A sustainable future looms with digital twins and artificial intelligence



Article by: Cheryl Ajlouni, Keysight Technologies

One of the ways organizations can get to net zero and tackle other sustainability efforts is through the combined power of digital twins and artificial intelligence.

Sustainability is a top priority for all organizations today – for example, a third of Europe’s largest companies have pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050, According to Accenture. However, the company also found that companies must significantly accelerate their efforts over the next decade, as only 9% of companies are currently on track to achieve this goal.

One of the ways organizations can get to net zero and tackle other sustainability efforts is through the combined power of digital twins and artificial intelligence. The technologies provide companies with unparalleled insights into their operations that can then report on sustainability improvements and help them achieve climate goals. For example, digital twins can be used to test different scenarios and help companies identify the best strategies to reduce energy consumption and emissions.

Advances in technology are accelerating the adoption of the digital twin

Of course, digital twins have already been deployed in different ways. For example, helping healthcare researchers create high-resolution models of the heart, lungs, or other organs to improve clinical diagnosis, education, and training. The energy industry also offers many use cases for digital twins, including building digital models to guide oil exploration efforts in real time.

But recent technological advances in simulation and modeling capabilities, increased deployment of IoT sensors, and more widely available computing infrastructure mean that companies can increase their reliance on digital twins. And when organizations augment digital twins with AI, they can achieve additional benefits – for example, running simulations to explore “what if” scenarios and gain a deeper understanding of cause and effect.

There are many examples of how these technologies can enhance operations, including their ability to inform a greener world. With that in mind, here are some use cases that illustrate how digital twins and artificial intelligence are driving sustainability improvements across industries.

smart industry

by 2025 89% of all IoT platforms will include digital twinstransforming how industrial and manufacturing facilities operate and providing accurate insights to advance sustainability efforts. Examples include:

• Find ways to reduce energy consumption through a deeper understanding of where energy loss occurs.

• Use predictive analytics to determine how to reduce emissions by making various changes.

• Perform risk assessments to identify operational weaknesses that could lead to incidents with an environmental impact.

GE digital It is one of the organizations that pioneered the use of digital twins and artificial intelligence to improve sustainability. Through a self-tuning program, the company creates a digital twin of its gas turbines to find the ideal flame temperature and fuel splits. The technology senses changes in physical and environmental degradation in real time, facilitating automatic adjustments to ensure gas turbines operate efficiently at low emissions and sound levels. Using this technology, power plants achieved a 14% reduction in carbon monoxide and a 10%-14% reduction in nitrous oxide emissions.

smart cities

City planning, management and optimization is another area poised for transformation through the combined power of digital twins and artificial intelligence. These smart cities offer many benefits – tackling food insecurity, increasing mobility, and helping identify criminal activity to name a few. Smart cities also have a lot to offer in the form of addressing sustainability goals.

Using digital twins and artificial intelligence, city governments can understand, quantify and predict the impact of their decisions on the environment and test potential scenarios to determine the most environmentally beneficial situation.

for example, Transport for London (TfL)Digital Twins are used to collect data on noise, heat and carbon emissions through the Tube network. Before the technology was deployed, TfL staff could only inspect assets when the Tube was closed between 1am and 5am. With the real-time network access provided by the digital twin, TfL can now assess locations throughout business hours and also identify data previously undetected by the human eye, such as faults, heat points and noise. Officials believe the project will be a key component of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s goal of creating a carbon-neutral railway system by 2030.

As carbon neutrality becomes a priority for cities around the world, expect increased use of digital twins and artificial intelligence.

smart buildings

Just as digital twins and artificial intelligence can aid city sustainability efforts, they are also increasingly being used to create smart buildings. The technologies ensure that sustainability is our top priority from the start, allowing construction managers and other stakeholders to develop virtual representations that can assess the projected carbon footprint of a building during the design phase.

This was the approach the developers took when designing Hickman in London, which became the first building in the world to receive the SmartScore Platinum rating for smart buildings. During construction, the digital twin was connected to the building management system through a variety of sensors, providing an integrated view of data such as occupancy, temperature, air quality, lighting levels and energy consumption. This not only enabled developers to improve energy performance and reduce carbon emissions, but also set a framework for future sustainability improvements, which can first be simulated via the Hickman digital model.

There is increasing regulatory pressure on the construction industry to design greener buildings, so we can only expect that more developers will follow in The Hickman’s footsteps and look to address sustainability concerns before any new ground is opened.

To become a more sustainable industry and, ultimately, the planet has been an elusive goal for the past several years. But with recent advances in artificial intelligence and the increasing adoption of digital twins, this vision is ripe for realization. Now is the time for organizations to harness the combined power of these technologies to gain insights at every stage of operations that will support a more sustainable and less carbon-intensive economy at the micro level – and a greener world overall.

About the author

Cheryl Ajlouni has spent the past 30 years as a technical expert, addressing very complex technical topics and helping others understand them. Her work ranges from research and development of photovoltaic solutions for testing the solar array of satellites to writing a textbook for designing radio frequency circuits. She has worked as an engineer for the Department of Defense, IBM, and Space Systems/Loral, and as a technical editor and editor-in-chief for publications such as Electronic Design and Wireless Systems Design. Currently, Cheryl is the Director of Industry Solutions at Keysight Technologies. A patented engineer, she holds a BA in Physics and Mathematics from the University of California, Davis.

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