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Although the concept and beginnings of digital twins started off in manufacturing, the technology has now shifted into the world of IoT. Digital twins are used in so many different sectors that it’s truly astonishing. But, what is a digital twin?

What is a Digital Twin?

A digital twin is a digital replica of something in the physical world. The concept began to come into fruition in the early 2000’s when Michael Grieves of Florida Institute of Technology first applied the digital twin concept in manufacturing. The concept and model of the digital twin was publicly introduced in 2002 by Grieves, at conference. Grieves proposed the digital twin as the conceptual model underlying product lifecycle management (PLM). The concept, wads then named the “digital twin” by John Vickers of NASA in 2010.

There are three aspects to a digital twin;

  • Physical product
  • Digital/virtual product
  • Connections between the two components

It seems like such a simple concept when written out like this, and that’s because…well, it is. But the technology itself isn’t quite as simple. It can be modified and changed to be used in so many different industries and practises.

So, let’s dive in and look at some examples of how digital twins have been used.

1. Self Driving Cars

We’ve seen more and more that self-driving cars are becoming a reality, and fast! Digital twins are being used in the manufacturing of these cars in order to test difference aspects of the cars themselves. You can use the digital twin to predict how the car will react in emergency situations, different weather conditions, in relation to the highway code etc. It will also keep track of the car’s health, testing the general maintenance and any potential faults.

Most of this is done with sensors. These sensors collect data surrounding the way the car drives, the environment of the car and around the car also. This data will be consistently monitored and tracked alongside the testing of the car to map out any issues before they may arise, avoiding injury or malfunction.

2. Product Development and Design

Digital twins can help engineers test products they are working on way in advance. Companies can see how their products will work or look without having to use the physical product, which is far more efficient. If something isn’t quite right, or there are any faults/malfunctions with the digital product, these can be amended before the consumers get wind of it!

Businesses can also redesign products ahead of launches to be able to test different variations of a product, therefor finding the best possible design. For example, Apple could create a digital twin of their latest iPhone model, and tweak it until they’re happy they have a brief blueprint for the next release, testing which features they can change and what they can make work. 

3. Healthcare

Healthcare providers are using digital twins to go virtual with their care in order to be more efficient and more accurate. You could create a digital twin of an entire hospital, ward by ward with all of its functionality and test different models to see how they would run. For example, changes to staffing, patient capacity, extra surgeries.

On a more personal note, digital twins can be made of actual humans to replicate disorders and conditions, figuring out which care would work best for them and how best to treat them. They can test different medications to see if they would affect a patient’s specific conditions, personalising patient care plans.

4. Retail 

Retailers can use digital twins in their marketing strategies. They can create customer personas based on their clientele, then use them to upgrade their customer experience. Fashion retailers can work on clothing lines that fit their customer database better, appealing to the vast majority of their shoppers. Technology retailers can take into account what their shoppers are using their products for and evolve their tech to be able to reach those standards.

Even supermarkets can use digital twins to pick up on trends in shopping, therefore optimising their customer experiences; a great asset to have in the current pandemic! Digital twins can help to understand who is shopping for what, and when and this data can be used to make the shopping experience safer with forward planning

5. Construction

Digital twins can be used in the designing and planning of architectural structures, allowing architects to see their designs come to life, using them to figure out how the building will fair in weather conditions, with power supplies, water supplies etc. It will also be used to monitor and test new extensions, expansions and any other building work necessary.

You can also create digital twins of equipment used in construction to monitor them during construction projects, and in the same way that digital twins are used to test new equipment, this can also be applied to engineering brand new equipment itself.


Digital Twins are an incredible piece of technology than can be used in so many aspects of our lives and the progress of certain industries. The advancements in IoT industries are allowing the use of digital twins to expand hugely.

On this week’s episode of The IoT Podcast, our host – Tom White – speaks to Remco Ploeg, director of Altius/Avanade and specialist in IoT and Digital Twins. To hear more about the use of digital twins in the world of IoT, you can find all our episodes here or watch this week’s below: