On March 17, Xinhua News Agency published an article titled From Replicating the Physical World to Influencing It: The Ideal and Reality of Digital Twins to introduce this technology and its real-life applications. In an interview, Hua Wei, a senior research fellow at Zhejiang Lab, offered a detailed explanation for the application scenarios and development trends of digital twins.
A digital twin is a digital replica in the virtual world that grows and changes together with its physical entity. The achievement of this technology, carrying the possibility of improving lives, represents an in-depth integration of digital technologies and the advanced development of the digital economy.
Digital twins originated in industrial manufacturing. When developing new products, manufacturers often had to repeatedly go through the processes of design, prototyping, assembly, and grinding. Sometimes a tiny dimensional change of a component might have a knock-on effect and cause huge losses for the manufacturer.
Can we reduce risks through more simplified procedures and more accurate predictions? “A classic case comes from aircraft manufacturing,” said Hua Wei. Digital twin technology has already been applied at every step, from component design, assembly, functional testing, and fatigue testing to production, operation, and maintenance. It is now possible for engineers to not only see products’ external changes, but also dynamically observe products’ internal components.
In a digital twin city, the operation of infrastructure such as water, electricity, and transportation facilities, and the deployment of municipal resources such as police forces, medical resources, firefighting resources, and traffic reports, will all be collected through sensors, cameras, and digital subsystems. The data will then be transferred to the cloud via the Internet of Things (IoT), including 5G, to form an optimal solution for city planning, visualize city governance, and provide more individualized public services.
The application of digital twin technology needs the support of massive amounts of data, which is the “raw material” for making digital twins. With better data, we will get more satisfying results. However, at present, we are still looking for further breakthroughs in technologies that can be used to collect such data, including advanced sensors, deep learning, and simulation, as well as technologies that can support massive data computing, such as cloud computing and edge computing.
As a comprehensive and integrated technology, digital twin technology will lead the future of human-cyber-physical integration and motivate the IT industry chain to start a new round of development. The city governance model used in digital twin cities, which is efficient across different districts, different departments, and different industries, is expected to reform our multi-channel and fragmented urban governance system.
Link: Zhejiang Lab Research Team for the Virtual Training Grounds of Driverless Cars
Zhejiang Lab is working on a project to develop a virtual training system for intelligent driverless cars. Through virtual reality and digital twin technology, the system will be able to generate a highly realistic simulation of the real world and use sensors to perceive the world. With a focus on virtual testing and virtual training, the two different priorities of driverless cars, the research team studies the modelling and simulation of highly realistic scenes, the perception simulation of these vehicles, and the methods of virtual testing and training, so as to provide open virtual platforms for driving algorithms to test their road safety and train their intelligent driving capabilities.