Data interoperability key for digital twins of physical assets

13 March 2024 Consultancy.eu 3 min. read
More news on

Many companies are building digital twins as a means to plan for complex change. According to research from Semmtech, however, a digital twin is only as good as the data fundament it is built upon.

Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical assets and systems, helping to model, simulate, monitor, analyze, and constantly optimize the physical world. As external environments, customer preferences and regulations evolve, digital twins can help firms build predictive models that can fast-track the development of changes that meet these demands.

On the back of technological advances, the use of digital twins has become increasingly popular across all corners of the industry – from engineering and construction to town planning and even in the aerospace and defense sectors.

Bram Bazuin, Semmtech

But creating a digital twin comes with its challenges. First, it requires accurate and insightful data, which can build a picture of the physical limits of assets – as well as how users interact with them. From that, digital twins can then be used to explore how transforming those assets might impact them.

“The challenge is that data is often stored all over the place,” warns Bram Bazuin, consultant at Semmtech. “Otherwise, correct information will be scattered across multiple applications, making it difficult to answer important questions that require a combination of data. The abundance of scattered information can become overwhelming and unproductive.”

Towards interoperability

Semmtech is a specialist in helping digital twins to succeed. The firm has a proven track record of integrating information through open standards to build the data bedrock for digital twins.

Based on the firm’s experiences, Semmtech has determined that one of the leading risks of digital twin projects is that they rely on specialized software applications, each containing specific fragments of asset information. As a result, multiple fragmented representations of a single asset often emerge.

Bazuin notes, “To create an optimal digital twin of a physical asset, it is necessary to connect all relevant applications and real-world asset information. This requires technical compatibility among various systems that hold representations of the asset. These systems must be able to handle the same data formats and store or reference information from other applications.”

Ensuring an interoperable digital twin is created hinges upon three points, according to Bazuin. First, all stakeholders involved must have a shared understanding of concepts – and any discrepancies between what the client wants and what the contractor prefers must be bridged to ensure compliance with project specifications.

Then, the relevant technical capabilities must be enabled to integrate diverse partial representations into a cohesive digital model. For instance, sensor measurements from the real world can be linked to specific stone blocks within a 3D model. Finally, asset information should be easily shared with external organizations, whatever the applications they use – allowing for seamless updates.

Benefits

With the right mechanisms for capturing and distributing data to a firm’s digital twin, firms can enjoy their benefits, assured of accurate results. According to Bazuin, these include “better understanding and control of physical assets, leading to better efficiency and informed decision-making.”

At the same time, the insights obtained from a digital twin “can create new revenue streams,” as the knowledge acquired from a digital twin’s implementation can be monetized for other market operators looking to see how similar changes in their assets might take shape.

Even so, reckoning with outdated, scattered, or meaningless asset information within an organization can use up precious time and resources. In this case, contacting a partner who can help leverage user-friendly tools that cater to evolving asset information requirements, can help to ensure future success.

Semmtech is one such partner and often works to empower companies to embrace data-driven twinning. The firm particularly offers “comprehensive services ranging from enterprise IT strategy and domain-specific consultancy to end-to-end implementations,” Bazuin concludes.

Bazuin himself is a well-known figure in the world of digital twins for physical assets. Among others, he leads the Ontologies & Interoperability working group of the Building Digital Twin Association.