What are digital twins? A pair of computer modeling experts explain


A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real system – a building, the power grid, a city, even a human being – that mimics the characteristics of the system. However, a digital twin is more than just a computer model. It receives data from sensors in the real system to constantly parallel the state of the system.

A digital twin helps people analyze and predict the behavior of a system under different conditions. Twinned systems are usually very complex and require significant modeling and monitoring efforts.

Digital twins are useful in a wide variety of areas including supply chains, healthcare, buildings, bridges, self-driving cars, and retail customers to improve efficiency and reliability. For example, a warehouse operator can optimize warehouse performance by exploring its digital twin’s response to various policies and material handling equipment without incurring the cost of actual changes.

Even a forest fire can be represented by a digital twin. Government agencies can predict the spread of fire and its impact under different conditions such as wind speed, humidity and proximity to habitats, and use this information to guide evacuations.


Digital twins are often used to model, understand, and analyze complex systems where system performance, reliability, and security are critical. In such systems, it is essential to test any change, whether planned or not. . This requires the digital twin to receive continuous updates from the physical system through fast and reliable communication channels.

Digital twins are a key element in the desire to create “smart” cities.

The creation and maintenance of digital twins often involves large amounts of data to represent various characteristics of the real system. The collection and processing of this data requires advanced communication and computer technologies. Communication support usually involves high-speed internet connections and wireless networks such as Wi-Fi and 5G. IT support usually takes the form of servers, either in the cloud or closer to the physical system.

We and other faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of California, Irvine are launching the Center for Smart Spaces Research, a National Science Foundation-sponsored research facility. One of the main ongoing projects within this center is to develop the basic technologies to create digital twins in a variety of applications.

Amlan Ganguly, Associate Professor of Computer Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology and Nalini Venkatasubramanian, Professor of Computer Science, University of California, Irvine

This article has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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