As one of the fundamental building blocks of the metaverse, IoT digital twins have moved beyond the realms of simulation to facilitate an understanding of real-world problems. Take the European Union’s “Destination Earth” initiative. This is drawing on a host of environmental, socioeconomic, and satellite data to develop digital “twins” of the planet in an effort to combat climate change, but the benefits do not stop there, particularly in the B2B world. For risk-averse companies in asset-intensive industries, digital twin technology is set to bring unparalleled value to mission-critical maintenance tasks and enable the delivery of more immersive product experiences to the end customer.
While digital twin technology has been discussed within industry circles for the last three to four years, it is the next half decade which will truly demonstrate the power and value of digital twins, particularly as we enter further into the Metaverse.
As a digital representation of real-world entities, a digital twin in the metaverse provides both the elements and the dynamics of how a connected asset operates throughout its lifecycle. A digital twin is an up-to-date and accurate copy of a physical object’s properties and states, including position, shape, status, and motion. Using this technology, an organization can increase predictability and lower risks throughout an asset’s entire lifecycle.
In a recent analysis, Deloitte explains why digital twins have shown such phenomenal recent growth: “Digital twins are poised to transform the way companies perform predictive maintenance of products and machinery in the field. Sensors embedded in the machines feed performance data into a digital twin in real-time. This makes it possible to identify and address malfunctions before they happen and to tailor service and maintenance plans to better meet unique customer needs.”
Driven by External Pressures, Digital Twins set a Course to the Metaverse
MarketandMarkets’ research indicates that in 2020 the global digital twin market size was valued at $3.1 billion USD and is projected to reach $48.2 billion USD by 2026. It is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 58% during the forecast period.
This growth forecast has been fueled by pandemic-induced challenges, supply chain disruption, and changing maintenance approaches which have given rise to increased adoption of digital twins. The research highlights North America as the leader of the digital twins’ market share with asset-intensive organizations among the key end-users of digital twin technology.
It is often down at the asset level where customers are really exploring the value of digital twins in the metaverse right now. There are three industries where digital twin technology has real-world use cases—manufacturing, aerospace and defense and energy, and utilities and resources.
- Rise of the ‘industrial metaverse’ begins on the factory floor
Digital twins are at the forefront of Industry 4.0 manufacturing, which brings advanced technologies onto the factory floor. Supported by the growth of IoT in the manufacturing industry, digital twins will be used to increase productivity and reduce costs. A recent study by Research and Markets indicates up to 89% of all IoT platforms will include digital twins by 2025.
TEST-FUCHS, a leading manufacturer of test systems and components for aerospace and defense organizations, has a dedicated digital twin approach for ground support assets and test equipment.
As a manufacturer of the assets, TEST-FUCHS looks at the engineering, design, and procurement data of the asset it is selling. TEST-FUCHS also has full control of an IoT-enabled test facility to provide maintenance data in real-time and then execute that maintenance in its repair shop. This gives the company a deep view of the data which builds up in an asset’s lifecycle and provides visibility across the entire digital twin landscape around every asset. IFS Applications plays a prominent role in this environment—enabling TEST-FUCHS to build up an enterprise-wide picture of their business processes to put the digital twin strategy into action.
- Backed by two-way data sharing, the aviation industry is set for the next digital take off
Being able to truly predict asset issues before they happen is the holy grail of predictive maintenance. Commercial aviation and defense organizations are exploring digital twins to improve maintenance practices.
Rolls-Royce is combining the physical and digital worlds by using digital twins to make data-driven decisions, increase availability, and minimize unexpected maintenance disruption. In addition to MRO data from Rolls-Royce engine facilities, the engine supplier is collecting data from multiple sources, such as information on engine health from airline maintenance management systems and contextual real-time engine flying conditions.
The IFS aviation maintenance solution then automates two-way data sharing to allow Rolls-Royce to collaborate and share much more information about the work which happens on their engines with airlines. For example, information on which engine parts have been switched or inspected and even if any other aircraft systems have been impacted by engine behavior can easily be shared. The result of this two-way exchange is an even more complete picture of engine performance. This allows for a higher resolution digital twin and a way to deliver these digital insights to improve physical part use while in-service.
In the defense industry, digital twins are also at the heart of a new U.S. Navy maintenance program. The Naval Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (N-MRO) solution combines artificial intelligence (AI), digital twin capabilities, and predictive analytics to anticipate and react to potential equipment failures before they happen. This proactive solution will contribute to the enhanced support of maintenance, supply logistics, real-time fleet management, and other business functions for more than 3,000 assets and 200,000 sailors. The program is supported by an IFS intelligent maintenance solution along with Lockheed Martin’s expertise and the software developer Beast Code.
- Real-time visibility sees digital twins become an EUR “mainstay”
A recent report from GlobalData highlights how digital twins are set to become a permanent technological asset in the sector, particularly given the pressures stemming from the pandemic. Digital twins are highlighted as improving overall asset visibility to identify areas for cost reduction and ensuring long-term sustainable operations.
The reason behind this potential boom is that leaders in the industry have been prioritizing the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) over recent years. Take the oil and gas industry for example, where companies have connected IoT sensors to hundreds of assets on each of their oil rigs. The IoT data is fed into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which forms the basis for reducing maintenance costs and increasing productivity by driving operational efficiencies.
For companies in energy, utilities and resources, this IoT approach lays the foundation to incorporate a digital twin strategy. A digital twin could provide an onshore head office with real-time as-is visibility of each individual rig’s condition and performance across the end-to-end process—with the potential for combining connected IoT sensors and on-rig asset management data.
This allows leaders at oil and gas companies to achieve a real “as-designed,” “as-built,” “as-operated” visibility into their fleet of globally distributed assets. This visibility enables them to quickly and efficiently re-plan and reposition the fleet to access new opportunities globally.