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  • Writer's pictureGeoffrey Wade

What is a digital twin and are there different kinds?

Updated: Mar 15

Avatar in a mining virtual world

The term is being used with increasing frequency, and a consistent and clear definition can be hard to come by.

A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical object or an enterprise in its environment. What’s important is the link between the digital twin and real data sources from the real world so you can update the twin in real time.

A simplistic example would be Google Maps, which is a digital twin of the Earth’s surface that links with real-time traffic information to help your minimise your travel time.

A digital twin could be a representation of a product, production line, or entire factory. The 'Mega world' is a kind of digital twin with some important differences from others. These differences are deliberate. Teams can actually “go into” these twins and experience the operations, and make decisions which affect outcomes. It incorporates avatars operated by your staff, multiple physical models, commercial models, processes, and real-time data. Most digital twins are replicas with models of what might happen, with which people cannot interact. In other words, they assume a set of (possibly inaccurate) human behaviours that are not tested against the workforce.

The ‘Mega world’ digital twins can represent the entire supply chain, organisation, market, natural environment, local community, nation, and political environment in which a business operates. They can be used to test how a plan and business as usual endure contact with the real workforce who must implement it. Things that the plan did not take into consideration are revealed as real people try to do their normal work in the Mega world.

The value of these #megaworld twins is they allow rehearsal, for example of mine or factory design, of implementation of strategy, of deployment of new technology, of solving wicked problems, and more. As one client said, “The military carefully prepare and rehearse because they want their battle plans to survive contact with the enemy in the complex dynamic of a field of engagement. With a digital twin we can see if our transformation ideas will survive contact with our workforce, customer base, and systems.”

Mega worlds are built specifically for that purpose; it assumes plans fail because of what they forget to include. In these worlds, as you trial new ideas, the cost of failure is virtual, while the learning is real. The advantage is that this methodology allows for rapid iterations and optimisation of designs or ideas much faster than can be done in the real world. As a result, they accelerate learning and agility.

These rehearsals often result in improvements that are so large they are hard to imagine before you begin. Very high ROI is realised for employees, customers, and shareholders.

If you’d like to explore how you can best use this sort capability for a competitive advantage, then contact us.

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