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What is a Digital Twin? Building a smarter, safer and more sustainable reality
Jun 24, 2022
3d art of a map projected on wall

With digital twins estimated to accelerate time to market by as much as 50 percent, it's no surprise that this technology is the main topic of conversations in companies across multiple sectors. Industry leaders such as the Orlando Economic Partnership and Globetrotter are just two out of many companies that are already deploying digital twins to get their businesses ready for the future. 

Some have made the shift, but many are still in the early stages of learning what exactly a digital twin is, how it works, and why it's important.

Below we share a few insights from our latest e-book, The What, Why and How of Digital Twins. We dive into what a digital twin is, how they work, and what a future built with digital twins looks like. Want access to the full e-book to learn about how Unity-powered digital twins are helping the world build a smarter, safer, and more sustainable reality? Read on to the end of this article. 

If you're ready to jumpstart your digital twin transformation, connect with one of our digital twin experts, or check out Unity Industry, our purpose-built solution for industry developers, artists and engineers.

What is a digital twin and how does it work?

A digital twin is a dynamic virtual replica or “twin” of a physical asset, process, system or environment that appears and behaves identically to its real world counterpart. They enable cross-functional teams to collaboratively design, build, test, deploy, and operate complex systems in interactive and immersive ways.

Digital twins work by connecting real-world assets with real-world data to virtually visualize movements, forces, and interactions that the asset can undergo in the physical world. This allows users to engage with dynamic content that is three-dimensional and responsive to their actions in real time. In this virtual environment, users can effectively simulate real-world conditions, what-if scenarios, and virtualize the outcomes instantly on any platform, including mobile devices, computers, and augmented, mixed, and virtual reality (AR/MR/VR) devices.

Why are companies adopting digital twin technology?

Design and engineering teams across industries including manufacturing and architecture are increasingly using 3D visualization to design in more immersive and interactive ways. However, once the product is manufactured or the infrastructure project is completed, these teams have limited visibility into the possible performance outcomes and potential future issues of their physical creations.

With the deployment of a digital twin, adopters are able to bridge the gap between design and usage - unlocking the full power of data to uncover a whole world of insight. These insights enable companies to understand the past, view present conditions, and prevent future problems of their physical assets.

Companies are also able to make more informed decisions across various work phases, resulting in increased cost savings. For example, having better design decisions from the start pays dividends over a project’s lifetime, as 80-90% of costs incurred during the production, use, and maintenance of a facility are determined at the design stage.

Digital twins in action

Unlocking data for better decision-making

Rethinking the meaning of digital transformation for a transportation hub, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) partnered with Unity’s custom solutions team to leverage immersive, interactive technology to build the first to market real-time 3D digital twin for an airport in North America. YVR’s digital twin of its terminal and airfield helps facility challenges such as training, optimization, testing, evaluating environmental impacts, and planning for the future - all while enabling the airport to operate without interruption. Developed with a “people-first” mindset, the digital twin offers limitless value for YVR’s front-line workers, as well as the community at large.

Reimagining urban planning

Aerial view of Paris

Vectuel, a French company providing visualization solutions, has spent more than a decade developing a digital twin that spans over 2 million existing and proposed structures on 1,000 km² of territory. Working together with city officials and architects, Vectuel’s digital twin unlocks efficiencies in visualization to improve and expedite decisions on architectural style, color, floor plans, and equipment placement - inevitably reducing downtime, construction time, errors, and overall project costs.

Visualizing concepts and results in real-time

A pioneer in safety technology, Volvo Cars isn’t stepping on the brakes when it comes to bringing interactive, immersive experiences to product development processes in the automotive industry.

From design and R&D to being used in consumer-facing applications, Volvo Cars is using digital twin experiences at every stage of the product lifecycle. By visualizing a vehicle in an immersive environment, designers and engineers can better collaborate to accelerate the iterative process and reduce costs. They can conduct research, design, modeling, prototyping, and user testing to validate ideas virtually in ways that would initially be too costly, impractical, or impossible to recreate in the real world.

Digital twins became a way for Volvo Cars’s engineers and designers to speak the same language, where everyone could see the same, complete virtual vehicle.

What does the future of digital twins look like?

As we’re moving into a new iteration of the internet, industry leaders are rapidly realizing the importance of embracing next-generation technologies to avoid being left behind. Increasingly, products, industrial machinery, factories, and infrastructure are no longer merely things in the physical world - they have accurate virtual twins.

We now see emerging trends that are built using digital twins, such as the metaverse, unlocking a new economy of countless opportunities for immersive experiences in cross-digital hybrid reality spaces, whether it’s to manage facility updates, customize a vehicle purchase or even create meaningful brand experiences for customers.


When it comes to digital twins, the sky’s the limit

Looking for more information on digital twins? Check out the full e-book below. And, discover how you can get your business ready for the future with Unity's digital twins solutions.

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