Digital twin alliances accelerate technology development

With the growing interest in and use of digital twins, the Digital Twins Alliance has positioned itself as an authority that organizations can rely on as they explore and use technologies that create virtual representations of real-world physical systems.

Founded in May 2020 with just a handful of members, the Boston-based consortium has grown to include nearly 175 corporate, government and education members, with about 120 members joining the group in its first five months.

The first members include Microsoft, Dell, physical and simulation modeling provider Ansys, and property management and construction giant Lendlease.

The consortium is a subgroup that is part of the non-profit Object Stewardship Group Technical Standards Development Organization.

The consortium’s growth coincides with the recent expansion of digital twins into verticals into aerospace, manufacturing, construction, facility management, disaster preparedness and other industries.

Digital twins have become so popular that many IT professionals believe digital twins will eliminate the need for physical prototypes within the next six years, according to a September survey by analog, IoT and high-performance computing vendor Altair.

Another digital twin organization – the Industrial Digital Twin Association – based in Frankfurt, Germany – has around 80 corporate members.

“Many of our customers are using simulation technology to develop higher fidelity physical replicas of their physical assets, in short, digital twins,” said Keshav Sundaresh, global director of product management for digital twins at Altair.

work group

The consortium defines digital twins as “virtual representations of real-world entities and processes that are synchronized at a specified frequency and fidelity.”

Members of the organization are members of 10 working groups working on various applications of digital twins. For example, the consortium has a fintech working group that studies the application of digital twins in finance.

The Natural Resources Working Group helps a mining company understand why it can’t extract all the ore it needs from its mine. The working group uses digital twin technology to not only spot problems in the process, but also to help companies prevent these types of failures before they happen.

The consortium also has a horizontal working group focused on commonalities and standards involved in digital twin technology, such as data and interoperability formats.

Dan Isaacs, the consortium’s chief technology officer, said: “We’re providing this overall horizontal blueprint with these different perspectives … in these different vertical workgroups, what the different elements have to do with the digital twin.”

Why do you need a consortium?

“They’re creating a neutral space where different vendors can come together and agree on what they need to do so they can start pushing for some interoperability [of digital twins]” said Gartner analyst Paul Miller.

Because early digital twins were vendor- and asset-specific, many businesses would end up with different digital twins that couldn’t communicate together. The Digital Twins Alliance and others, including the Germany-based group, help organizations stitch together disparate digital twins, Miller said.

They’re creating a neutral space where different vendors can come together and agree on what they need to agree on so they can start pushing for some interoperability [of digital twins].

Paul MillerAnalyst, Gartner

Alfonso Velosa, another analyst at Gartner, said the alliance also helps organizations figure out how disparate software, such as IoT systems and asset management view compressors, communicate in a digital twin.

For example, in a train infrastructure virtual environment, IoT systems, asset performance management software, and ERP and field service management systems work together in a digital twin.

“If you don’t have the same approach to metadata across all the different tools you use to build your digital twin, they probably won’t fit together well,” Velosa said.

While it takes about two weeks to three months to build digital twins, most organizations want to keep them for a year or two.

“It’s a software asset that you need to manage over time as long as it provides value to the organization,” Velosa said.

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