It’s the buzz phrase that’s got some people annoyed and others excited, the “Digital Twin” along with “AI” and “Machine Learning” but these are not just marketing jargon but ways to package process, technology and methods to make them more easily to recognise. However when the terms can’t be agreed, and there is no definitive definition, or companies nuance meanings, then the fog descends and trust is eroded.
In the science and technology community the terminology is more about communicating the relevant areas but in the user community that leverages technology in services and applications marketing hype and hyperbole helps get attention. Yet through out history faux science and automation have been disguised and misleading. In the “Atlas of AI” by Kate Crawford she uses several demonstrations of how the unwitting public have been fooled. I like the Mechanical Turk created by Wolfgang von Kempelen which was a clever construction of mechanical parts secretly controlled by chess player.
“The Turk, also known as the Mechanical Turk or Automaton Chess Player”
So what is a Digital Twin?
“A digital twin is a virtual representation that serves as the real-time digital counterpart of a physical object or process”
Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) published a document called “The Gemini Principles” which sets out how a national twin would benefit the economic prosperity of the country. Their 2 definitions of Digital Twins are:-
- (Digital twin) A realistic digital representation of something physical.
- (National digital twin) An ecosystem of digital twins connected via securely shared data.
The purpose of the publication sets out the principles for a national digital twin by creating an ecosystem of connected digital twins.
In the built environment the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) published a document “Digital twins for the built environment”
This builds on the previous publication and sets out to try and define more parameters recognising that this sphere is still early in its development path. In a recent lunch time talk from BSI they explained it is very challenging to define standards in the early stages whilst everything is in flux.
Building Wiki has a definition of digital twin
“The term ‘digital twin’ refers to a virtual model or replica of assets, processes, systems, and other entities”
When it comes to definitive definitions of a Smart Home we discover the term as much a marketing term as a factual state.
Wikipedia’s definition for a smart home comes under the definition of Home Automation
“Home automation or domotics is building automation for a home, called a smart home or smart house”
Investopedia, a real estate investing guide, has a definition for a smart home which clearly focus on appliance automation and control.
“A smart home refers to a convenient home setup where appliances and devices can be automatically controlled remotely from anywhere with an internet connection using a mobile or other networked device”
“Is a smart home a digital twin?”
At this stage we are now trying to define two terms that are themselves not clearly defined in objective terms. This means the question cannot be answered. The question is wrong it should be:-
“can smart home technology be used to build a digital twin?”
If we accept that “Smart Home” is a marketing term used to sell the physical technology hardware, sensors, actuators, appliances, lights etc then the answer is yes. They are part required to connect the physical world to the virtual one.
In an online talk by my friend Paul Doherty “Digital Twin Master Class” he introduced the audience to the “metaverse” as a more interesting perspective not only what is possible but what is happening already and is / will superseded digital twins. It’s almost as if digital twins was yesterday’s news.
“The Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space”.
So one last thought, does it matter? When the first car was created it was termed the “horseless carriage” because it looked like one. It was only latter that the shortened version from either the Latin carrus/carrum “wheeled vehicle” or Middle English carre “two-wheeled cart” or maybe from cart.