Digital twin applications and use cases

Read on to discover how digital twins are used and implemented across industries, along with 10 inspiring real-world projects.

What are digital twins?

A digital twin is a dynamic virtual copy of a physical asset, process, system or environment that looks and behaves identically to its real-world counterpart.

Check out our explainer page to dive deeper into how digital twins help teams make more informed decisions on how they design, engineer, manufacture, sell and operate physical things – from machinery to buildings.

DT wheel

Top digital twin applications and use cases

Aerospace

Aerospace tasks are intrinsically complex. End products like aircraft and spacecraft are massively expensive to design and build, making it all the more imperative to get work done right the first time in order to avoid costly delays. From design and engineering all the way through to assembly and maintenance, digital twins improve decision-making by allowing teams to visualize and interact with computer-aided design (CAD) models and other datasets in real-time 3D.

Top use cases of digital twins in aerospace

  • Product development and prototyping3D visualization enables designers, engineers and other stakeholders to better collaborate and evaluate design and manufacturing alternatives for complex systems.
  • Simulation and training – Engaging training experiences in interactive 3D or augmented or virtual reality (AR and VR) enable better knowledge transfer and safer workplaces.
  • Maintenance and operations – Creating work instructions in mixed reality from as-built models from design and manufacturing can simplify and optimize inspection, maintenance, and repair activities. 
  • Sales and marketing Virtual showrooms and 3D product configurators empower buyers to explore every variation of aircraft and make purchasing decisions more confidently.

Boeing reimagines aircraft inspection and maintenance

Boeing created an AR-powered aircraft inspection application using a digital twin of one of its planes. The twin enabled this aerospace industry leader to generate over 100,000 synthetic images to better train the machine learning algorithms of the AR application.

 

Watch a Q&A video with Boeing

Architecture

At the start of a project, architects produce design materials, including renderings and models, to allow clients to evaluate and approve the design. The problem is there’s no shared, collaborative environment with stakeholders to make decisions in real-time. Communicating design intent during traditional reviews is a difficult process. Static 2D and 3D models cause details to be lost in translation, renderings aren’t flexible enough, and not everyone is on the same page. Digital twins solve these problems so there’s no more costly mistakes.

Top use cases of digital twins in architecture

  • Design review – Architects and designers can easily bring design models into an immersive experience in AR and VR to facilitate interactive, real-time design reviews.
  • Design visualization – Explore more design options and iterate faster, allowing for design issues to be identified and resolved more quickly.
  • On-site AR – Overlay models in 1:1 AR at scale on the jobsite to effectively communicate design intent to stakeholders.

How SHoP Architects use real-time 3D digital twins to envision skyscrapers before they're built

Award-winning architecture firm SHoP Architects and JDS Development Group, a real estate development, construction and acquisition firm, are utilizing real-time data with Unity to make decisions faster with every project stakeholder. See how a digital twin of The Brooklyn Tower, a 93-story, 1,073-foot skyscraper in New York City, saves time and money and reduces the project’s carbon footprint.

Watch the SHoP case study

Automotive

In the automotive industry, digital twins are used to simulate and test new design concepts before they are built, optimize production processes, and even predict how a vehicle will perform in different conditions. The top benefit of using digital twins for automotive OEMs is the ability to save time and money by identifying and addressing potential issues before they occur. As the industry continues to embrace this technology, it plays an increasingly important role across every workflow in the automotive lifecycle, from design and manufacturing to marketing and maintenance.

Top use cases of digital twins in automotive

  • 3D car design and product development – 3D visualization enables global collaboration and avoids delays common with traditional 3D automotive rendering software.
  • Human-machine interfaces (HMI) – Create interactive 2D and 3D user experiences for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems and digital cockpits.
  • Autonomous driving simulation – Simulate scenarios and visualize results in real-time, all within the safety of virtual worlds.
  • Training and guidance – Empower frontline workers with interactive, immersive experiences proven to increase knowledge retention and productivity.
  • Sales and marketing – Create photorealistic renders and interactive 3D configurators using your existing 3D data.

