The Future Digital Twin USA 2023 digital conference and Expo, organised by Cavendish Group International, brought together nearly 400 energy and technology professionals from 260 organisations to discuss the next steps in implanting digital twin technology, which is transforming the energy industry and many other economic sectors globally.
The online event, held on 21 September 2023, featured an impressive line-up of leading innovators and thought leaders, providing their unique perspectives on how best to deploy digital technology to create new business opportunities, drive down costs, improve efficiency and radically change working practices and workflows.
Digital Twins enable organisations to create digital replicas of physical assets, processes or systems, carry out predictive modelling and improve their operations. The potential rewards are great, but the challenges of implementation are also considerable, given the enormous shift in working and data management practices required.
However, it was clear from what experts at Future Digital Twin USA had to say that adoption is accelerating, as developers and users are increasingly able to show they can deliver on the technology’s promise. We are fast moving into a new phase of implementation, with participants now able to build on their experiences of running digital twins over a meaningful period of time.
In particular, lessons are being learned about how to apply the tech selectively, and how to start small and then scale up to reap maximum benefits for an organisation.
There is also an increased emphasis on making the tech user-friendly – vital if it is to achieve widespread uptake. That cause is being helped by the introduction of large language models, such as Chat GPT, and the application of user-friendly interfaces, such as knowledge graphs, which put data into context and facilitate data integration, sharing, and analysis.
There was plenty of advice at the event on what to do and what not to do when implementing digital twins from an impressive array of speakers, including digital experts from major energy sector players such as BP, Chevron, Chevron Philips, ExxonMobil, Shell and TotalEnergies, along with Digital Twin specialists such as Kongsberg Digital.
The event heard how digital twin technology was taking off, but that more needed to be done to encourage further uptake.
Shane McArdle, CEO of digital twin developer Kongsberg Digital explained:
“The challenge used to be getting digital on the C suite agenda. That's largely been done – projects are being implemented and digital spend is increasing, because people know that it makes you more competitive. Four years ago, I'd say we at were onboarding tens of users a month, this year, we’ve been doing 2,000 users a month.
“But everything can fall apart if you don't get the users to adopt. Change can seem scary, and people may not think they have the time to change, so you have to make it as easy as possible to adopt this technology.”
Here's what some of the other panellists at Future Digital Twin USA 2023 told the event:
Oscar Abbink, Director Energy Technology & Innovation, S&P Global told the event:
“Digital Twins are crucial enablers for the energy transition. Energy efficiency, fuel management, optimized logistics and GHG emission reduction are all being improved by insights provided by the technology. I think the energy transition in view of its complexity simply won't happen without digital twins.”
Maisa Monteiro Da Cunha, Digital and Data Engine Lead, TotalEnergies, stressed the need to put people first, when adopting digital innovations:
“Sometimes there is a disconnect between the senior management’s ideas and the real needs of users. It is really important to keep in mind that we are developing these products for people that are at the front line of our operations, people who are really technical, so it is normal to be faced with some sort of reticence from them. Change management is an important topic and should always be taken into account before deployment of any tool.”
Mark Enzer, Strategic Advisor at Mott MacDonald and former Head of the UK’s National Digital Twin programme, said that data needed to be valued in the same way as other commodities:
"Putting a value on data and getting it onto the balance sheet could super-charge digital transformation and help drive the adoption of connected digital twins. If a dollar value is put on data, then conversations around it instantly change. It stops just being just an issue for the techies and suddenly becomes something of real interest in the boardroom.”