have in today’s modern world. 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 digital twin technology companies.
What is Digital Twin Technology?
A digital twin is a copy of a genuine thing, generated by a computer. Real-world data is incorporated into digital copy programs in order to produce simulations that may be used to anticipate how a product or process will function in the future. The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and software analytics can all be used together to get better results. There are many examples of digital twin companies which help at this task.
Thanks to technological advances like machine learning and the growing availability of big data, engineers today use these virtual models to come up with new ideas and make their work more efficient. The best digital twin software companies are very helpful here.
In simple terms, this implies developing a very complicated virtual model that is identical to a real-world object in terms of features and functionality. An automobile, a skyscraper, a bridge, or a jet engine might be the “thing”. Using the physical asset’s built-in sensors, data may be gathered and mapped to a virtual model. Companies using digital twins technology may now gain important information about how the actual object is doing in the real world.
A History of Digital Twin Technology
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. Then digital twin technologies appeared.
The idea of the Internet of things was formulated by Kevin Ashton in 1999. He talked about the Internet of things as a sophisticated way for computers, mechanical and digital machines, and physical objects to work together in one system using wireless technologies like MEMS, microservices, and the Internet.
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.
How Does the Digital Twin Work?
For example, a thermostat has sensors that monitor several elements of its functioning. The sensors collect data on a broad variety of physical parameters. The data is processed into a digital copy.
When this information is given to the virtual model, it can be used to run simulations and look into performance problems and possible ways to fix them. This can give important insights that can be sent to the real device.
In more simple words, it’s how your thermostat can give commands to the heating system to increase and 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 minutes away from home.
What Are Digital Twins Used for?
There are certain objects that are too simple to need the constant and continuous stream of sensor data that digital copies necessitate. A copy isn’t always a good investment financially. However, different types of projects benefit from using digital models, for example:
- In construction of large objects. In the engineering sector, such as bridges, buildings, and other complicated structures.
- Complex mechanisms. Jet engines; vehicles; and airplanes all fall within this category. Using digital copies, machines and engines large and complex may be made more efficient.
- Equipment for powerifying. Power generation and transmission are both included in this category.
- Manufacturing sector. Co-operating machine systems in an industrial context may benefit from digital copies’ ability to assist in enhancing process efficiency.
Why Is the Digital Twin Important?
Product performance may now be studied in unprecedented detail using virtual twins. It is possible to troubleshoot from a distance using a digital copy and eventually increase client satisfaction by identifying any flaws. It also helps add-ons and services, as well as products that are different and of better quality.
You can learn a lot about your consumers’ habits if you can monitor how they use your product after they buy it. With this information, you can safely get rid of goods, functions, or parts that aren’t needed, which will save you time and money.
A virtual twin could be used by an engineer in the course of testing a vehicle’s braking system, for example. It is faster and less expensive than creating and testing many real automobiles. This approach offers the benefit of saving time and money.
How Has the Digital Twin Impacted the Industry?
Digital copies are being used in a wide range of businesses, but the need for virtual twins is expected to rise for some time. The digital copy industry is expected to be worth USD 3.1 billion by 2020. A USD 48.2 billion market is expected by 2026, based on estimates from industry specialists.
Even in the industrial and engineering sectors, virtual twins must be implemented immediately if companies are going to keep up with the pace of reinventing innovation.
The resources that may be saved by minimizing downtime and cutting maintenance expenses are tremendously important to a business over time. Over the preceding three years, 82% of Vanson Bourne’s surveyed organizations had had at least one downtime interruption; the average company had two outages in that time period, according to the report. According to the study’s other findings, downtime in these industries costs an average of $250,000 per hour.
In order to remain competitive in the age of digital copies, businesses must guarantee that their workforces are adaptable. Massive and ongoing data gathering and organization are necessary for digital copies modeling and support. Developing and maintaining an algorithm is necessary to manage and use the data. Updates to software and monitoring of systems are both essential. As a result of the virtual twins, companies will need to hire more data analysts and technical operators who have a working knowledge of data models.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Digital Twin Technology
There are obviously both pros and cons in digital copies. They bring many benefits 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. One of the most common requirements for digital copy is reduced downtime.
