Use cases for digital twinning grow stronger with augmented reality and virtual reality
More and more organizations have use cases for digital twinning. The addition of augmented reality and virtual reality only increases this rationale.
In a nutshell, digital pairing is the process of creating a highly realistic model of a device, system, process, or product to be used for development, testing, and validation. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) also come into play. For example, Augmented Reality can display a digital twin on top of a physical machine and provide information that a technician would not otherwise see, and technologists can enter the virtual reality of a digital twin to simulate various problems.
Many people associate the use of digital twins solely with manufacturing. While it is true that the manufacturing sector was the first to use digital twins, use cases exist in all sectors. Additionally, there are use cases for digital twinning in cross-industry applications such as infrastructure and automation.
To better understand the potential uses of digital, AR, and VR pairing, take a look at use cases in a handful of industries.
Aerospace, automotive, and general purpose manufacturing companies use digital twins as part of overall product development. Here are some common uses:
- create design mockups to show how a finished product will work;
- refine product features and capabilities;
- define requirements to provide guidance to component suppliers on component specifications, such as bolt size, shape and strength;
- testing and quality assurance;
- create customer-requested changes and other design customizations;
- create operational and performance optimization; and
- predict future failure modes so that maintenance can be pre-planned and perform other predictive maintenance goals.
Healthcare, retail and other human-centric industries
Businesses that interact with customers can also benefit from digital twinning, enabling them to optimize patient care and customer service. Here are some examples :
- improving operational efficiency, such as using digital twinning to optimize the flow of patients or customers through a facility;
- improve user experience by using AR and VR focus groups to test how customers or patients experience a physical facility;
- improving the layout and design of facilities; and
- refine products and services for optimal appeal to customers and patients.
Supply chain and logistics industry
Businesses that rely heavily on their supply chain or logistics functions can reap particular benefits from digital twinning. Examples include the following:
- pre-test the performance of packaging and packaging materials;
- optimize delivery routes and processes; and
- improve transfers between stages of a supply chain.
General applications of digital twins, AR and VR
An often overlooked use case for digital twins, AR, and VR applies to almost every industry: performance and infrastructure automation.
Digital twins of routers, servers, storage appliances and virtual machines can serve as a testing ground to explore performance or security vulnerabilities. The same goes for automated process testing.
For example, suppose an organization deploys a new automated process for operating system updates and patch management for infrastructure devices. Network engineers can schedule the automation tool to deploy the update process to the paired environment first. This way, they can collect configuration and performance data and share it with technology operations specialists who can revise the process if it leads to unforeseen impacts.
Facilities and technology professionals can also use digital twinning to model the physical environments of systems and devices. For example, if an organization is building its own data center, a digital twin can model the power, heating, and cooling systems against the rack layout. Facility professionals can use it to check for hot spots and ensure that all control panels are easily accessible by facility personnel.
Finally, organizations can use the digital twin to optimize human operational processes, such as mapping how technicians move around the data center.
Although these applications may seem futuristic, companies are deploying them today. The head of infrastructure at a large financial services company recently told Nemertes Research that the single most important initiative that infrastructure engineers can engage in is the implementation of AR/VR and digital twin in their infrastructure environments and automation testing.
A Digital Twin Checklist for Infrastructure Automation
For enterprise technologists looking to get started in digital infrastructure pairing, what are the next steps? The diagram below refers to a network digital twin, but the same recommendations can apply to other infrastructure components such as servers, virtual machines, or containers and storage devices.
- Virtualize and automate all changes to the production network; that is, ensure that all changes to the production network happen through scripts and APIs. Stakeholders should not allow any manual configuration.
- Using this automation, capture all network configurations in a version-controlled repository, such as Git.
- Use a tool such as Jenkins to develop and deploy a continuous integration/delivery process and workflow that includes repo deduplication, proposing changes, and deleting changes by the tool. This creates scripts to implement the changes on the digital twin network, which consists of the configurations in the repository under version control. This involves pushing the changes, testing that the changes were successful, and notifying the network engineer that the changes were successful.
- Using the capability of Jenkins, merge the repository and implement the changes on the production network.
- Review and approve the final state or, if necessary, roll back the changes.
- Consider performing regular predictive maintenance on the digital twin network to get early warning of any performance, security, or other issues. If necessary, deploy proactive patches and upgrades.
About the Author
Johna Till Johnson is CEO and Founder of Search Nemerte, where she sets the direction of research and works with strategic clients.