January 9, 2020

The Contextual Digital Twin

Digital Twin
Expert Insights
John Murray
Product Manager

Adopting changes often requires more than unlocking doors

The most obvious are physical things, literal obstructions preventing you from getting any further. Or perhaps there’s no barrier, but there is a guard who needs to see a pass or ID before you can go any further. But what about the less obvious ones? You may have all the right documentation, the door is open but…well, it’s a bit of a maze in there; perhaps it’ll just be easier to travel on the usual path. Or perhaps upon showing your pass, you’re presented with some form of transport which looks complicated, expensive and fragile. Again, maybe best just to do it the old way.

I could probably add another, ‘habit’: the tendency to continue in the same direction, rather than turn in to the room, but I don’t want to mix metaphors too much and have you arriving on a super-tanker.

The point is this: adopting changes often requires more than unlocking doors or issuing new IDs. At the risk of labouring this analogy too much, the same issues exist in the digital sphere.

The digital twin concept offers great potential if its adoption is carefully considered, which in turn allows for any benefits to be realised incrementally. This isn’t an ‘all or nothing’ proposition. However, as we explored in our discussion of technological frames, neither is a digital twin something that can be bought, installed and forgotten about. This is necessary not only to ensure that the barriers just discussed are removed, but it also enables the full potential of the resource to be considered and planned for.

What’s needed is a contextual digital twin. A contextual digital twin is one which enables organisations to evolve or transform their operations without unwittingly erecting barriers to adoption. In order to do this, the contextual digital twin needs to display five key characteristics.

Routinely available:
The required information should be available as a matter of course, whether the user is off-site and restricted to a hand-held device or in a dedicated facility.

Secure:
This and the previous point are both interleaved and contradictory. The best form of security is to restrict, but this obviously runs counter to the ‘routinely available’ requirement. Equally, end-users need to feel assured that they are in a controlled environment in order to interact with the information freely.

Hardware agnostic:
Actually, ‘hardware optimised’. The interface should take advantage of the characteristics of the device being used.

Context-sensitive:

What information does this particular user require and to what end? What they require should leap out at them.

Performant:
I didn’t think of this one when talking about barriers, but a slow, inconsistent or unresponsive interface will prove every bit as effective a barrier as anything else we’ve discussed here.

These five elements need to be effectively addressed in order that the digital twin can realise its potential – however that has been defined -within an organisation. How that can be realised in practice is something that will be covered in the next blog.

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