Top Trends in Simulation and Digital Twins Technology for 2020

Digital Twins refers to the digital representations of people, processes, and things. It is used to analyze operations and receive insight into complex processes. As 2019 comes to an end, the need to define digital twin technology still exists and hopefully by this time next year, its growth and popularity will make this need obsolete…

In 2018, digital twins were included as a top technology trend by the big names covering the tech industry. According to Orbis research, the digital twin market is expected to grow by 35% within a 5-year time frame and 2020 is right in the middle of this period. But before highlighting the trends to expect in 2020, it is only right to do a recap of the year so far. This is to note if earlier predictions have come to pass before mapping the future.

In terms of popularity, coverage of the digital twins is definitely on the right track as continuous studies by Gartner and other publications show. Today, many professionals across the technical and non-technical divide understand the digital twin concept and how it can be used to drive business processes and concepts. This is why many industries are currently integrating digital twins to bolster business insight and understand data.

The biggest adopters of digital twin technology in the geographical sense remains North America. Enterprises within the US and Canada currently leads the way in terms of adopting digital twin technology. North America accounts for approximately 59% of the digital twin market and economy while Europe and the Asian pacific comes next.

The very nature of the digital twin and simulation, as well as, the solutions they provide makes them attractive business tools for the manufacturing industry and this fact is backed up by data. The manufacturing industry’s affinity to digital twins is powered by Industry 4.0 and the varied ongoing processes that occur within shop floors. The use of smart edge devices, equipment, robots, AI, and automation also fits nicely into the digital twin concept thus making it attractive to manufacturers.

In 2019, manufacturers account for approximately 36% of the digital twin market. Other industries such as the energy and power industry, Aerospace, Automobile and Oil & Gas complete the top five industries who make use of the digital twin to enhance operations. Analyzing this trend highlights the fact that digital twins are important to simplifying complex processes where hundreds or thousands of variables and relationships are needed to successfully accomplish set tasks.

Is the Digital Twin for Only Production-based Industries?

Although the Oil & Gas industry, as well as, the energy and power sector are not tagged as manufacturing industries, a case can be made for it. Therefore, many may assume or wonder if digital twin technology is only useful within production-based industries where discrete or process manufacturing takes place. And the answer is No.

The digital twin is also being used in other industry verticals such as the hospitality industry and in restaurants. One example is the use of Simio by CKE Holdings Inc. to ease workloads in its Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s restaurants. The Digital twin is also being used to support discrete event simulations in hotels, real-estate, and tolling facilities.

The use of interconnected devices and automation within service and hospitality businesses are the driving forces behind the adoption of digital twin within a variety of industries. And the coming year is expected to witness continuous growth as more industries and professionals understand what the digital twin brings to the table.

Top 5 Trends for the Digital Twins and Simulation Technology for 2020

Interrelated Technologies will Boost Adoption Rate – The growth and maturity of interrelated technologies such as 3D printing, metal printing, and mapping will play a part in accelerating the adoption rate of digital twins in 2020. This is because of the need to monitor and consistently improve these technologies and the systems that drive them.

Using 3D printing as an example, many manufacturing outfits are currently making use of 3D printing clusters to speed up their production requirements. 3D printing clusters or farms refers to facilities where hundreds of 3D printers function simultaneously to manufacture physical items. Although these 3D printing clusters have dedicated software for managing the printing process, material delivery, scheduling, and managing the entire supply chain within these facilities are handled manually.

Digital twin solutions can eliminate the manual management and handling process in 3D printing farms to great effect. If properly executed, a digital twin of a large scale 3D printing cluster will provide a data-driven approach to optimize supply, scheduling and the manufacturing process. This will reduce expenditure including the energy expended in 3D printing cluster facilities.

Industry 4.0 will Continue to Drive Adoption – The growth in Industry 4.0 and the devices, as well as, communication channels driving the smart factory is expected to increase the adoption of digital twin solutions. In 2019, Industry 4.0 witnessed the creation of new standards from the OPC Foundation that supports the collection of data from the deepest corners of brownfield facilities. These data were collected from dumb equipment with legacy technologies using smart edge and embedded devices.

