I have a twin! Well, I have a digital twin. You probably do too. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a digital twin, don’t fret—you’re not alone. In fact, this technology is relatively new and still developing.

The idea of creating virtual models to simulate real-life situations isn’t new. NASA uses digital twins to run simulations and test flights on airplanes before they’re actually flown by pilots in person or sent into space with astronauts aboard them (pretty cool right?). However, until now there hasn’t been much focus on how we could apply these same concepts outside the aerospace industry — until now that is…

The idea of a digital twin is simple to understand. A digital twin is a virtual model of a process, product, or service that can be used to:

    • Improve performance: Understand how a process works, and improve it.
    • Explore new ideas: Imagine what could happen in the future, and create it now.
    • Make better decisions: See what’s happening on the ground in real time, so you can make confident decisions for your business.
    • Reduce risk: Identify potential problems before they occur and fix them before they cause issues for customers or colleagues.
    • Improve efficiency: Maximize resources to get more out of them than would be possible otherwise – whether that’s staff time, materials or energy consumption – by turning data into insights for everyone involved in a system (including those who aren’t currently involved).

     

Digital twins are used to run simulations using predictive analytics and data from sensors that are attached to airplanes and engines. These “test flights” for engines and airplanes allow for safe experimentation and troubleshooting without risking human life or harming the equipment. More recently however, the potential use cases for digital twins have expanded beyond industry.

NASA’s journey with the digital twin

NASA’s Advanced Turbine Systems Project (ATSP) has created a digital twin of their Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan engine used in aviation systems like Boeing’s 737 MAX series aircrafts. This makes it possible for engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio to monitor real world conditions on an airplane remotely via computer software without having any physical connection between themselves and the airplane itself – all from their office desktops!

Digital twins aren’t limited just to planes though – they can be applied anywhere where there is an application that would benefit from being able to predict future outcomes based off current data gathered through sensors placed around said device/application/process etc…

Today, digital twins are being used in healthcare to help monitor a patient’s health in real time. Augmented Reality (AR), simulated environments, and virtual reality (VR) can all be used with the data provided by digital twins to improve patient outcomes. For instance, AR could be used by surgeons during an operation or VR can be used by physicians to practice risky procedures in a simulated environment before they operate on an actual patient.

The list of potential uses for a digital twin is seemingly endless, but one thing they all have in common is their ability to collect data. For example, an AR system could be used by surgeons to visualize a patient’s anatomy in real time and allow for better planning of surgical procedures.

Virtual reality (VR) can be used by physicians to practice risky procedures in a simulated environment before they operate on an actual patient. The benefits of this approach include the reduction or elimination of unnecessary risks during surgery as well as the reduction or elimination of costs associated with conducting unnecessary surgeries that did not need to take place because the physicians were not sufficiently trained prior to operating on real patients (which can lead to malpractice lawsuits).

The idea behind digital twins goes beyond the practical uses of this technology—it is rooted in the desire to create a more connected world where people’s decisions can be made with better information than what has been available in the past. When we’re able to see how our choices impact different systems—for example, seeing how changing one variable will affect overall energy consumption—we gain better insight into how we can create a more sustainable future.

As you may have heard, a digital twin is an avatar that represents your physical system. It’s kind of like an actor who plays the role of “you” in the virtual world and learns how to be more efficient, safer, and easier to use over time. This concept can be applied across systems ranging from trains to buildings to entire cities. Since all systems are made up of parts that must work together in order for a system as a whole to function properly (think about how many things need to go right just so you can take a shower), it makes sense that we’d want an accurate representation of those parts—and their interactions—in order for us humans running them not to make mistakes or waste energy unnecessarily.

As we’ve seen in this post, digital twins can be used for many different purposes. The technology has already been applied to industrial processes, healthcare, and the energy sector. In the future, we’ll likely see more uses for digital twins in retail and other industries as well. What will your digital twin look like?

Smart devices and connected products, like the Apple Watch, raise an interesting question, what are the implications of transforming traditional products into smart connected products?

Now that we have sensors, connectivity, big data, and analytics, customers and businesses are leveraging this value to create new opportunities – here’s how.

Remote Operations

Connected products can share their data with their users, and likewise with the manufacturer, unlocking new service opportunities.

For example, I have the Nest thermostat in my house. I can adjust the temperature on my way home from work just but using a simple app control.

For a Minnesotan like me, this is pretty awesome when you experience winters like we have.

Remote Services

From a company perspective, remote access services are very valuable as well.

For example, just like a smart thermostat, manufacturers can automatically send updates to assets. Or if maintenance is required, technicians can often save time and money by remotely connecting to devices to ensure software and hardware are performing effectively. This can avoid unnecessary service calls.

Innovative Product Designs

Another great use case is how companies can change their product design strategies.

For example, IoT enables a new design strategy known as evergreen design. The premise is that when products are operating in the field, new software features can be built and delivered to a device to extend functionality and the usable life of a product. The Tesla car illustrates this concept well. Tesla actually used an evergreen design strategy to avoid a major recall.

A few years back, there were several instances in which the battery cell of the car actually rubbed against street curbs as the car turned corners, causing fires. Instead of sending all the Tesla cars back to the dealer, or a mechanic shop, the company sent a software update that automatically raised the clearance of the car chassis where the battery was located.

Tesla’s evergreen design saved the company money, as well as customer time, and money associated with a traditional recall.

