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Digital Twins for Complex Environments

Craig Martin

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Having recently joined this group, am I right in saying that most of the focus of digital twins is on the first and second-order problem space ie. visual, physical/tangible space? Not necessarily on the 3rd and 4th order space ie. services and ecosystems. Are there any examples of non-physical digital twin activities ie. an ecosystem like the economy, liquidity management, or reserves management? Or perhaps policy ie. the number of licenses to issue and manage to maintain economic output and sustainable environmental stocks. 

The reason I ask this is that we use system dynamics models for this type of activity. We pitch it as a digital twin for complex dynamic spaces where we model the behavior of the system to see how all the parts work together - example attached - obfuscated on purpose.

We can take these models down into the operational layers of the business as well, but always with the focus on behavior over time, causation, unintended consequences, and virtuous and vicious cycles of reinforcement and balancing. 

You can automate these environments and also attach sensors to input data and have it behave in a multi-agent manner. You can also use process mining to close the feedback loops into the SD models. 

So - from this community's perspective, would this still be classified as a digital twin? 




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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Craig, 

The discussion on LaurenMcG's thread regarding definition of digital twins is pertinent to your question.

If we generalise the definition from ISO 23247-1 you would get:

"fit for purpose digital representation of an observable element with synchronisation between the element and its digital representation"

However, this is where it gets messy because the scope of "synchronisation" is ambiguous. For example, some will say that for a digital twin to exist the connection between the digital twin and the observable entity (the twinned thing) must be near-real time, i.e., a change in the digital twin results in an immediate input to the twinned thing. This gives the appearance of the digital twin acting as part of a control system.

Work by AMRC on untangling the requirements of a digital twin proposes that the synchronisation between the observable entity and the digital twin via a live (but not necessarily always on) digital coupling should be proportionate, i.e. it is sufficiently timely for the use case(s) that the twin has been instantiated to support.  AMRC also propose that a functional output id required from the digital twin rather than requiring a direct digital connection back to the observable entity. This is a pragmatic approach as observable changes may be slow therefore not necessitating near-real time connectivity, and there may be safety and security reasons why the functional output needs to be reviewed by a suitably qualified and experienced person before changes are made to the observable entity or its environment. 

So in essence you could create a digital representation of any systems, natural or constructed, physical or non-physical. Whether or not it is a digital twin depends as much on how you intend to use it and the mechanisms by which the digital representation  is able to influence, or effect change to, the observable entity. As noted in the other thread:

"Simulation: use of a similar or equivalent system to imitate a real system, so that it behaves like or appears to be the real system" [SOURCE: ISO 16781:2021, 3.1.9]

One might observe that many of the graphics heavy applications that are currently being promoted as "digital twins" are in essence only simulations as they are not being synchronised via a live digital coupling.

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