Digital Twins Everywhere

Looking ahead to 2030: International experts forecast the role digital twins will play within the next ten years.

International experts from industry and research predict digital twins’ global role in 2030. Their main prediction: Digital twins will be a lot more important than they are today.

Digital twins are mirrors of our technical world. Today, they allow to run through various options during the design phase, to simulate the operation of entire factories, and they can help service technicians to practice maintenance tasks or repair. But looking ahead, digital twins show even far more potential.

By 2030, digital twins will probably be omnipresent. Nearly all technical products will be delivered with them, people will interact with them at work and at home. They will be traded on special marketplaces. They will allow to get the best performance out of factories and machines, be it with respect to cost efficiency, productivity or sustainability. And they will become a trusted standard for testing and certifying technical solutions.

This at least are the predictions of experts from companies in various industries, universities and research institutes around the world. They shared their outlook on what will become of digital twins by 2030 with Siemens Simulation & Digital Twin technologists on the future of the digital twin. Siemens summarized the results in a white paper, which is available for download.


Digital twin of a motor

Simulation & Digital Twin  2030 - A technology outlook

Siemens white paper on experts' predictions from companies in various industries, universities and research institutes around the world.

Revenues should range in the high double-digit billion range

It was NASA that first created duplicates - twins - of space capsules in the 1960s, so that they could be studied and tested on the ground, while their counterparts were in space. In 2002, IT-expert Michael Grieves developed the idea of virtually mapping a product throughout its life cycle at the University of Michigan; in 2011, he also coined the term "digital twin". 

The Gartner Report named the virtual doppelganger to one of its ‘Top 10 strategic technology trends of 2017, driven by the automotive, aerospace and aviation industries. Since then, digital twins started being used more and more – and experts view them as a key building block of our future. Market forecasts estimate that revenues will be in the high double-digit billion range by 2030.

Some of the key developments predicted by the experts interviewed for the coming decade are the increased importance of combining simulation and artificial intelligence; digital twins being omnipresent and becoming a commodity in their own right; and the essential role of standards for digital twins.

Combination of simulation models and artificial intelligence

The core component of a digital twin is a simulation tool generally based on physical models that capture the product’s or system’s physical behavior. In the future, however, simulation models are expected to use more and more artificial intelligence (AI) – especially when a physical model by itself is not sufficient or not available.

For example, AI can help to predict the remaining useful life of an electric motor by identifying the connection between sensor data and wear.

Conversely, simulation models can also help to improve AI approaches when large data sets are not available to train AI, for example to simulate flows in a gas turbine. 


Digital twins will be omnipresent

In industrial production, experts expect that digital twins will be present throughout. All relevant information from one stage of a product´s life cycle – such as the design process – can be transferred seamlessly to the next stage – such as production – with the help of its digital twin.  This way Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), from design to recycling, will become way more efficient. At the same time, it will make supply chain management (SCM) more secure as, e.g. in times of a pandemic, and allow to react quickly to problems such as supply bottlenecks or changing demand.

But not just in production, digital twins will also be ubiquitous in networks of companies that manage factories, on smartphones allowing, e.g. private users to optimize their home’s energy consumption, or, obviously, in the cloud, where, for example, anonymized data of a vehicle can help to identify weak points in a bearing during long-term operation. 

Digital twins will become a valuable commodity

As digital twins become valuable commodities, they should also give rise to new business models. The experts surveyed expect there will be special marketplaces solely for digital twins, just as they exist today for CAD models. These trading platforms should become standard, especially within various industry sectors. 

Standards are essential for the success of digital twins

Industry-specific standards are an important prerequisite for digital twins to become widely used, as it is standards that allow market participants to cooperate efficiently. Therefore, standardization can be seen as the main driver of the development of digital twins.

By 2030, according to experts interviewed, standards should also lead to online platforms with which digital twins can be easily created. This will most likely go hand in hand with digital twin operating systems, which will even enable the planning of whole plants.

The main ingredient

However, none of this will materialize if one key ingredient is missing: trust. Trust that digital twins accurately represent the technical world and allow us successfully to manage it. If that comes to fruition, as experts predict, digital twins will be perceived as a necessity, as technology developed or operated with the help of digital twins will enjoy greater trust than those that do not take advantage of them. 

Hubertus Breuer, July 2020

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