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Digital twin, a key piece in Industry 4.0

Virtually everyone in business circles has heard of digital transformation and Industry 4.0. However, if we ask a little more in depth, many people understand digitization as something purely computerized: the elimination of paper, the implementation of ERPs and other types of software, communication by digital means or, at most, robotization.

When we talk about Industry 4.0 we are talking about something much deeper, a new industrial revolution that is not «for the future», but is already underway. It is a train that industries can not lose, under penalty of seeing their competitiveness is definitely ballast.

To better define what is Industry 4.0, nothing better than following the example of the big ones. The international consultancy Gartner, one of the world leaders in technological innovation programs and trend analysis (it is no coincidence that its headquarters is in Stanford), has defined a decalogue of basic technologies of Industry 4.0. These are technologies that are already available and applicable:

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI): Algorithms that carry out actions autonomously, learning from mistakes and maximizing the chances of success in the function or task entrusted to them. Something that until recently was reserved for large corporations like Google, and today we already have many everyday objects, such as smartphones cameras.

2. Smart App: Interactive applications that use those AI algorithms to interact with the user. Something that we also have in many everyday devices (Siri or Alexa are practical examples) but that have applications in all areas of the company, eliminating downtime and improving efficiency.

3. Smart objects: (Internet of Things, or IoT): As with applications, objects and machines are also increasingly using these algorithms, in addition to internet connectivity. In 2019 there will be more objects connected to the Network than people. These objects can communicate with each other remotely, cooperate with each other to execute tasks and obtain information directly from the Network.

4. Digital Twin: The creation of «digital twins», which are virtual replicas of different production processes or the company as a whole, allows to carry out simulations of different scenarios (for example: I want to introduce robots in my production chain, How many do I need and where does it make up for me to do it?). The digital twin is a model applicable to factories, buildings, cities …
The main advantage of the digital twin is that it gives the company or organization unprecedented anticipation capacity until now, especially when they are developed in 3D and immersive technologies such as virtual reality or augmented reality are used. The digital twin is more than a tool, it is a new concept of management of complex systems (ecosystems) such as those that occur in industrial production, construction and management of buildings or smart cities.

5. Cloud to the Edge: The amounts of data that are generated are too large to be managed by a single server, in addition to involving a continuous investment in systems upgrade and digital storage space. The cloud is the option, both in data storage and in leading systems such as distributed computing (cloud computing).

6. Platforms of conversation: A company is, above all, a group of people who need to communicate efficiently. E-mail has already demonstrated its limitations in this aspect, which is why more and more companies incorporate project management and information exchange systems, which allow the realization of documents and cooperative projects and improve the effectiveness of internal communication, ensuring that it reaches the right person at the right time to make the right decision.

7. Immersive experience: Everything we can do with natural gestures, we will stop doing it with keyboards. Today no one conceives a mobile phone with physical keyboard, and the same is happening with the rest of computer systems. In this sense, virtual reality and augmented reality take on all the protagonism, allowing to visualize and interact with the system in a much more natural and fluid way.

8. Blockchain: The blockchain technology, which is already being incorporated by banks and insurance companies, represents a real revolution in the confidentiality, security and inviolability of transactions. Being distributed systems, they are practically invulnerable to attacks, one of the growing concerns of all companies. Blockchain will be a basic element of cybersecurity in a short time.

9. Model controlled by events: It constitutes the «digital layer» of the business. Modeling, to be effective, requires to be simple. If digitizing is more complicated things, then it will not work. Therefore, simple graphical interfaces are required, adapted to each need so that a simple touch triggers a chain of responses that allows real-time information of what is happening. For this, it is vital to have a series of sensors that inform the system of what is happening at each moment, which allows the digital model to adapt to each circumstance.

10. Adaptive risk and confidence: Security management must be continuous, based on levels of trust and flexibility. If it is too rigid it will be counterproductive since it will slow down the start-up of new processes. If we manage the risk in a lax way we will be creating security breaches. Therefore, the risk must be continuously monitored and the systems, interfaces and authentications must be able to change depending on the level of risk at each moment. It is obvious that a company under attack must respond instantly by shielding its systems, but until now that was done manually. Gartner proposes a strategy that, based on the risk level monitoring, automatically adapts the security systems.

At NORLEAN we are pioneers in the creation of 3D digital twins, using immersive virtual reality technologies that allow both the simulation of different scenarios and the real-time management of the system with data from different sensors, applications and machinery. That is, they allow not only to visualize the entire ecosystem, but also to immerse and interact with it. In future publications we will go deeper into our digital twin model. At NORLEAN we do not wait for the future, but we are engines of technological change so that the future becomes a reality today.