A Google search of “What is a Digital Twin” yields more than 500,000,000 results: and they’re all different. From IBM to NASA, the definition of a digital twin changes based on the use case. A Digital Twin is not one single thing, but part of a process of digital transformation. Digital Twins are not “one size fits all,” but a mix and match of technologies depending upon your organization’s needs. The goal of a Digital Twin is the same regardless of your industry, however: to provide a rapid, shareable, single source of truth about a physical asset.
Digital Twins and Digital Transformation
Companies around the world are shifting from conventional workflows of manually capturing data from the field and storing it in written or .pdf form and moving towards automated data capture that reflects reality and can be stored in a digital form. A Digital Twin can be comprised of any combination of digital information elements about an asset: images, 3D models, annotations, tagging, 360-degree panoramic views, simulation and visualization components, and accompanying history and related information. The types of data included in a Digital Twin depend upon a company’s needs, and differ depending upon the use case.
Digital transformation improves both data velocity and data reliability, rapidly creating a reliable reference point that can be used throughout an organization to improve outcomes. Digital Twins provide a single source of data that stakeholders can visually interact with to extract critical insights about their business.
Creating Digital Twins
Digital Twins start with digital data. At vHive, we believe that data capture must be autonomous and low cost in order for digitization to scale throughout an organization. In the tower industry, drones are an ideal tool for data capture. vHive recommends the use of low-cost, commercial off the shelf (COTS) drones instead of proprietary hardware to keep costs low and provide the best opportunities for scale. In order for drones to be effective and provide consistent and high-quality results, the vHive data capture process is fully autonomous, and flexible enough to support data capture for any type of structure. [See the Beginner’s Guide to Autonomous Drone Inspection]
We believe that all the field operators should have to worry about is the progress bar that shows them how long they’ll need to wait until completion.
Benefits and Use Cases
Digital Twins provide users with the ability to understand the field very rapidly. Digital twins are an ideal tool for a wide variety of applications: inspection, engineering, inventory identification, new site scouting, M&A site audits, and more.
Our customers provide many examples of Digital twin use cases, and more are being developed all the time. Digital Twins can provide a single source of inventory information which can ensure accurate billing. Stakeholders can use Digital Twins to clarify and verify construction work requests. They may use a 360-degree panoramic view – something that previously required a cherry picker on site – to help identify line of sight obstructions and speed up new site audits.
For inspections, Digital Twins are able to detect and show changes over time: allowing comparisons which can transform maintenance operations from a reactive methodology to a less costly and more effective predictive maintenance model.
TIM – Tower Information Modeling – is another rapidly emerging use case for Digital Twins. With a reality model that very accurately reflects what you have in the field, you can create a TIM model, in which every component on the tower has its own attributes. This allows users to simulate different states on the tower, running “what if” scenarios like removing panels or adding equipment. Having a very visual interface that enables the comparison of “as built” to “as planned” streamlines the process of TIM and makes it more effective.
Ultimately, Digital Twins are a collection of capabilities serving multiple use cases, replacing the need to physically be on site to understand the asset.
Where We Go From Here
There are new concepts and new ideas constantly entering the Digital Twin ecosystem, and the definition of a Digital Twin is constantly evolving. As we move forward, data capture continues to improve, addressing more complex cases and a wider variety of assets with more ease. AI and machine learning continues to advance and will be trained to detect more characteristics of an asset, contributing more to the insights that users get from Digital Twins. We will continuously see the demand for additional items to be detected to contribute to the insights that you get about a site.
Simulation environments are continuously improving and creating opportunities. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) may be able to virtually make changes to equipment, for example, changing a model to represent their goals and submitting the model to the Tower Company so that the Tower Co. can easily understand what is being requested and what the outcomes will be. As integration to other systems expands, systems will be linked so that the newest information is updated across all systems in an organization.
The entire ecosystem of digitization technology is rapidly developing throughout the business world to create greater scope and potential for Digital Twins across global organizations. At vHive, our Digital Twin platform is constantly evolving to meet the needs of our customers.
Digital twins represent a digital transformation. With imagery, analytics, and intelligence, digital twins can provide value throughout an organization – and as Digital Twins evolve, that value continues to increase. Digital twins provide a deep understanding of physical assets: and that understanding can be leveraged to have a significant impact on workflows, efficiency, and profitability across the enterprise.