Today we are living in an era where everybody is trying to extend their level of activities through the use of smart digital devices. We want our home to be cleaned by robotic vacuum cleaner, our car to drive autonomously, our manufacturing to be run by robot and AGV, even our home kitchen can be in-charge by robot. These digital developments will eventually drive the creation of a virtual world where smart devices are communicating with each other to achieve human needs and human will have to engage with the smart agents more interactively to accomplish a more complex set of tasks.
Here comes the digital twin, a concept pioneered by the industry elites on creating a world of smart agents interacting to share info and execute control tasks that will bring impact to the mortar world. To talk about digital twin, we have to first talk about the formation (or ideation) of the digital agent with all the design specifications and flow on how to create itself, something we call the product DNA. This is especially important because the DNA will allow a continuous process to robots against it during production and field service. Even the disposal stage procedure can be developed to handle the decomposition of the material without wasting resources or bringing impact to the environment.
The second part of it is related to the production aspect. It is the part that provides traceability on the production resources used and also documents the result of processes based on series of metrics. With this information, many analytics can be run to understand the overall performance of the production together with the quality and reliability of products. This understanding will fuel a series of optimization activities that eventually bring great benefits to the manufacturers by being able to produce faster, cheaper, better and more responsive to demand. The information can also be used for improving the product and process design by mean of simulation and VR/AR applications, something we commonly called Design for Manufacturing.
The last part of digital twin is linked to field performance of the product. Sensors installed within the devices or through a third-party assessment of the devices will produce information that can directly or indirectly help users or manufacturers, thereby providing further values. Especially for users, simple information like time of occurrence of certain events can sometimes provide great set up to the situation of life and death issues. Therefore, the future value of digital twin could very much link to this provision of information in creative and valuable way. Say, for example, the digital tires, the pressure and heat profiling received from the tire surface at certain rotational speed may well create a pattern that indicates the degradation of road surface at certain location; therefore, this information can be of utmost value to the road maintenance department to identify the area for repair. Similarly, for intelligent clothing, if you have a cloth that will adjust the inner temperature accordingly based on the ambient temperature, the same information can be collected and sent to the building owner to adjust their ambient temperature to save energy while maintaining good level of comfort.
It is not difficult to imagine that there will be a future business model where digital twin enablers may directly participate in manufacturing by providing the digitization infrastructure for free but charge customers according to the services rendered on the digital twin for various purposes. If this happens, we shall witness the born of next digital giant bigger than all existing tech giant combined.