Principal Research Scientist, Sociotechnical Systems Research Center
Director, Systems Engineering Advancement Research Initiative
MIT Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC)
Envision a future where every product has a digital equivalent. This is already a reality for some products and systems, such as jet aircraft, wind turbines, and commercial ships. This digital replica, or Digital Twin, radically changes how products are designed, maintained and operated. Rather than using traditional documents and drawings, a product emerges as a result of weaving the digital thread of models, data and knowledge. Once operational, any upgrades or maintenance activities are conducted first in the digital twin, tested and validated, and then implemented in the product. And with the availability of big data and the science of visual analytics, real-time analysis of behavior can be used to make operational decisions regarding the product. Under this new paradigm, the digital twin possesses all of the encoded knowledge concerning the product from its inception to current use?and this inverts the relative value of model and product. A competitor can re-engineer a product to some degree, but possessing a digital twin allows it to be replicated exactly. The most valuable IP, then, becomes the digital twin rather than the products themselves. This brings into question whether the digital model exists independently of the physical product, as a ?ghost in the machine?, or that model and product co-exist, essentially as conjoined twins. Many benefits arise from this coupling, including efficiencies and effectiveness. The promise of the digital twin means that competitive advantage will go to those who eliminate the ghosts in the portfolio, by treating assets as the inseparable coupling of the product with its digital twin.