For Harry Potter and his friends, the Marauder’s Map is a powerful ally in the battle against the forces of the Dark Arts. Not only does the map describe the network of corridors and secret passageways that crisscrosses Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it also reveals the precise, real-time location of every character within its walls.
Today, companies are using the magic of advanced digital technologies to gain a similarly comprehensive view of their designs, facilities and manufacturing operations – and even of their products once in customer hands. These modern industrial versions of the Marauder’s Map are known as digital twins.
Siemens, whose Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) division is a major provider of the technologies that underpin digital twins, defines them as “a virtual representation of a physical product or process, used to understand and predict the physical counterpart’s performance characteristics.” In practice, a digital twin is not one thing, but many: an aggregation of different data sources and modeling technologies. The approaches and technologies used in a given application vary considerably, depending on the nature of the product and the part of its lifecycle being described.