Big Data Analytics

Another big game-changer in business is the value to be had from big data. Now that products can share information throughout their product development cycle and useful life, there is, in essence, a stream of data that we can collect, analyze, and use to inform all sorts of business decisions.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know when the average daily usage of your products or product segments is in decline or incline? It could drive new product innovation timelines, customer success strategies, and new revenue from cross-sell and up-sell.

Data Collection & Analysis of Consumer behavior

The practice of using big data is not new. For example, in the retail market, companies are using purchasing behavior data to inform their business decisions.

What they found was surprising. A few days prior to the forecasted hurricane, people bought a significant amount of pop-tarts. In particular, strawberry pop-tarts. On the day of the hurricane, they bought more beer. Based on this data, Walmart adjusted their stock supply in anticipation of the new demand. This use case is unique in that data was originating from people’s shopping behaviors. What is different now is that we can collect and analyze data from products as well.

Remote Monitoring

Take the case of smart sports equipment. A friend I play golf with had a sensor attachment that told her about her swing, ball placement, and field location. So, as we were playing throughout the day, she was pulling out her golf app, observing her golf swing, and adjusting performance based on that data. This is great for the user, and there are also added benefits for the manufacturing company!

For example, the tennis racket company Babolat has sensors attached to their play pure drive product, which collects data about a player’s swing, the speed of their ball, and impact location.

Product to service transformation

Babolat also provides a training service, where based on the player’s performance, Babolat will provide consulting, hitting tips, and other development programs. In this use case, big data is transforming a traditionally hardware-oriented company into a service company as well.

This brings me to my last example, which illustrates a radical change in how businesses perceive product value.

Product-as-a-Service (PaaS)

Namely, products are now carriers for potentially limitless services based on how you creatively leverage their smart and connected elements. This concept is not new.

Products-as-a-Service have been pioneered in the aerospace industry.

For example, Rolls Royce licenses out their engines to airline customers, and they charge airlines for the millage of the planes as well as services associated with repair, and maintenance.

This is generally known as power by the hour. This product as a service concept is gaining a lot of attention in the IoT market.

For example, there is a big software battle for ownership of the car segment. Google, Apple, Microsoft, and the original car makers are attempting to get a slice of the services associated with cars, such as navigation, entertainment, and safety systems. This new service focus is really interesting for product development and associated business operations.

Bottomline – products are carriers of tremendous value. Now that we have sensors, connectivity, big data, and analytics, customers and businesses can leverage this value, and create new opportunities.

IoT Intro Class

At EAC, we want to make sure you don’t miss out on any revolution with respect to potential capabilities that you can add to your products- while we also realize the importance of basing your IoT initiatives around your mission statement. That’s why we created what we call our IoT Development Workshop.

We have made it our mission to help guide organizations like yours to explore and embrace the uncertainty of the emerging IoT market.

Smart connected operations are transforming companies and changing the way we do business.

Imagine if your company was able to take advantage of data that revealed existing and future problems, and allowed your team to make drastic improvements by completing predictive maintenance and service.

Business decisions can no longer be reactive. You need to be proactive — Here’s how smart connected operations could ‘revolutionize’ the way you do business.

Smart connected operations help businesses make faster decisions

What helps a company make fast, highly informed decisions? Data.

Smart connected operations allow information to be collected from multiple sources, assets, facilities, and even vendors. This connectivity allows data to be collected and analyzed to inform decision-making and enable teams to make faster decisions.

Smart connected operations help businesses increase operational performance

Smart connected operations can help your business monitor and track asset viability, ultimately allowing your company to reduce downtime, improve design, and improve utilization.

Data from connected assets, in collaboration with other enterprise systems, can provide not previously possible visibility and automation across organizations.

For example, product data flowing through a CRM system can also be sent to billing or into a supply chain management system— helping to eliminate error-prone manual steps and providing new sales opportunities for things such as consumable replenishment or warranty renewals. (PTC)

Smart connected operations help businesses decrease lead time and increase product quality

The insight smart connected operations provide will help you improve and perfect your production processes.

By integrating smart technologies and processes, your organization can lower development costs, time-to-market, and improve your overall product quality.

Smart connected operations help businesses improve manufacturing responsiveness

A sensorized manufacturing floor let’s you monitor performance, in real-time, and provide valuable information to field service technicians and manufacturing floor managers.

Service responsiveness will be accelerated with remote monitoring, access, and complete management of your disparate systems through enabling smart connected operations within manufacturing.

Smart connected operations help businesses improve supply chain coordination

The new capabilities of smart, connected operations will alter every activity in the supply chain.

Your operational efficiency will increase exponentially if your organization reaps the benefits of integrating with other data, such as inventory locations, traffic patterns, commodity prices, and historical data repositories.

Smart connected operations help businesses reduce manufacturing IT costs

Smart connected operations use digital interfaces that make it easier and less expensive to track the production process. These interfaces are less costly to apply and easier to modify than physical system controls. By integrating smart connected operations, your company will increase operation mobility, which in turn can reduce your manufacturing IT costs.

The sensors in smart connected operations also identify a need for service before the machine or product fails. These data analytics will drive previously unattainable efficiency improvements by providing predictive maintenance analytics and higher productivity levels.

With the help of predictive analytics, smart connected operations help organizations anticipate problems and take early action.

For example, your industrial machines would be remotely monitored and adjusted by end users during and beyond operation hours. They could even begin to manage themselves leveraging machine learning and predictive analytic engines.

The bottom line is that smart connected operations have begun to change business models, organizational structure, and manufacturing system architecture.

The development and the deployment of smart connected operations will be incremental, but the opportunity is here today.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to start capturing the time, dollars, production, and quality that smart connected operations can provide.