A guidance note published by the Smart Cities Council in April 2020 states: 'The term ‘Digital Twin’ is commonly associated with smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0, with the ‘twin’ part dating back at least to the 1960s. As part of the Apollo program, NASA created ‘twins’ of the Command Module, Lunar Module and Lunar Rover. The twins all stayed on the ground but were used extensively for maintenance, support and troubleshooting.'
The term has gained in popularity with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) which is the application of unique identifiers to physical objects that enables them to be connected to a network allowing the transfer of data to and from those objects.
Digital twins can be used as a means of optimising the operation and maintenance of physical assets, systems and processes. By analysing the virtual model, lessons can be learned and opportunities exploited in the real physical twin.
Digital simulations can be undertaken that can help prevent actual problems. Artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics can update the digital twin as its physical twin changes. Smart components connected to a cloud-based system can gather data using sensors which allows analysis of real-time status and comparisons with historical data.
According to the Gemini Principles published by the Centre for Digital Built Britain in December 2018, a digital twin is: 'A realistic digital representation of something physical. What distinguishes a digital twin from any other digital model is its connection to the physical twin.'
The National Digital Twin (NDT) is '...an ecosystem of digital twins that are connected by securely-shared data ...a national resource for improving the performance, service and value delivered by the UK’s infrastructure, delivering benefits to society, business, the environment, and the economy.'
National Digital Twin Day was hosted at ICE headquarters in London on Monday 9 September 2019 and brought together key influencers and leaders in digital transformation to bring focus to how digital twins are shaping the future of the built environment.
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