A digital twin is an abstraction, a twin, of something in the real world done up in a digital image. It may be a digital version of a physical device, product, system, or other tangible item or of a service, process, or simply an idea. A digital twin is more than just a representation of something, it captures the behavior and attributes of its physical counterpart with data and lifecycle changes that emulate the physical piece.

A digital twin may be used for simulation, as a digital prototype, to understand expected behavior before there is a physical element or twin. Applying known characteristics of the various elements or parts of an assembly, for example, it can capture real-world behavior and can be used in VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality). Digital twin technology is a method for the rapid creation and control of physical systems that delivers value to the companies employing it.

With that in mind, there are naturally developed organizations that propose to coordinate the development of standards and protocols for the creation and deployment of digital twins in various industries. One is the Digital Twin Consortium, a group that intends to organize industry, government, and academia to drive consistency in vocabulary, architecture, security, and interoperability of digital twin technology. It is a program of Object Management Group and Bentley Systems, a provider of comprehensive software and digital twin cloud services for advancing the design, construction, and operations of infrastructure, is a new member.

Object Management Group formed the association with Ansys, Dell, Lendlease, and Microsoft as founders. Bentley will help set de facto technical guidelines and taxonomies, publish reference frameworks, develop requirements for new standards, and share use cases to maximize the benefits of digital twins. It will be working with early innovators, including the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and New South Wales Government.

Bentley’s iModel.js was the first open source library available on GitHub for accessing, creating, visualizing, analyzing, and integrating the data associated with infrastructure digital twins. Bentley has since expanded its digital twin offerings to include iTwin Services, which enable digital information managers to incorporate engineering data created by diverse design tools into a living digital twin with no disruption to their current tools or processes; and PlantSight, a digital twin for process industries, which brings together plant data and operating information into a single view accessible from anywhere 24/7 using a standard web browser.

Obviously, no one knows what a digital twin is going to be five years from now, but it will have to be able to connect to more systems than is possible today. Users will want the flexibility to change as requirements change and as new things become possible. Therefore, it is important for organizations like the Digital Twin Consortium to take an open approach when it is coordinating digital twin technologies.

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