Digital Twin accelerator, powering industry 4.0

John Milligan

John Milligan

Associate Consultant, Emerging Technologies

Digital Twin accelerator, powering industry 4.0

Digital Twin systems enables organisations across multiple industries to extend asset life, manage systems and improve efficiency. ARQ have been working closely with the water utility industry to develop and deploy a Digital Twin system.

In this post we’ll explain why these emerging technologies are so exciting, and beneficial to so many organisations.

Digital Twins: Bridging the Digital & Physical Worlds

A digital twin is in essence a digital replica of a system, including its physical elements. It is to IoT (Internet of Things) what Excel Charts was to raw table data. A human centered, easy to understand representation that helps to rapidly drive decisions. An example many are likely familiar with is Google Maps or Uber, which report to the user where on the road their transportation is.

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These digital representations of real-world systems can be anything from a small smart home setup, a large factory production line or even making a city’s infrastructure ‘smart’. In a smart home, Digital Twins can reduce energy bills, ensure the house is kept in comfortable temperature conditions and more around the clock, all without human interaction. In an industry setting, Digital Twins can significantly reduce operational costs. Fundamentally driven by sensors in an interconnected system, a digital twin has the potential to increase productivity, efficiency, automation and more. Just as powerfully, the substantial growth in data provided by these sensors that was previously unavailable provides enormous opportunity to generate new insights and drive further innovation, backed up by hard data.

ARQ is helping businesses grow through Digital Twins

Digital Twins have the potential to greatly improve both the day to day and long-term operations and the experiences a service, business, or product can achieve. However, there’s a perception that they are complex long-term engagements that require multi-year, multi-million-dollar investments to achieve a return on investment. The perception may be accurate if attempting to develop an all-encompassing digital twin system, so it isn’t surprising some businesses may be hesitant to invest in this area, even with such fantastic potential. However, this doesn’t need to be the case. ARQ provides an accelerated digital twin solution, what we call a ‘Twin In A Box’. By keeping a narrow focus for the digital twin, it is far easier and cost effective to develop, deploy and begin gaining a return on the investment. Both large and even the smallest of organisations can use Digital Twins to gain a competitive advantage and make a big impact – when effective and targeted choices are made.

North East Water engaged ARQ to improve the efficiency of their operations. Rather than attempting to transform their entire network, together we researched which area to initially target to bring them the most value. For North East Water’s network, it was their sewer pumps. Their standard operations were nearly entirely reactive; they would only be aware of an issue with their pumps after they had occurred. Instead of requiring a call out to an engineer at 2 am on a Saturday to resolve a problem, with ARQ’s partnership North East Water could foresee, plan and fix the issue at 2 pm on a Friday. Likewise, without any real time information on their pump’s conditions, maintenance would simply be scheduled on regular intervals, not necessarily when or if it was needed.

With ARQ’s accelerated digital twin, North East Water effectively have a set ‘eyes’ on the ground. This real time data enables the North East Water to determine in advance where and when maintenance of individual pumps is actually required. These are only two examples of the many advantages a single implementation our accelerated digital twin solution can provide. With our ‘Twin In A Box’ solution, we are confident many businesses can achieve a return on investment in as little as six months.

ARQ Loves Innovation

The Emerging Technology team loves the adoption of this technology so much, that they are even using it at home. An ARQ team member has a fully connected smart house that they developed. While fantastic, achieving such a comprehensive, interconnected and bespoke system was not an easy task.

Smart House

The smart house system provides many benefits including cost and energy savings from intelligent and automated air conditioning and climate systems which have saved them upwards of 30% on their energy bills.

A digital twin with a focused capability not only accelerates gaining benefits but can also serve as a foundation for future capabilities. Both our ARQ team member and North East Water are able to build on top of their existing system, and when deploying future capabilities onto a system that is already providing value, the cost in time, resources and complexity are all effectively lowered.

The Nuts & Bolts of Digital Twin Technologies

At ARQ, we implement digital twins using a hybrid design system, from edge to cloud. Operating with cloud and local servers and computation (edge) allows for rapid responses, even when internet connections are interrupted and/or if required for critical areas, such as emergency or safety applications.

Artificial Intelligence integration helps a improve efficiency, which is already providing enormous value in the previously mentioned engagement with North East Water. Through ARQ’s ‘Twin In A Box’ solution, North East Water have achieved an 80% accuracy for advanced warnings. Driven by these accurate predictions, North East Water is more efficient and better able to plan operators shifts.

We also approach data with easy-to-understand simple 3D visualisations, providing a far more intuitive experience compared to SCADA systems. SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) is a category of software applications for controlling industrial processes. However, even with more specialist knowledge these are often not the most user-friendly systems.

SCADA Systems

Below is an example of a SCADA Alarm alert, versus that of a Digital Twin incident. As you can see even in this simple example how limited the information is, and more importantly, it doesn’t provide the user any real insights. The digital twin is the inverse, more actual data that is also armed with potential insights about said data.

SCADA Alarm

Data on its own is ultimately useless, these more intuitive systems open the data and the insights it brings to everyone. Designing with greater usability in mind ultimately benefits everyone, including specialists.

Digital Twin

With that said, we can build these upon an existing SCADA system if a business already has one in operation, along with their existing sensors or Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and have this work within security boundaries. (Programmable Logic Controllers are the hardware that picks up the information from the real world, in use within multiple industries for decades).

Accessible and Reliable

ARQ and our ‘Twin In A Box’ solution also works closely with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud platform, providing greater portability and accessibility by providing users to access our accelerated Digital Twin systems anywhere, and on any device. 

At ARQ we explore, develop, and deploy these cutting-edge technologies in our own offices. The ARQ Officetwin allows us to put into practice the benefits of a digital twin, and acting as a test bed for continuous discovery work in real world conditions.

ARQ’s Digital Twin Vision

Our aim is to make these technologies more accessible to Australian organisations based on the learnings we’ve seen in the North American and European markets. The core of our approach in achieving this quite simple, namely by keeping a narrow focus a digital twin is far easier and more cost effective to develop, deploy and begin gaining a return on the investment. ARQ is shifting this landscape in Australia from playing in innovation, to solving real world problems, through new applications of existing and emerging technologies.

This doesn’t just benefit individual projects but enables our fundamental methodology to be far more easily transferable and repeatable across different engagements. This efficient and cost-effective approach benefits both ARQ and our client partners, enables rapid development, providing far more immediate value, reducing the cost, and streamlines the deployment of any future capabilities.

ARQ’s ‘Digital Twin In A Box’, provides an end to end implementation for one use case on a scalable platform, to rapidly achieve a return on investment, and build a business case for further strategic adoption. It is difficult to state just how much opportunity there is across numerous industries and applications to bridge the physical and digital worlds. ARQ is delivering this opportunity better, faster and more efficiently, and we want to help more companies, organisations and people, join us in this exciting and evolving landscape.

We would like to thank Yuchong Li, James Litjens and the rest of the Digital Twin team for their amazing contribution to this project.

If you wish to know more about how your organisation can benefit from Digital Twins, feel free to contact us at emerging.technologies@arq.group

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