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Digital twin consortium accelerates growth of the technology

Through its working groups, the consortium helps organizations deal with challenges in managing systems and data related to the technology. The subgroups publish their findings.

With the growing interest and use of digital twins, the Digital Twin Consortium has positioned itself as an authority that organizations can rely on when exploring and using the technology that creates virtual representations of real-world physical systems.

Founded in May 2020 with just a few members, the Boston-based consortium has grown to include nearly 175 corporate, government and education members, with about 120 joining in the group's first five months.

Among the first members were Microsoft, Dell, physics and simulation modeling vendor Ansys, and property management and construction giant Lendlease.

The consortium is a subgroup as part of the nonprofit Object Management Group technology standards development organization.

The consortium's growth corresponds with the recent expansion of digital twins into vertical into aerospace, manufacturing, construction, facilities management, disaster preparedness and other industries.

Digital twin technology has become so popular that many IT professionals see digital twins removing the need for physical prototypes in the next six years, according to a September survey by simulation, IoT and high-performance computing vendor Altair.

Another digital twin group, the Industrial Digital Twin Association -- based in Frankfurt, Germany -- has about 80 corporate members.

"A lot of our customers are using simulation technology to develop a more high-fidelity physics replica of their physical asset, which -- in a nutshell -- is a digital twin," said Keshav Sundaresh, global director of product management of digital twins at Altair.

Working groups

The consortium defines digital twins as "virtual representations of real-world entities and processes synchronized at a specified frequency and fidelity."

Members of the organization are part of 10 working groups that work on various applications of digital twins. For example, the consortium has a FinTech working group that examines the applications of digital twins in the financial sector.

Image of digital twin representation
The Digital Twin Consortium aims to spread awareness about the technology.

The natural resource working group helped a mining company understand why it couldn't extract all the ore they needed from its mine. The working group used digital twin technology to not only to find what was wrong with the process but also help the company prevent those types of failures before they happen.

The consortium also has a horizontal working group that focuses on commonalities and standards involved with digital twin technologies, such as data and interoperability formats.

"We are giving this overall horizontal sort of a blueprint with these different lenses to look at … what the differentiating elements are related to digital twins in those different vertical working groups," said Dan Isaacs, CTO at the consortium.

Why is a consortium needed

"They're creating a neutral space where the different vendors can come together and agree about what they need to agree on so that they can start to drive some of this interoperability [of digital twins]," said Paul Miller, an analyst at Forrester.

Because early digital twins are vendor and asset-specific, many enterprises ended up with different digital twins that do not communicate together. The digital twin consortium and others, including the Germany-based group, help organizations stich together the different digital twins, Miller said.

They're creating a neutral space where the different vendors can come together and agree about what they need to agree on so that they can start to drive some of this interoperability [of digital twins].
Paul MillerAnalyst, Gartner

The consortium also helps organizations figure out how different software (such as an IoT system and an asset management view compressor) can communicate within a digital twin, said Alfonso Velosa, a Gartner analyst.

For example, in a train infrastructure virtual environment, IoT systems, asset performance management software and the ERP and field service management system work together within the digital twin.

"If you don't have the same approach for metadata in all the different tools that you're using to build the digital twin, they might not speak together well," Velosa said.

While it takes about two weeks to three months to build a digital twin, most organizations want to keep them around for a decade or two.

"This is a software asset that will sit around provided it delivers value to the organization and so you need to manage it over time," Velosa said.

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