The creation of a digital twin is usually bad news in science fiction.

A human is replaced with an unhinged and unstoppable android replica who wreaks havoc and causes mayhem.

In the real world, the creation of a digital twin is good news.

A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset, process, or system, enriched with data synchronised from the object to inform understanding and decision-making upon its performance.

Think Google Maps, with real time data that allows you to understand travel times and choose the fastest route to your destination.

Digital twin data can appear in dashboards, through graphic user interfaces and even as interactive 3D models.

The main uses are end of life management of assets, running simulations or scenarios.

Digital twins have been around for a long time but because of the COVID-19 pandemic the concept is gaining traction.

Company-X has built many digital twins over the years.

General Electric Gas Turbine digital twin
Company-X built an interactive virtual reality (VR) model of a General Electric gas turbine to demonstrate the concept of digital twins.

Company-X built an interactive virtual reality (VR) model of a General Electric gas turbine to demonstrate the concept of digital twins to a client.

The interactive virtual reality model of the General Electric gas turbine needed to replicate its real-world counterpart.

The biggest challenge was sourcing the gas turbine’s external and internal specifications.

Another challenge was creating a virtual reality version of the user’s hands rather than standard controllers that many VR developers were using.

Company-X’s virtual reality development team sourced the external and internal specifications of the General Electric gas turbine.

The virtual reality model was built on the Unity Real-Time Development Platform for the HTC Vive Virtual Reality System.

The team comprised a Unity developer and a 3D modeler.

The user dons an HTC Vive Virtual Reality System headset and separate out the different parts of the turbine by causing the model to explode out into individual parts.

Any relevant maintenance data can be 'attached' to the individual part giving the user the information that they need to make decisions. The latest data helps users make the best maintenance decisions.

The VR replica can also be used to run simulations for forward planning, for example end of life replacement planning.

Wellington City Council invested in a digital twin of the city to help understand and communicate its future and the complexity of what makes it work.

Our aim is to be an informed democracy and so that ability to universally fuse together the future of the city is everything to us.

On one layer you can see all the pipes and cabling, and use that information repairs, maintenance, and city planning.

On another layer they can see the crime hotspots, and look at that and say, "Well, there's a lot of crime happening here, maybe we should add more lights."

From the macro to the micro, digital twins are making life easier for humanity. There are many examples of how the creation of a digital twin is not only good news, but great news.

  • Lance Bauerfeind is a senior consultant at Hamilton software specialist Company-X.