Using digital twins to harness the potential of data

Educational 19 Jun 2021 by Ali Nicholl

“This is the value of digital twin technology: it interacts, making connections in places we didn’t think connections could exist.”

In the “Age of Interactions” for Networking plus looking at how digital twin technology can enhance data products through enabling the secure data interactions that drive real business value. 

We live in an age where data is the transformative currency. Data is gathered at an astonishing rate and yet, according to Gartner, as much as ninety percent of it never gets used. So-called ‘dark data’ is the information gathered from digital assets about all aspects of activity and processes that ends up stored in the metaphorical cupboard under the stairs. Usually retained for compliance purposes only, this data is a security risk and a drain on resources, often

costing more to store than the value it creates. Data is only as useful as its ability to connect with other data to produce information that is greater than the sum of its parts. While many technologies simply act as data vacuums, digital twin technology harnesses data through interactions and its success is ultimately measured by the depth and span of its connections. It creates a network of data that provides valuable information about the world at large.

Within this information jigsaw puzzle, the digital twin can be seen as a piece of data that offers a way to describe other data. Data about other data is called metadata: it elaborates on what we already know and allows us to extract more information from the data we’re examining. For example, a digital twin can illustrate key information such as how frequently data is being shared, where data is coming from, how it is being measured and what metrics are being used. Think of it this way: for centuries we have had windmills, and for most of that time all we really knew about them is where they were and what they did. It stands to reason that if you combine data on how much wind is being harvested, speed, volume, output, efficiency and downtime, you’ll get more from your windmill.

Digital twinning helps to maximise these connections and while the more information a digital twin provides about the data at hand, the clearer the usefulness of the data becomes. It works in a similar way to writing an article based on open-source research. If you use only one on-line online resource that subsequently proves to be unreliable, then everything extrapolated from that source is unreliable. The more research sources you use, the more your chances of producing a reliable article increase. The odds become better still if you can establish the reliability of the source itself. Working on this principle, a digital twin is the scholarly article of a digital ecosystem. Each layer of data or information builds confidence in the value and competency of the data you’re assessing.

What makes digital twin technology such a powerful tool for network and enterprise business managers is its ability to describe itself. The more data it provides, the more understood it becomes, which allows it to interoperate successfully within a network of other twins. This network creates a data mesh that allows a spectrum of data to communicate with each other, to be shared securely and ultimately output new data in an ongoing, adaptable and compounding data cycle.

We’ve talked about measuring the success of a digital twin and how it is only as strong as its connections to other data and, ultimately, its ability to describe that data. But empowered by connections and strengthened through detailed communication, digital twins can bridge the gaps between parts of an organisation where you wouldn’t normally seek connections. With digital twin technology, everything is connected.

No enterprise does one thing only, but too often they operate as though they do. For example, a manufacturer will have a production line with systems for regulating the process. It might also have an onsite R&D team that’s designing the item to be manufactured. These three functions will have their own set of systems and data set up to operate independently: and yet far more can be achieved if they are digitally interconnected. Digital twin technology can fill the gaps between functions and create a network between them, unlocking the full potential of data that works together as a federation. The three discrete data sources integrate into a web of sources that has the inbuilt semantics necessary to understand the three separate inputs. The potential for collaboration is limitless as a digital twin follows the threads of a network that weaves its way through your business – customer base, supply chain, control systems. Everything has the potential to operate as one cohesive unit without needing to teach staff or systems how to be specialists in multiple areas.

If this federation of twin technology is important in attributing value to your data, describing what’s inside that network of twins can have an even greater effect by unlocking a digital supply chain of limitless potential.

When you have access to both the data and the details of the data, you unlock the ability to make your own decisions on how to use it. You shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get the data you need, and neither should it end up in that ‘data dump’ of expensive unused junk. It should be accessible, tangible and put to work in a way that transforms the efficiency of your organisation.


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