You may have heard the term digital twin thrown around in the news or on the Internet lately. It’s an idea that’s steadily grown in popularity as larger companies have adopted the idea. And, since many of these large companies are estimating that digital twins will begin affecting small businesses over the next few years, it’s something that we should be talking about.

That is what we hope to accomplish in today’s article. We will break down what a digital twin is, how they are currently being used today, and what this could mean for the future of technology, industry, and business practices.

Digital Twins: The Business Practice of the Future?

A digital twin is a digital replica of a physical thing. This could be a building or product, or even something as large as a city. Basically, the physical object is built by specialists in a program. They work to perfect the physics of the object. As time goes on, they are able to predict problems that could arise within it, including design faults.

Essentially, close observation of whatever is replicated allows developers to eliminate issues before they come up. And it allows for future planning to happen in a much quicker timeframe.

A Background in Space

The idea for digital twins originally came from NASA. They first conceptualized the idea around 2002. They wanted to be able to repair and maintain systems that were not within proximity.

In fact, one of the most early concepts of digital twins happened during the Apollo 13 disaster when simulations still on Earth were used to help the astronauts in space.

Since that time, technology has accelerated in a way that the space program is incredibly interested in. By creating simulations first and vetting those out, they save an enormous amount of time and resources by building something that will work on the first try.

The Importance of Digital Twins

As we’ve seen for NASA, digital twins will help increase the efficiency of production and organization. They are invaluable for planning and may also increase safety on job sites. Not to mention the potential effects it could have on the world of medicine.

There are many larger companies that have already implemented digital twin technology. For example, General Electric, Siemens, and IBM have all used the technological solution as a way of testing systems and improving services.

Digital Twins in Practice

The ways that companies are using digital twins in the workplace are as unique as they are innovative. Formula 1 car racing teams have used them to see how they can quickly make improvements to a vehicle to make it run better in the shortest amount of time.

The city of Singapore has a digital twin. For city planners, the option of taking an existing city to see what improvements can theoretically be made is an incredible opportunity.

Many hospitals have looked into the technology as a way of allowing surgeons to practice procedures on a digital replica of their patient. Clearly, the possibilities are just about endless.

Does This Matter for Small Businesses?

As you may have already guessed, digital twin technology is currently out of reach for many small businesses on a tight budget. That doesn’t mean that small business owners should disregard their prominence, however.

In 2017, Gartner named digital twins in its Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for the year. The International Data Corporation has said that by 2022, 70% of manufacturers will be using digital twins. And as the technology continues to spread, it will become more widely accessible for businesses both large and small.

The bottom line is, while the systems may seem out of reach for right now, it’s still important to be aware of where they are leading. As time goes on, they will most likely become more relevant and commonplace.

Current Digital Twin Alternatives

If you think your business could one day benefit from digital twin technology, there are a few, more moderate alternatives available. Cloud Product Lifecycle Management (Cloud PLM) can help with internal teams as they manage production between several people or departments.

They are able to collaborate and track product development as it happens. It helps speed the process up so that everyone is able to do their job faster, better, and production happens sooner.

Digital twins, at this moment, look like the industry standard of the future. Although they may seem like they are far away from small businesses, it’s still something to keep an eye on. It will have an effect on production, advertising, marketing and how businesses add value for their customers. Be sure to keep an eye on this trend. It certainly isn’t going away in the next few years. They may even become a regular part of the average business plan.