Finding Meaning, Application for the Much-Discussed "Digital Twin"

Source: McDermott.
A digital rendering of Pemex’s PB-Litoral-A production platform in the Bay of Campeche.

Among the many buzzy, digitally related words or terms bandied about the industry over the past year or two, “digital twin” serves as something of a confluence of them all.

Populating many industry conference agendas are high-level presentations and discussions with descriptors such as digitization, digitalization, digital transformation, and the digital disruption, which involve big data, data analytics, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, automation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the ever-important, abundantly abstract cloud. Some of those terms are used rather broadly and interchangeably, leading many to wonder: What exactly are we talking about here?  

The definition of a digital twin is similarly less finite, but it is rather easy to conceptualize at a basic level. The technology links the physical world with the digital world, providing a digital model of a physical asset or process. It serves as a real-time data hub for its owner, allowing for reference to designed or expected performance and continuous offsite monitoring.  

Roots of the idea can be traced back to a similarly challenging sector that is tasked with exploring and operating in harsh environments normally inaccessible by humans. Successful space travel requires complex modeling and simulations, which NASA for decades has employed from its field centers on the ground. Michael Grieves, currently executive director of Florida Institute of Technology, brought the term to the fore during the early 2000s while working in the University of Michigan’s college of engineering, but he credits the coinage to his one-time NASA colleague and technologist John Vickers.

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Finding Meaning, Application for the Much-Discussed "Digital Twin"

01 June 2018

Volume: 70 | Issue: 6

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