- Planning: They offer a representation of the occupancy levels of a given space and, over time, provide valuable insights into the best ways to configure buildings, supply processes, and workflows.
- Tracking system: They help track where assets are located within a given space in a precise manner.
- Risk management: Analyzing different conditions helps make a risk prediction in many areas, such as product development, logistics, market reputation, and maintenance.
- Product management: The process of product development and continual improvement is empowered by virtual 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 copies approach.
The Best Digital Twin Solution Providers
Now I’d like to shed some light on 20 of the most exciting vendors who provide services for digital copies. The list includes both well-established and new technology companies that are making big changes in their respective industries.
#1 General Electric
General Electric is a pioneer in the Industrial Internet of Things, offering a wide range of disruptive services and digital twin software solutions. GE can offer a company everything from virtual twin assets and elements to systems and processes. They want to reduce risk within business environments through 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 the 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. GE Predix competitors have a lot of space for envy!
#2 Azure Digital twins
Azure Digital Twins is one of digital twin software platforms that presents organizations with the foundation to build the next generation of IoT solutions. They create data-driven workspaces that combine all the 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 copy 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.
Siemens is among digital twins companies who has become one of the Industry 4.0 foundational basics. This technological approach has paved the way for 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 digitization of communication networks helps MindSphere, one of Siemens’ best IoT operating systems, get all the data it needs on a regular basis.
IBM is another example of digital twin applications who has had a priceless impact in business on this high-tech novelty’s 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, and 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 environments for system engineers. The help of UML, SysML, and AUTOSAR makes it easier for software engineers to do their jobs.
#5 Cisco Systems
Cisco Systems invests in the digital twin technology company 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 the Cisco Kinetic IoT platform and Field Network Director — corporate products that enable the enhanced production control.
Oracle is one of the digital twin services that 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 product lifecycle management and improving production scalability. The data from the physical assets is transmitted 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, and 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 one of the digital twin solution providers that provides digital copy solutions for industrial leaders. They’ve created the QiO Foresight Platform that unites energy, maintenance, production, and performance applications. The Foresight Platform extracts data from 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, 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 combine 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, efficiently, and transparently. The approach doesn’t require any additional installations or long-term contracting. On the other hand, 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 one of the most fascinating digital twin service providers that adopts artificial intelligence and machine learning for transforming 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 an AI Data Pipeline and a 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 virtual twin startup, Pratiti Technologies, provides 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 renewable energy sector by improving the procedures and performance of solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants.Real-time updates on external weather conditions and failure warnings in the system are made digitally and enable better-informed conclusions on whether the preset benchmarks can be reached or if adjustments are required. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is another solution that can be used to get things like benchmarking, failure root cause analysis, intra-day power prediction, and performance forecasting.
The PTC digital copy is a driver of 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 extensive out-of-the-box functionality and highly configurable role and task-based apps that can increase stakeholders’ access to valuable product data.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. Across the value chain, digital copy use cases are being adopted, and industrial enterprises now have more powerful analytics and simulation tools as standard.
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 virtual twin developments. Ansys’s portfolio consists of collaborations with 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 copy company and a 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 UK-based startup concentrating on the digital copies of real-world locations. Their solution, Mapp, is one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use cloud-based digital copies platforms 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 put Internet of Things (IoT) sensors on a company’s property and send operational updates directly to the team in charge of spotting problems.
Swim is a robust AI-based virtual twin company. 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 copies. 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 the 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 allow 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 one of the Germany-based virtual twin companies 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.” If a system breaks down, the maintenance company can make sure that the replacement or repair is done much faster and more precisely.
The Future of Digital Twins Technology
The companies listed above have proven that leveraging integrated digital platform solutions can help firms, enterprises, and industries grow faster and operate smarter. Their approach, in combination with IIoT, makes a huge impact on the engineering sector can digitalize industrial businesses, create new learning curves, and foster new approaches and beneficial growth over time.
We’ll continue to watch the industrialization progress of these platforms and solutions.