Digital twins: a new means of performance testing?

Date: 11th January 2018
Author: Louise Arnold

Here at SciVisum, we’re arguably the biggest advocates of performance testing you will find. Our web performance monitoring has been refined over the years to provide our clients with the very best data and website intelligence to help identify issues either before they impact user experience or once a website is live. As such, we work with a host of household names in optimising their digital offering to their customers.

Such is our dedication to offering the utmost in web performance monitoring, we pay close attention to those technologies that are also working to support users. One such area that is becoming ever-more prominent – particularly in the worlds of manufacturing and engineering – is digital twin technology.

What is a digital twin?

With the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), in particular the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digital twin technology has evolved from its 2002 inception to a cost-effective means for businesses to create a virtual model of products, services, or even processes.

As a complete digital representation of a paired physical device, a digital twin provides the opportunity to conduct thorough data analysis on the ‘real world’ item. This enables users to identify – and thus, mitigate – potential issues that may arise. As such, the reduction in downtime ensures that productivity remains at its peak for longer.

General Electric has been at the forefront of this innovative technology, and has engaged in a number of pioneering projects. For example, GE has developed critical jet engine components that help support business objectives through identifying such improvements as optimising electrical power output for the least possible fuel consumption. Such projects represent only the tip of what promises to be a lucrative iceberg.

What are the benefits of a digital twin?

Having first been developed as a solution by NASA (albeit in a much simpler form), the benefits presented by digital twin technology are manifold. But, while there is a clear advantage for those industries where accessing the physical location is impossible, the technology has advanced to making it a practical means of performance analysis for all.

Take, for example, the opportunity to run simulations and work on developing innovative new technology and applications in a virtual environment, as per the work conducted by GE. Not only is there the potential to conduct extensive testing in a closed setting, but the development work itself can be carried out to enable businesses to change how they operate on a day-to-day basis, identify new revenue streams, and predict how changes to equipment will affect performance. What’s more, the digital twin is able to support businesses in identifying the costs of maintenance work compared to replacing an entire asset, thereby maximising the return on investment.

With analysis via digital twin technology, companies also have the chance of improving consumer-facing devices, thereby enriching customer experience and understanding user requirements. With such ability, the opportunities for refinement are almost endless.

What does it mean for the future?

The practicalities of working with digital twin technology are such that, in the coming years, we should anticipate more and more devices – and not just those within Industrial Internet of Things – being introduced into the market.

As is so often the case, data is the key to success. Virtual equivalents being fed data from their physical counterpart will soon become commonplace, with the requirement for data and product experts set to enter a boom phase. Of course, digital twin technology remains in its infancy (relatively speaking), but represents an exciting new era for those with a passion for optimising performance, regardless of industry.

Do you see digital twin impacting your business in the future? Perhaps you think the technology will see significant development in 2018? We’ve recently taken a look at what we believe to be the other key trends and challenges facing the tech industry in 2018. Read the blog today.