Giving Birth to Digital Twins

Imagine trying to repair a car that’s in Sydney – when you’re in Melbourne. Or, worse still repairing a spaceship from earth when it’s 400,000 km away on the dark side of the moon. This is the problem NASA faced 50 years ago with Apollo 13. They fixed it way back then with ‘Mirror Systems’ of the craft they had on earth. In doing so, they unwittingly gave birth to The Digital Twin.

Digital twins will be one of the most important economic technologies of the coming decade.  They’ll affect every single industry and in the long run, the technology will become part of our personal lives too.

Put simply, a digital twin is a virtual replica of any physical thing or process. While the concept is not new, only recently has the implementation been possible and economical, through the emergence of the Internet of Things and advancements in AR and VR . This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations. But it gets even better than that.

Imagine a large industrial machine for which a digital twin has been developed. Via the twin, anything that goes wrong with physical version will immediately translate back to the virtual version. If any repairs, maintenance or changes are made  to the physical version – the digital twin automatically gets updated. Likewise, eventually we’ll be able to change the physical version without actually touching it – it will all be done via the digital twin. Stop – think about your industry and just imagine the possibilities…they’re almost endless. Shelves in stores, warehouses transport systems, machinery, factories, buildings, supply chains, rail, aviation and eventually, even you.

Yes, you’ll eventually have a digital twin. Advanced cameras, sensors, ultrasound and in-home MRI systems will be inside our smart homes, married up with self quantifying wearables and in body nano-sensors. These will create a a live digital twin of our body which will monitor our well being and know we’re sick long before symptoms arrive, enabling better management of our health and increase longevity of our most important asset – ourselves. It’s gonna get radical. It’s another reason privacy really matters now, while it’s still just sharing photos of coffee!

We can expect every industry over the next decade to start building out the digital twins of everything they own, make, sell do and manage. Every company worth its salt needs to be developing a digital twins – and those who get really good at it – can end up potentially controlling a platform and maybe even being a supplier to their competitors.

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If you haven’t already – please check out the latest Future Sandwich Podcast on the Future of Fashion – it’s rad.