What is a Digital Twin?

What is a Digital Twin and what is the difference to a regular simulation model?

A digital twin is the digital representation of the relevant aspects of an arbitrary real system. The digital twin describes not only the geometry and static properties but also dynamic properties and behaviours under different boundary conditions, configurations and environmental conditions. Suitable simulation models can also be part of a digital twin. In contrast to pure simulation models, however, the digital twin is connected to the actual real system and data is exchanged bilaterally between the real system and the digital twin. As a result, for example,

  • the digital twin can be continuously updated and adapted with data from the real environment and the operation, or
  • decisions and control actions within the operation of the real system can be continuously supported by information from the digital twin.

If the live connection is only done unidirectionally, e.g. by updating the digital model live with data from the physical system, one talks about a Digital Shadow.

A digital twin is located at the level of information in the DIKW pyramid. With this the digital twin only provides relevant information for valid decisions and (predictive) control actions but does not execute the control. In the sense of control theory, a digital twin provides only the "plant model" but not the controller itself.


Last update on 2022-03-03 by Andreas Kuhn.

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