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‘Digital twins’ entering mainstream use sooner than expected

20 Feb 2019

The term ‘digital twin’ may sound foreign to some, but Gartner says it is rapidly becoming established among modern organisations.

The research analyst defines it as a software design pattern that represents a physical object with the objective of understanding the asset’s state, responding to changes, improving business operations and adding value.

The end result being a lot of data and consequently demand for storage.

According to Gartner’s recent survey, currently 13 percent of organisations implementing Internet of Things (IoT) projects are are already using digital twins, while 62 percent are either in the process of implementing digital twins use or plan to do so.

“The results — especially when compared with past surveys — show that digital twins are slowly entering mainstream use,” says Gartner research vice president Benoit Lheureux,

“We predicted that by 2022, over two-thirds of companies that have implemented IoT will have deployed at least one digital twin in production. We might actually reach that number within a year.”

Lheureux says this rapid growth in adoption can be attributed to extensive marketing and education by technology vendors, in addition to the fact that digital twins are delivering business value and have become part of enterprise IoT and digital strategies.

“We see digital twin adoption in all kinds of organisations. However, manufacturers of IoT-connected products are the most progressive, as the opportunity to differentiate their product and establish new service and revenue streams is a clear business driver,” says Lheureux.

54 percent of respondents reported that while most of their digital twins serve only one constituency, sometimes their digital twins served multiple, with nearly a third stating that either most or all their digital twins served multiple constituencies.

Gartner uses the example of a connected car digital twin where constituencies can include the manufacturer, a customer service provider, and the insurance company, each with a need for different IoT data.

“These findings show that digital twins serve a wide range of business objectives,” says Lheureux.

“Designers of digital twins should keep in mind that they will probably need to accommodate multiple data consumers and provide appropriate data access points.”

Gartner says in the case of multiple digital twins being deployed by one organisation, it might make sense to integrate them. An example is a power plant with IoT-connected industrial valves, pumps, and generators, where there is a role for digital twins for each piece of equipment as well as a composite digital twin that aggregate IoT data across the equipment to analyse overall operations.

While this does sound very complex, Gartner says 61 percent of the companies that have implemented digital twins have already integrated at least one pair of digital twins with each other, while 74 percent of organisations that haven’t yet integrated digital twins plan to do so within the next five years.

“What we see here is that digital twins are increasingly deployed in conjunction with other digital twins for related assets or equipment,” says Lheureux.

“However, true integration is still relatively complicated and requires high-order integration and information management skills. The ability to integrate digital twins with each other will be a differentiating factor in the future, as physical assets and equipment evolve.”

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