According to Gartner, half of all industrial companies will be using digital twins by 2021. The term "digital twin" does not refer to a new innovation but rather to the intelligent combination of various driver technologies – from the Internet of Things through to artificial intelligence – with large amounts of information from internal and external data sources. There is a wide range of different applications. The industry expects a significant reduction in maintenance costs and an increase in the availability of assets and critical infrastructure – especially in the monitoring of assets and systems and in predictive maintenance.
We often still see digital twins primarily as an advancement in modelling and visualisation technologies. But much greater potential lies behind the virtual representation of an object or process from the real world: an opportunity to experiment with objects or processes that does not exist in the real world – for safety or accessibility reasons, for example.
Visionary: digital twins as a stepping stone to the hyper-realistic innovation lab
In November 2020, Rolf Härdi, Chief Technology Innovation Officer at Deutsche Bahn AG, said: "The digital twin is an important basis for digitalisation and therefore a key function in Strong Rail. Our goal is to create a virtual representation of the whole of DB. The digital twin not only tells us where we stand but is also used to make predictions about the future and explore different scenarios. For example, we can implement condition-based maintenance. Let's say I know exactly how the components and subsystems of a vehicle behave in every situation, how they change and how they wear out: I can then use the digital twin to perform predictive analyses and simulate maintenance scenarios. In combination with external influences such as the weather and the speed at which a vehicle is driven, we can draw conclusions and determine where we can improve. This increases the availability and profitability of our assets and therefore improves our service to customers."
A trend today – reality in 30 years
In the Digital Twin Digital.Trend.Study in September 2020, we identified the following future visions for the railway of tomorrow:
- Logistics and integrated processes
- Passenger experience
- Operations and maintenance
- Change and sustainability
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