A “Google Maps” for your asset– a simplified analogy to understand the digital twin concept and possibilities

A “Google Maps” for your asset– a simplified analogy to understand the digital twin concept and possibilities

January 28, 2022
Time to read: 8 minutes
Morten Hansen

In a previous article, I outlined how the energy industry is here to stay but needs to operate more efficiently. In the article, one of the key enablers for change was digitalisation and the use of a digital twin. From the  commentary, this was a new concept for some and so in this article, I hope to give a grounding on what a digital twin is.

When describing a digital twin, a common term used is “a virtual representation of a physical asset”. The history of digital twins can be traced back to the early days of NASA space exploration, 50 years ago, with the Apollo 13 mission where a crew back in Houston worked with physical twins to develop life-saving solutions for the crew of the Apollo 13 capsule.

At Kongsberg Digital, we take the digital twin definition a step further, when we say it is “a complete virtual replica of your facility and its dynamic behaviour, in its environment”. Beyond the visualization, we see a twin as a range of solutions that can be customized offering improved performance and collaboration.

According to Yuri Sebregts, Chief Technology Officer at Shell, on a recent interview about “Three ways to thrive through the digital and energy transitions”, a digital twin allows a business to “reduce the carbon intensity of emissions, the energy consumption and the operational costs of an entire facility.”

To help to explain the concept, I am going to use the example of Google Maps main functionalities for the users, which are:

  1. Provide an online map of a certain location with different visualization possibilities.
  2. Offer relevant information about places – like stores and touristic attractions.
  3. Help the user to plan a route and reach the desired destination using real-time traffic updates and insights on the best route.
  4. Possibility to enable autonomous functions.

1. Visualization – “the physical asset” and the “virtual representation”

As an evolution of traditional printed maps, Google Maps is a web mapping that offers 2D street maps, 3D and 360 street maps, satellite imagery and aerial photography of a physical location. The map can be accessed from a desktop, tablet or mobile phone from anywhere through the internet.

As you can see above, we have different view possibilities of Central London region including Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye and Trafalgar Square.

On an energy asset context, we see it as a visualization function offered by digital twins. It means you have a replica of the facility where different users can visualize it from different locations and devices. They can see a copy of the asset and all equipment and can navigate through it. On daily operations, it can help an offshore worker to easily find a pipe that requires maintenance.

2. Relevant related information

On Google Maps, information  about a store or touristic attraction is mapped by the business owner, admin and, in some cases, the users. For example, Big Ben is identified, and associated information is displayed on the above satellite layer. In addition, users can find contact information, working hours and link to the official website.

Making a parallel with the energy industry, a digital twin allows operators to find other relevant information that is integrated and contextualized from different systems. Users can check related documents, like work orders, P&IDs and images. We call it Data Integration.

3. Route planning using real-time data and insights

Now you know the location and have access to other relevant information, but still don’t know how to get there, how to move from one point to another. Google Maps can help you with that suggesting a route.  

But what should you do if the traffic is intense at a specific time? Is that route still the best?

Using spatial and IoT device data, real-time information such as traffic and queues can be mapped. Travel directions are modelled, and the user can create bespoke alternatives. It means the user can find the best route according to the needs and priorities, like the shortest time or distance, or even decide to take a different transportation method like cycling instead of driving.

In the above, St. James Park underground station is identified. Information on the train line routes, the real-time and predicted number of users of the station, and real-time notice of any delays on the train lines are displayed. Different walking routes from Big Ben near Westminster to Buckingham Palace are displayed and new routes are also created by the user with the associated impact on the route time.

The users of a digital twin also have access to real-time data what allows dynamic monitoring. For a maintenance team, it means a complete overview of simultaneous operations and increased safety.

Through modelling and AI, the digital twin can also suggest “the best route”. The user can simulate different equipment settings and get insights on which option would be the ideal one to reach the desired performance

4. Autonomous operation

The coming shift to autonomous driving will use inputs from the data in the digital twin to operate equipment for autonomous driving uses.

As KONGSBERG have already demonstrated in maritime use, our technology including the digital twin is a key part of the roadmap to autonomous and unmanned operation.

In the energy industry, this transition has been generally conservative to date but there are signs that recent shifts driven by the COVID-19 crisis, for example in remote working, will be a catalyst for change.

Enough about Google Maps, what about the digital twin in the energy industry….

Many can think of Google Maps as a simple online map but it gains power in its additional functionality, for example in how it helps you to be on time for an appointment, to take the shortest way and save fuel, spend less money on train tickets when taking a smarter route or enabling a robot to deliver food to your home.

The same happens with the Kognitwin® Energy digital twin, where, beyond visualizing the asset, it facilitates smarter decision-making through:

  1. Collaboration, leading to accelerated organizational adoption and digital transformation
  2. More advanced degrees of analytics, i.e. predictive, prescriptive and autonomy

To find out more about what a dynamic digital twin is and how it works, watch the Kognitwin Energy explained video.

Or start using this?

Brian Carey is a Strategic Growth Director with Kongsberg Digital, with past roles in engineering, technology, projects and finance. Brian is currently based in Europe and has previously worked on projects in Brunei, Japan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Qatar and Canada.

About the author

 A “Google Maps” for your asset– a simplified analogy to understand the digital twin concept and possibilities

Morten Hansen

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