Volvo Cars revolutionizes the vehicle production lifecycle

Discover how Volvo Cars embraced digital twin technology to improve design-engineering communication and collaboration, reduce reliance on physical prototype vehicles, and create more immersive and effective buying experiences

Watch Volvo Cars reinvent the automotive industry

Construction

Faced with rampant supply chain delays, labor shortages, and inflated material costs, the stakes for builders are at an all-time high. Bad data and poor decision-making can lead to expensive delays and rework. Digital twin and AR technology allow the construction industry to optimize project data, streamline collaboration, and better visualize projects from design through to operations and maintenance. By using AR to bring valuable BIM data to the field, contractors are able to capture and communicate design errors in just a few clicks, allowing stakeholders to resolve issues quickly and avoid costly rework. 

Top use cases of digital twins in construction

  • Visualize designs in real-time – Use any mobile device to overlay building information modeling (BIM) data in the field using AR to quickly inspect design and installed conditions and stop rework in its tracks.
  • Streamlined virtual design and construction (VDC) workflows – Issues are captured in the field marked directly within the model, reducing downtime and making office-to-field communication seamless. 
  • Immersive safety training – Transform job-critical learning and training into interactive, immersive environments across key scenarios.
  • Improved project close-out and maintenance – Maintain critical model and project data that will improve digital twin operation and maintenance long after completion. 

DPR Construction leverages AR to empower field teams 

Learn more about how DPR, an ENR Top 10 Contractor, is integrating AR and immersive tech into the project lifecycle to bring valuable BIM data to the field in real-time to improve team performance and reduce rework.

Using AR to empower productivity

Energy

Energy companies generate a wealth of data, especially as operations are increasingly outfitted with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, high-definition cameras with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, and more. Digital technologies like real-time 3D can visualize this data to provide right-time insights, better-informing decisions around production, maintenance, safety and security, and optimization.

Top use cases of digital twins in energy

  • Design visualization and collaboration – Walk through sites before they are built by creating immersive experiences from BIM data.
  • Learning, training and safety – Transform job-critical learning and training into interactive, immersive environments across key scenarios.
  • Field service – Enhance quality, reliability, and speed of service while reducing error with AR-assisted maintenance and empower your employees by putting all the information they need right before their eyes.
  • Site operations and maintenance – Get insight into the design, management and performance of assets, while tracking your sites’ status remotely in real-time with a digital twin of any facility, pipeline, or physical asset.

Zutari improves design of large-scale renewable energy sites

See how Zutari, a South African engineering consultancy, is using Unity’s real-time 3D development platform to automate large-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) projects to reduce the time required to develop design-level insights and decrease costs.

Using renewable energy for a sustainable future

Infrastructure

Digital twin technology helps builders, planners, and operators across cities worldwide better understand and optimize these spaces for public use. By using advanced, interactive models and live IoT data, stakeholders are able to simulate traffic flow, mobility patterns, and even the effects of climate change and shifting landscapes surrounding key infrastructure like airports, roads, and transportation hubs. From individual facilities to smart cities, digital twins are helping owners, operators, and policy-makers manage large volumes of valuable data that will allow them to better equip our infrastructure for future demands. 

Top use cases of digital twins in infrastructure

  • Combine and visualize key datasets – Digital twins bring geospatial, model, and sensor data together to visualize spaces in real-time, giving decision-makers the data they need to optimize operations and resource allocation.
  • Simulate mobility and usage patterns – With digital twins, planners and designers are able to simulate how people, vehicles and everything else moves through a space or even an entire city, and model how they will move in an updated or changed landscape, helping to inform key decisions around design and infrastructure maintenance.
  • Improve sustainability outcomes – When IoT sensors and energy usage information are combined with model data, teams can better understand where inefficiencies exist to reduce emissions, waste and water consumption.

Making cities smart with digital twins 

According to ABI Research, more than 500 cities will deploy digital twins by 2025. Read more about how global industry leaders within the smart city movement are leveraging Unity to bring urban digital twins to life

Building smarter cities with digital twins

Government

The use of real-time 3D, extended reality (XR), and AI technologies are accelerating at a rapid pace in civilian, defense and intelligence applications. New technologies are being deployed rapidly and putting challenges on government agencies and contractors that need to stay at the forefront of cutting-edge development. Digital twins help reduce the risk, time and cost of designing, developing, deploying and supporting cutting-edge applications in simulation and training and beyond.

