Everyone is talking about digital twin technology, but what are its most practical applications and benefits for water utilities? Let’s take a look.
What is a digital twin? A digital twin brings together data and an operational model to help operators understand how a physical asset, process or system should be performing. It helps to provide insights and predict performance under changing conditions, which ultimately helps water utilities increase productivity and efficiency.
Essentially, in a digital twin data is integrated to detect and diagnose anomalies, test different scenarios, and predict outcomes specific to those scenarios. In comparison, traditional models for simulating infrastructure can be costly to build and don’t readily assimilate live data.
Today, sophisticated machine learning tools can better represent infrastructure by automatically calibrating to match historical data.
Digital twin technology delivers benefits at four levels for water utilities:
At its most basic level, a digital twin shows operators what is happening within an asset, process or system right now. At this level, operators must take action based on their visibility of current operations.
At this level, the digital twin is capable of processing variables to predict an outcome, but it still requires the operator to manually optimize the asset, process or system.
In more sophisticated applications, the digital twin generates multiple scenarios and provides operational recommendations to achieve set performance indicators. The operator then chooses a course of action based on these recommendations.
When combined with decision support systems and water system expertise, the digital twin has the potential to deliver autonomous, optimized control, freeing up operators to focus on other tasks.
Ultimately, a digital twin is an enabling technology – not a solution – and its potential is only realized in how the data is applied.
In the more sophisticated applications described above, digital twin technology is coupled with advanced data science, hydroinformatics and water system expertise to create a powerful decision support system. This “supercharged” digital twin sets utilities up to meet their communities’ needs reliably, affordably, and sustainably.
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- The role digital twin technology can play in optimizing operations.
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