Telefnica SA: Digital twins, virtual replicas for a very realistic future


In 2002, the term Digital Twins began to be used in the industrial environment to refer to the virtual replica of an object, service or process, a concept which, thanks to the development of new technologies, is becoming of more and more important in more and more sectors. .

It was not until 2010 that NASA became interested in this tool and began to create virtual replicas of its missions in order to be able to apply the results obtained to physical projects.

In the 1980s, NASA was already a pioneer in the design of replicas used for learning the behavior of equipment and spacecraft. This allowed them to anticipate potential problems in space. Shortly after, following the excellent results obtained by the American space agency, this technology made the big leap among companies.

The creation of a digital twin responds to the ability of these tools to predict the future behavior of what they simulate in the virtual world.

And how is this possible? Through the use of technologies such as Internet of things, devices connected to the network share all their activity data.

Then, thanks to other technologies such as Big data and artificial intelligence, this data is collected and analyzed, and the output can provide a predictive model. The point of all of this is to recreate different scenarios from real scenarios and objects and test the behavior of what has been recreated.

It could be the engine of a self-driving car, an entire city, or a space rocket.

Cross-cutting tools

Digital twins allow for the creation of a virtual prototype designed from real data in order to introduce a change or improvement in something that already exists and works.

They can recreate any scenario imaginable without causing damage to the product or service and without interrupting said service. By connecting both the virtual world and the physical world, it is possible to make decisions based on real data. Thus, the efficiency of what is tested is improved.

It is a truly transversal discipline which must be based on several technologies such as Big data and AI, to which others like 5G technology, machine learning and 3D and virtual reality and cloud must be incorporated. Several areas of knowledge such as mathematics, physics and chemistry must also work in tandem.

Its application has made it possible, for example, to improve production processes in smart factories, thus optimizing their resources and reducing costs. This makes it a powerful ally in improving the production chain.

Promotion of medicine

More and more sectors are moving towards this model of virtual experimentation. One of the fastest growing sectors due to the coronavirus crisis has been the healthcare sector.

The application of new technologies to this sector has given impetus that does not yet know limits. And one of those applications is precisely the virtualization capability used in the design of large-scale replicas.

The potential of this tool to digitally reproduce the appearance and behavior of reality is likely to lead researchers to learn much more about the human body and unravel the mysteries of the brain, for example.

But something that is already possible is the virtual re-creation of the human heart and brain to aid research and thus fight cardiovascular disease, as well as to advance the study and treatment of diseases such as epilepsy and disease. Alzheimer’s.

These are the studies developed by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform from Dassault Systèmes company that designed the Living Heart Project and the Living Brain Project.

On the other hand, the use of virtualization in pharmacological research favors the development of predictions on the biological effects of treatments as a means of developing fully personalized medicine in the future.

It is getting closer and closer, although it is still unclear to what extent the application of digital twins in healthcare will improve medical research and health in general.

The automotive sector, the engine of virtualization in Spain

It is at the end of 2020 that Telefonica and Gestamp, a multinational company dedicated to the design, development and manufacture of automotive components, announced the establishment of the 5G-equipped factory in one of its factories in Barcelona in order to progress in Industry 4.0 thanks to this latest generation mobile network.

This project was an important step in the industrial sector, because it is the first development of a digital 5G factory for production processes in Spain. The project involves virtualizing an entire factory and connecting it to 5G to improve the decision-making process.

More specifically, Telefónica connected the physical elements of the plant via 5G, such as robotic welding cells, to capture and process in real time the data produced by such industrial equipment during its operation thanks to the near computing made possible. by Multi Access Edge Computing (MEC).

This perfectly reflects the concept of ‘hyper-automation’, which links AI to robotic processes and business management software.

The future belongs to digital twins.

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