Digital Twin Consortium pursues open source collaboration

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The digital twins promise to bring digital transformation to various industries by harmonizing data flows between applications and users. However, this interest has also led to the growth of various trade groups, standards bodies and consortia to ensure interoperability. The concern is that raising so many standards could slow adoption significantly.

These concerns form the backdrop to last month’s announcement by the Digital Twin Consortium (DTC) of a significant open source effort to facilitate digital twins collaborating between different groups on open source projects, open source code and software. open source guarantees to meet this Tower of Babel.

Digital twins provide a way to unify data across many applications and user types for larger projects. But the industry has faced application and data silos. Open standards should facilitate the development of applications covering these silos. Some of the biggest challenges include the lack of a standard definition of what a digital twin is, integrating back-end data sources, and providing a standard information model.

A recent survey created under the auspices of Industrial Internet Consortium, a DTC liaison, has identified at least eight different industry-wide efforts working on various aspects of digital twin standards. These groups are working to address various elements of digital twin interoperability in various end use cases. But their efforts have been siled and various elements relating to open code, open specifications or an open development model still need to be addressed.

Organizations driving digital twin technologies include:

  • Innovation Institute for Clean Energy and Smart Manufacturing (CESMII)
  • Digital Twin Consortium (DTC)
  • GAIA-X
  • Industrial Digital Twins Association (IDTA)
  • Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC)
  • Open Industry 4.0 Alliance
  • Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP)
  • Industry 4.0 platform

Typically, participants in standards groups today hope to go beyond just sharing code and creating open source content and data. That’s according to David McKee, CTO / founder of Slingshot Simulations and co-chair of the Digital Twin Consortium.

McKee told VentureBeat that government agencies are set to open up large datasets. But these efforts exist independently and often without reference to the tools and technologies actually used to generate or read the relevant data.

“This initiative highlights the need to bring them together to generate value [and] showing how digital twins are built on data using tools to read that data and also generate new data for decision making, ”McKee said.

Participants also hope that this effort will more easily weave together various new technologies that come with their own active communities of developers and end users, rich sets of tools and methodologies, as well as advanced standardization efforts and tools. open source for domains and industries.

Improved collaboration is expected to reduce barriers to adoption, Dr Said Tabet, chief architect of Dell Technologies’ CTO’s office, told VentureBeat. “Open source collaboration will accelerate the adoption of digital twins that today rely on enabling technologies such as AI, modeling and simulation, IIoT and Edge, 5G and high performance computing,” a- he declared.

Interoperability 2.0

Until now, the various groups of digital twins have focused on standards, but standards need activation software that runs on all platforms. Improved collaboration could boost the digital twin industry, like the Interop conferences. Internet adoption.

In the mid-1980s, the telecommunications industry seemed poised to adopt the Open System Interconnect standards advocated by telecommunications companies. Meanwhile, another group began to experiment with a much lighter set of protocols based on the evolution of local area network technologies called TCP / IP. The promoters organized Interop conferences to show how their equipment could work together on a common backbone connected via open source software.

Likewise, the development of open source collaboration for digital twins could lead to the practical adoption of approaches that rely on different tools that interact today, rather than creating oversized specifications that are too complicated to work. together.

Finding the right balance

Digital Twin Consortium CTO Dan Isaacs told VentureBeat that the group strives to strike the right balance between interoperability and keeping projects simple and scalable. A significant problem has been to eliminate all “open source” proposals that include requirements to purchase proprietary items.

The group believes open source projects can be more flexible and respond faster than their closed counterparts. With open source, there is a significant number of developers and practitioners available. Additionally, open source culture can increase one’s desire to build and contribute significantly, as evidenced by Linux or the various Apache projects.

The DTC is also in the process of establishing branches around the world with strong links to universities, local governments and private industry. It has also developed its relationships with other organizations such as the Linux Foundation, Fiware and others.

“These and other ongoing activities serve to further drive adoption and showcase both the value of the digital twin in terms of open source implementations and open source standards requirements,” said Isaacs.

Perilous path with promise

Gartner vice president and analyst Peter Havart-Simkin told VentureBeat that, for now, all existing digital twin standards are proprietary in one way or another. “There is no multi-vendor open standard for a digital twin that can be used by third parties, and there is currently no open multi-vendor digital twin integration framework,” he said.

According to Havart-Simkin’s estimate, digital twins exist either as models for a particular vendor’s asset or as a set of enabling technologies that allow users to create their own digital twins. In many cases, digital twins exist buried in platforms such as IoT platforms or in enterprise applications such as asset performance management (APM).

The industry lacks a digital twin app store where companies could purchase a digital twin model of an asset they own (for example, a pump on an oil refinery). This could be possible with the advent of an agreed set of standards for digital twins including a definition language for digital twins. It would also require a framework where digital twins from multiple vendors can be combined to define the digital twin of a composite asset – for example, by allowing the combination of a digital twin of a vendor’s brake system with another’s gearbox in a larger digital twin of a car.

A big concern is the ownership of intellectual property assets. This could lead to restrictions on the ability for third parties to create digital twins of assets they haven’t built. This, in turn, could raise the age-old problems of walled gardens.

Havart-Simkin also believes that the industry is currently suffering from too many proprietary approaches, although over time it may make sense for digital twin standards efforts to align with vertical markets, such as turbines or the buildings.

In the meantime, the current DTC effort is promising, says Havart-Simkin. He said he has a very large global membership which, to a large extent, will prevent some vendors from attempting to hijack the proposed standards to their own advantage.

Membership in the Digital Twin Consortium is extensive – it includes Ansys, Autodesk, Bentley, Dell, GE Digital, Microsoft and many more. The real key here, Havart-Simkin points out, is the breadth of involvement and membership of the Digital Twin Consortium.

“There is absolutely no doubt that driving towards open source, open data and open specifications is the only way it will benefit all developers and vendors and all end user organizations wishing to build their own.” , Havart- says Simkin.

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