Digital twin: Delivering places and spaces

By | 3 minute read | July 31, 2017

Digital twin capability, more known for industrial use, is making inroads into physical places and spaces.  As more companies aim to build ‘digital-first’, or retro-fit existing infrastructure with sensors, we’re starting to see amazing stories of what’s possible in homes, offices, and leisure environments when you apply digital twin technologies.  The impacts on how we acclimate to places where we live, work, play may change stress, safety, productivity, and more.

Everything a ‘thing’

The recent Economist article, “Millions of things will soon have digital twins”  speaks to how digital twins are getting beyond the realm of traditional industrial use of design, build and maintain into everyday life of cars and consumer products.  Eventually, we’ll find everything we want to own or touch will have it’s own ‘thing’ in digital or virtual form.  Why should physical places and spaces be any different?

Avatar is away now

Companies have been offering 3D mapping of physical spaces (internal and external) for decades. What changes the potential for our future is the wide array of devices that can be embedded within and the constant adjustment for our experiences throughout. Either retrofitting an older building or starting anew, there are dozens of sensor options available including temperature, proximity, pressure, water, acoustic, smoke/gas, level, accelerometers and inclinometers. Beyond ‘twin-like’ offices or airports such as adjusting for temperature, lighting, and additional visitors, we can build consumer-centric digital twins to teleport us to other places and spaces. Companies like Facebook and Google are developing GPS-like systems which when combined with 3D digital twin of office space which has potential for accuracy, “…right down to mapping the plug sockets..” It also means you own avatar will be sitting at a desk within that digital twin office space.

Digital ‘social’ life

Digital twin has a place in social life and leisure by bringing sports, vacations, and attractions to consumers who are planning their next purchase or getaway. Someday, before investing hundreds of dollars and hours of travel digital twins will show us inside amusement parks, baseball fields, or cruise ships to fully test an experience that is personal and memorable. With today’s acoustic and proximity technology, we can create digital twins of amusement parks to see crowds during hours/days or identify rides with the longest queues. With sport arenas or baseball fields, a digital twin can create custom experiences for prospective ticket holders to find the best parking site, the best set of seats (and path to your seat), and let you to wander the concourse to find food, shopping, and fan preferences. We can set our own time to wander a luxury cruise ship, check into a room, and visit the pool.  The digital twin will also use The Weather Company to provide a forecast and identify the shaded/covered seats, rooms, or rides based upon time of day.  Travel and destination firms will eventually become experts at creating digital twin experiences and letting consumers sample park rides, rooms, or views before booking.

Glasses for the future

Futurist John Smart believes that by 2020 our own digital twins will be making decisions for us, acting as secretaries or [travel] agents. Similarly, expectations for delivering digital twin of places and spaces will be less about virtual reality glasses (owned by only 6% of Americans); and more of mining the complexity of cognitive sensing, previous preferences, conversations and purchases into the simplicity of real-time, custom experiences. IBM Watson IoT, with its strong analytics, is central to building a better digital twin. If you’d like to learn more of digital twin, visit here or read the Wired article Creating a building’s ‘digital twin.’