All Blogs

Unlock the Power of IoT with Digital Twins

Nishant Kohli

November 23, 2020

If you’ve lived, worked, or traveled in a city, you’ve almost certainly experienced a broken elevator. Depending on the nature of the building, the immediate impacts on individuals are obvious: people late for work, kept from home, frustrated customers, and unnecessarily expensive repairs.

This narrow example of a system breaking is emblematic of challenges faced by businesses every day throughout their operations. The failure, maintenance, and deployment of systems small and large are critical contributors to success. Inherent to these systems is the potential to exact high costs and deliver sizeable rewards, whether the system is a popular new ride for a chain of amusement parks; a critical piece of machinery in a complex manufacturing process; or a business process that is integral to the completion of revenue-generating customer journeys.

Making Sense of Having Sensors Everywhere

The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) opened the door to active, close monitoring of innumerable actions taking place in the physical world. Sensors abound, but how does a business apply that massive, steady flow of data from the edge and beyond to meet targets for reliability, safety, and ROI? Finding the right answer is the difference between whether all that information is just high-priced noise filling up a business’s data lake and consuming cloud resources, or an exciting opportunity to be more than merely reactive, but to be empowered to predict and dictate outcomes, and to plan ahead for optimizing important use cases and journeys.

This the landscape into which digital twins are born. Digital twins are sophisticated digital representations of a device or system that make it possible to emulate, simulate, model, and predict the behavior of the physical systems and business processes on which your business depends.

Those capabilities might make it possible to find the maintenance strategy that keeps the elevators running at maximum capacity. Digital twins could enable a mine operator to evaluate the behavior of a critical piece of equipment located a thousand feet below the surface without incurring crushing costs or risking lives. They make it possible for a theme park to launch the same new ride in multiple parks around the world, evaluating how snowy, winter temperatures at one location, and the hot, humid weather at another impact maintenance needs while minimizing downtime to ensure happy guests around the world. Or, digital twins can help an automobile manufacturer keep their production lines working at optimal capacity.

The Birth of a Digital Twin

Creating a digital twin starts with the knowable, static properties that describe the asset: the dimensions of the elevator, the number of brake pads on a roller coaster car. In the case of equipment such as elevators, Hitachi and its partners have decades of historical data to further describe the environment. For other areas, resources such as schematics can inform the base model. In all cases, this static model provides a solid foundation on which to evaluate variables.

Next data is consolidated from across IT data stores, as well as the properties and sensor factors we want to monitor: how many times per day the elevator stops, the wear and tear on brake pads, the weight borne by the mining equipment. This is all the changing information from sensors on the device or monitored by cameras and other subsystems that tell us what is happening at any given moment in time.

The next part is where things get interesting, applying industry and business knowledge to explore possibilities, anticipate needs, and optimize operations. To do this we create a simulated model of the live device itself–where we can see a snapshot of “now,”–and add to the model the historical data and the projected process that device will go through, in effect simulating what the next five weeks, or five years, will look like.

Putting your Digital Twins to Work

What can a company do with this model? There are obvious, mechanically oriented benefits. Maybe we discover that shortening the maintenance cycle to every two weeks rather than once per month extends the life of the elevator system by three years. We can multiply those discoveries across all elevators in a bank, a building, even a complex of buildings with similar specifications. But we can also think bigger, understanding how better management of the physical environment makes it possible to save time, improve customer experiences, and discover new efficiencies.

The potential of digital twins is well within your reach, and Hitachi Vantara can help your organization get started and make the most of it. Our teams combine 100 plus years of business and industry-specific knowledge with more than 50 years of IT experience in collecting and cleansing data from IT and operational technologies. The end result is data that not only is formatted to suit the development of your digital twins, but that makes sense for the people who make plans and decisions.

The digital twin creates opportunities for organizations to explore and consider their environment in detail, revealing not only business optimizations but making it possible to also achieve high-level objectives with respect to safety, environmental stewardship, and the well-being of employees, customers, and the wider world. Digital twins are both a practical tool and a sandbox tool where we can really start making sense of our systems and understanding what’s possible.

Learn more about data management for Digital Twins in this whitepaper.