The success of this approach, means that digital twin technology can now integrate the data collected from dumb or legacy equipment when developing digital representations. This increases the accuracy levels of the representations thereby enhancing simulation results and scheduling plans. Thus, increasingly accurate digital twin ecosystems and results will create more use cases that will drive the adoption of digital twins in 2020.

IoT and IIoT to Drive Digital Twin Adoption Rate – The move to more interconnected environments across both manufacturing and service-based industries also have roles to play in 2020. As stated earlier, Industry 4.0 will enhance the adoption of digital twin technologies and this also true for the industrial internet of things (IIoT). The widespread adoption of IoT and IIoT devices or equipment have created a race to develop the best management solution to monitor interconnected activities.

This creates an avenue which digital twin service providers are currently taking advantage of and will continue to do so in 2020. The ability of the digital twin to create digital representations of IIoT devices and also integrate the data they produce creates multiple use cases enterprises will explore in the coming years. These use cases include running simulations in complex interconnected facilities to produce accurate results or to access processes that involve the use of IIoT technologies.

Digital Twin for Cybersecurity Challenges – With every passing decade, the cybersecurity challenges enterprises face keeps changing. The millennium brought Trojan horses and other viruses which were effectively stopped with anti-virus software apps and by 2010, attackers pivoted to using phishing attacks and malware. Today, ransomware, spyware, DDoS, and business email compromise attacks have become the new challenges enterprises face. Thus highlighting the ever-changing landscape of cyber threats.

To cater to these threats and attacks, digital twin solutions will be enlisted by enterprises in 2020. In this scenario, the digital twin will be used as a penetration testing tool to simulate the effects of successful data breaches or ransomware to an organizations business processes. Within the digital twin environment, attacks to core equipment can be simulated and the result will be a response pattern that ensures the crippled equipment does not lead to extended downtime.

2020 will also be expected to witness an increase in the cybersecurity threats facing cloud-based digital twin solutions. Thus, more secure communication protocols and standards regulating data use will be developed to protect enterprises making use of digital twin technology. This means developers and service providers will have an increased role to play in securing digital twin environments.

Simulation-based Scheduling – The drive to deliver real-time scheduling is expected to continue in 2020 as enterprises seek more accuracy with managing business process. The need for real-time scheduling is also driven by how enterprises intend to apply simulation and digital twin tools. An example includes the need to make business decisions in real-time, handle unforeseen occurrences such as machine downtime, and reschedule operations.

These challenges fall into the category of issues discrete event simulation (DES) software can handle. Once the required data is accessible, DES and digital twin applications can conduct simulations in real-time and provide accurate solutions to dealing with changing scenarios also in real-time. This will drastically reduce downtime and enhance performance within facilities and warehouses.

Although some DES software offers real-time simulation scheduling, many are still process-based scheduling applications and this is set to change in 2020.

Quantum Computing – If real-time simulation, scheduling, and process management is to be achieved, then digital twin solutions must take advantage of the speed, scalability, and high-performance quantum computing offers. Today, digital twin solutions currently leverage the cloud to provide stable and scalable services to enterprises and only a few integrate the use of high-performing computers to enhance or manage really large workloads.

In 2020, further strides will be made to speed up simulations within digital twin environments using high-performing computers. The success of this initiative will speed up real-time scheduling and complex process management for the foreseeable future.

Planning for 2020…

The benefits of the digital twin have played an important role in ensuring its adoption across diverse industries and the expected trends of 2020 will continue the increased adoption rate that came with 2019. Although digital twin solutions have become more interactive and intuitive to use, enterprises still require the assistance of experienced professionals to get the best out of their digital twin environment and this is where Simio can help.

IT managers, cybersecurity experts, and project managers can take advantage of the Simio Fundamentals Course to learn more about simulation and Digital Twin technology including its application in real-life scenarios.

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