Top use cases of digital twins in government

  • Flight and vehicle modeling and simulation – Conduct immersive reviews and testing on aircraft, vehicles and other products to minimize costs from physical prototyping and testing.
  • Team-based situational training and machine and equipment controls training – Bring job-critical learning and training into immersive 3D and VR experiences. Accelerate time to train and knowledge retention across key skills.
  • Guided maintenance and repair – Enhance quality, reliability and speed of production and service by using extended reality to empower users with all the information they need before their eyes.

Rebuilding Tyndall Air Force Base with digital twin technology

The reconstruction of Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida after Hurricane Michael provides an opportunity to imagine what modern installations require and to rapidly undergo digital transformation. Learn how Tyndall’s digital twin is used to increase efficiency across planning, construction progress, operations, and maintenance.

Watch inspiring digital twin applications in the government sector

Luxury goods

Luxury interactive shopping is on the rise, complementing premium in-store experiences. Many luxury brands have been preparing for the future of retail for many years by creating 3D marketing experiences. Investing in this new way of selling can reduce costs and increase revenue.

Top use cases of digital twins in luxury goods

  • Real-time 3D product configurators – Create and deploy highly interactive 3D product configurators, allowing customers to explore their ideal combination.
  • Photorealistic marketing imagery – Virtualize marketing content creation pipelines to create photorealistic high-definition assets in record time and at scale.
  • Virtual try-on experiences – Give shoppers confidence in their purchase by letting them try on products virtually.
  • Virtual showrooms – Interactive 3D and VR showrooms immerse consumers in a new shopping experience. 

Globe-Trotter takes luxury shopping to new heights

Knowing traditional ways of selling products like photographs or rendered images wouldn’t be enough to turn shoppers into buyers, Globe-Trotter, a luxury travel accessories brand, delivered a more immersive experience to help their customers feel confident in purchasing high-priced custom luggage sight unseen. 

 

How Globe-Trotter took luxury shopping to new heights

Manufacturing

As emerging trends such as the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) continue to gain traction, manufacturers are using digital twin technology to transform their product lifecycle. From faster time-to-market in product development to increased productivity among frontline workers, many manufacturers are already reaping the benefits. Over 80% of companies who implemented immersive technologies identified improvements in their ability to innovate and collaborate in their production, manufacturing, and operations work phases, according to a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Unity.

Top use cases of digital twins in manufacturing

  • Factory design and layout – Optimize machine layouts, assembly flows, employee interactions, and more by spatially mapping factories. 
  • Robotics simulation – Build fundamentally safer systems by training robots in simulated environments. 
  • Operator training – Increase the efficiency of knowledge transfer with immersive, interactive training applications that maximize safety and reduce costs.
  • Monitoring, guided maintenance and repair – Transform routine, time-consuming procedures into seamless processes with remote-enabled AR technologies.

SAP shapes the future of work with Unity

Discover how SAP sees AR, VR, and mixed reality (XR) as the next user experience frontier to reinvent field and factory operations.

How SAP uses XR to reinvent business operations

Retail

Spurred on by the pandemic, the need for retailers to leverage digital twins for design, planning, operations and more has increased exponentially. The importance of engaging customers online likewise increased overnight, and retailers looked to this technology to create immersive virtual experiences to continue connecting with shoppers. Savvy retailers are embracing digital twins to enhance processes, connect with their customers in new and profound ways, and deliver compelling digital and in-store user experiences.

Top use cases of digital twins in retail

  • Design and planning – Create 3D virtual stores to visualize and simulate the optimal experience prior to construction; utilize planograms and store planning applications to maximize space, improve efficiency, and collaborate remotely.
  • Sales and marketing – From integrating 3D assets into e-commerce sites to creating virtual showrooms in VR, retailers can use digital twins to increase conversion and make purchase decisions more accurate, which limits returns and mitigates the environmental footprint of e-commerce.
  • Operations – Digital twins of product SKUs and stores can assist in the development of myriad applications to improve operational efficiency, from autonomous checkout to intelligent in-store navigation.

eBay launches AI-enabled 3D display feature for sneaker sellers 

Discover how the global commerce leader is bringing interactivity to their platform with the launch of their 3D TrueView feature for sneakers.

How eBay pioneered 3D true view technology

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