Industry 4.0 is a popular topic these days. The “fourth industrial revolution” encompasses ambitious ideas including smart manufacturing, smart cities, and the industrial internet of things. Residing at the heart of smart manufacturing, and arguably the vanguard of Industry 4.0 as a whole is the “Digital Twin” concept.
We’re all familiar with the physical products that we encounter each day. Our cars, our appliances, our food. Well, all of these physical products have to come from somewhere, and those manufacturing facilities, farms, and distribution centers all touch our physical products at some point along the supply chain. The more complex the manufacturing or delivery process, the higher the chance our products have of being altered in some way.
It would be ideal if our frozen fish stayed frozen for the duration of its 400 mile trip from the coast – and if our phone battery never exceeded its maximal temperature tolerance on the manufacturing line – and if we could see that our car came from a provably high quality production batch before buying it. However, as of now, we don’t have a way of reliably assessing any of these metrics. This is where the digital twin comes into play.
The idea was first proposed in Gelernter’s 1991 book Mirror Worlds. Michael Grieves was the first to implement and publicly discuss his experiences with the digital twin idea in 2002. Subsequently, John Vickers formalized the idea while at NASA when he published a report that separated it into three parts:Physical product Virtual product Connections between the two products
Gartner threw its reputation behind the idea in both 2017 & 2018 by listing digital twin as a top trend and denoting it as a strategic technology, boldly predicting that digital twins would exist for billions of things in the “near future”.
As industry began to grasp the promises of digital twins, the concept was quickly subjected to an onslaught of three letter initi...