‘Industry 4.0’ and ‘Digital Twin’ are the new buzz words on the block. It may be more relevant within corporate circles as of today but that won’t stand true in the next few years. To understand why this would be so, it is best to take a look at how the world has evolved through each of the Industrial Revolutions. They say one must learn from history and while it may not be applicable everywhere, we can certainly see a few trends repeating for the current times.
Any of the past industrial revolutions has been about adding value to the world by transitioning from current trends (in use at the time) to the newer technologies available. The first industrial revolution which adapted the use of water and steam was the corner stone of any sort of manufacturing we see today. Manufacturing shifted from manual and hand processes in small scale to large factories. Building on this, the second industrial revolution adapted use of electricity and other scientific innovations. While one may argue that merely adapting better technology to optimize processes is not revolutionary, we need to understand the impact that electricity had. Till this day it is the foundation of any innovation mankind utilizes in his/her day to day life with no sign of being phased out. The third industrial revolution was the foray into the digital world which again continues to the present day. As the digitalization in the third industrial revolution progressed, the lines of the digital and virtual thinned giving rise to the fourth industrial revolution. With such a vast potential, certain applications like smart cities were not part of the term ‘industry’, which obligated the rise of another term: ‘Industry 4.0’.
To get a movie reference here, one can draw a parallel to how the popular franchise ‘Die Hard’ named its 4th installment as ‘Die Hard 4.0’. The base plot has always been the same where the antagonist takes hostages, plans to steal a fortune in his own devious ways. While in the first movie there may have been a few hostages and hundreds of millions at stake, the fourth installment saw an entire nation as a hostage. On a serious note, this is not the analogy of the scope or the history lesson which we would have you take back. What we do need to pay attention to is that the second industrial revolution which refined the technologies of the first is still a backbone of the world as we know today. Similarly, the fourth revolution we are experiencing has advanced digitalization from the third revolution and is envisaged to be the backbone of way of life in the near future. Industry 4.0 concepts like ML (Machine learning), AI (Artificial Intelligence), Big Data & IoT (Internet of Things) all clubbed together have helped achieve the merger of the digital and physical worlds, giving rise to the concept of the ‘Digital Twin’.
Data analytics software acts as the bridge to merge the physical asset and its virtual counterpart. Once the virtual replica is ready, the data from the physical entity is run through analytics algorithms which make the virtual replica a digital twin (of the asset or the process with real-time data). Individual components of the digital twin can be monitored by the data they provide, becoming a virtual sensor. Such virtual sensors are what set it apart from simple connected systems. The Digital Twin’s true power is harnessed through analysis of a component individually and by the way it behaves with other components in a state of harmony. The ability of hybrid analysis (analysis of the physical and virtual sensors) guarantees infinite applications like accurate asset monitoring, predictive analysis, testing etc. in fields ranging from the obvious ones such as manufacturing, automobiles to insurance, healthcare and even setting climate change models. (Free demo for digital twin solutions) The possibilities are limitless and humankind has not even scratched the surface.