There’s a lot of talk about the digital twin in the business world these days, but the definition remains murky. Think of the digital twin as a virtual mirror. If you move one way – so does your reflection. Your reflection is also unique to you. If someone else stepped in front of the mirror, even a sibling, what appeared in the mirror would be different.

The same applies to the digital twin – it’s a virtual representation of a single machine as it operates in the real world. This machine might have siblings from the same factory, with the same core design and components, but there are undoubtedly important differences as well. These differences are incredibly relevant when managing machines is core to your business, like maintenance history, wear and tear from operations, and enterprise software that interacts with the machine.

These concepts are what is so core to real digital twin implementations today: it’s machine specific, it’s a virtual representation that reflects real time data from the field, and the data within the twin can be used to drive business decisions, improve operations, or even shift core business models.

Technology vendors from a range of backgrounds will tell you they can help you create a digital twin of your products today, but the legitimacy of their claims is left largely to the eyes of the beholder. Just last week, a data management firm told me they could create a “digital twin” of your product using just business data.

That just doesn’t count in my book.

A good example of a digital twin in the field today would be a medical device firm retrofitting their equipment with sensors to provide value added services to customers. This new sensor data, streaming in real time, can tip off customers to imminent equipment failures. These types of insights allow the customer to deploy maintenance techs prior to malfunction and even enable those technicians with an augmented reality (AR) experience that digitally contextualizes their job as they interact with the machine.

To help enterprises understand what different firms mean when they say, “digital twin”, we published the recent report – “Untangle Digital Twin As Part Of Your Digital Product Strategy”. We’ve seen some clients struggle to connect IoT buzz to business and customer outcomes. Digital twin represents one way to drive revenue and shift engagement models with customers using IoT technology.

This report represents just the beginning of our digital twin coverage at Forrester. Feel free to check out my webinar on Digital Twin, scheduled for May 1. And of course, I would love to hear your questions or comments on this emerging space.

(This post originally appeared on the Forrester Research blog, which can be viewed here).

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