What is Digital Twinning?

Digital twinning is the creation of virtual duplicates, or twins, of real-world objects that belong to the Internet of Things (IoT). Far more than a CAD simulation, a digital twin updates itself to reflect changes in heat, motion, pressure, and other properties relayed from sensors attached to its counterpart physical object.

A digital twin that continuously tracks its physical counterpart can serve as an excellent source for insight and discovery into the physical object itself at any point in its lifetime. For example, the digital twin of a wind turbine in a wind farm can help diagnose and troubleshoot problems with the structure without having to visit the wind farm in person.

However, in order to unlock the full potential of digital twinning, each digital twin must be visualized in its surrounding, realistic, geospatial context. This requires a best-of-breed 3D interactive mapping solution that achieves realistic precision in modeling every relevant detail of the object’s surrounding environment.

CAD simulation vs digital twinning: a world of difference

Although similar in a few superficial respects, digital twinning and CAD simulation are fundamentally different processes. In the case of a digital twin, the digital object corresponds to one, and only one, real-world object in the IoT. A CAD simulation, by contrast, typically corresponds to a general make and model spanning a large collection of objects. If the make and model has already gone to production, it may have thousands or even millions of instances in the real-world. Furthermore, CAD simulations do not update themselves in response to data feeds the way that digital twins do. And perhaps most importantly, CAD simulations do not provide the realist geospatial contexts and landscapes needed to visualize particular objects in their unique, real-world environments.

How digital twinning works

Once a digital twin is generated, it will automatically update itself over time as sensors on its real-world counterpart relay changes to the twin through data feeds. Depending on the precise data feeds it receives, the digital twin’s ongoing updates may reflect changes in temperature, pressure, moisture, wind, sun exposure, and so on.

On a long-term basis, these changes may correspond to weathering, displacement, cracking, weakening, bleaching, rusting, bending or breaking. Internal changes, such as degradation of electrical circuitry or efficiency, are also important. Sensors attached to the real-world object collect data in these and other areas and communicate them to the digital twin.

As the variety of sensors continues to increase along with the sophistication of digital twinning software, digital twins are tracking their physical objects in ever-increasing detail.

The critical role of advanced mapping

To unlock its full potential, digital twinning should not only involve a digital twin of the standalone object itself, but a digital twin – or map – of the object’s geospatial environment. For example, if you are creating a digital twin of a particular wind turbine, it’s critical to have your digital twin embedded in the geospatial context of the particular wind farm that surrounds it. The 3D virtual rendering of the wind farm should include the hills, valleys, and other land formations in the natural landscape, as well as any artificial structures like neighboring turbines that make up the object’s immediate surroundings.

In the absence of an accurate, realistic modeling of the surrounding wind farm, the turbine’s digital twin will lack geospatial context. As a consequence, researchers and decision-makers will find it difficult, if not impossible, to use the turbine’s digital twin to gain rich, contextual insight into the original object.

Suppose, for example, that a particular wind turbine is under-performing its neighbors in the wind farm. This could be due to an internal cause, such as a faulty generator. However, it could also be due to an external cause. If wind patterns in the region have recently changed due to meteorological reasons, the turbine’s position in the surrounding landscape of hills and valleys may negatively effect its relative exposure to wind under the new pattern. Or the addition of one or more new neighboring turbines to the wind farm in recent months may be slightly decreasing the wind flow to the turbine in question.

In such cases, a fresh interactive mapping of the landscape can instantly provide the necessary external diagnostic data that the standalone digital twin cannot.


The importance of best-of-breed mapping solutions

As the example of the wind turbine illustrates, it’s important to include mapping functionality in your digital twinning platform in order to capture the full geospatial context of the digital twin. However, not all mapping solutions are equal!

For the purposes of digital twinning, static maps won’t do. It’s necessary to give stakeholders the ability to “walk” freely through the object’s geospatial context as if they were there in person. Toward that end, when exploring mapping solution providers, it’s important to find a best-of-breed solution that not only includes interactive mapping, but all of the following features, tools, and capabilities:

  • Highly realistic, custom 3D modeling
  • Realistic rendering of both the insides and outsides of structures
  • Capacity to generate Google Maps overlays
  • Wayfinding
  • Mobile-friendly access to maps
  • Non-proprietary, responsive UI
  • Centralized, intuitive content management
  • Advanced, streamlined printing capacities
  • Enterprise-grade client support

Digital twinning meets interactive mapping

Thanks to recent advances in 3D modeling (that go well beyond CAD), every real-world object that belongs to the IoT can now have a digital twin. Sensors detecting heat, motion, pressure, and other properties of the real-world object and its surroundings continuously relay their data to the digital twinning platform, which renders and updates the 3D digital twin accordingly.

Researchers and decision-makers can use digital twins to gain detailed insight into the physical object itself at any point in its lifetime. However, the capacity to visualize each digital twin in its real-world environment is critical for providing geospatial context. This requires choosing a best-of-breed 3D interactive mapping solution with a wealth of features that unlock the full potential of digital twinning.

You understand the importance of digital twinning, and now it’s time to find the best-of-breed 3D interactive mapping solution to bring your digital twins to life. Concept3D is the company you’re looking for! Please click below to learn more about our services.