Application Areas

Applications of digital twins can be characterised by their granularity (whole system or only a pump), usage (maintenance of a pump), or the lifecycle (in a design process or in operation).

Digital twins can be applied to many different use cases, whether they’re complex or simple, broad or narrow in functionality, or meeting the needs of many stakeholders or just a few. To grasp this multitude of application areas, it helps to characterise digital twins by granularity (whole system or only a pump), usage (maintenance of a pump), or the lifecycle (in a design process or in operation).

It’s important to keep track of how you’re developing and using digital twins to ensure you can reuse components, increase value and ROI, and communicate clearly about your investments.

We often use three angles (hierarchy, usage, and lifecycle phase) to differentiate and position digital twins:

Lifecycle phase

However, there are other angles you can use to categorise digital twins, like input data types or stakeholder viewpoints. It’s important to select relevant angles to fit the situation.

Areas by hierarchy

By differentiating digital twins across hierarchical areas, you can show the level of detail of the twin and place it in context of its underlying components and the overarching process or system it’s part of.

Digital twin experts look at hierarchy in different ways. There are hierarchies that span seven levels (such as the digital twin cube of internet of things (IoT) Analytics), but we like to start with three hierarchy levels:

  • Asset

  • Process

  • System

This also means that digital twins can be integrated. For example, a process twin can consist of several integrated asset twins.

Areas by usage

On a more functional level, digital twins can be applied to different usage areas. We differentiate these areas in line with the Gartner staircase as described in digital twin maturity models and our underlying concepts. Next to maturity, this model indicates areas of functional use for digital twins. Digital twins can be used to describe the physical world, but can also predict or even transform it.

Areas by lifecycle phase

Physical assets, processes, and systems have a lifecycle that can be split into phases. This lifecycle includes an investment phase focusing on long term scenarios, design, build and deployment, and operational costs for day-to-day operations, maintenance, monitoring and control, and optimisation. Digital twins can be applied in all areas, from exploration to decommissioning.