How fast can your coffee machine accelerate business growth? Of all the demos I saw at SAP TechEd Barcelona, digital twins was among the most fascinating.
Opportunities explode and industries implode when everyday items like coffee machines power a direct conversation between customers, companies and suppliers, not only crunching high-volume, actionable data in real time, but also looking into the future.
It’s not surprising that digital twins made it into Gartner Research’s top 10 trends for 2017. Those analysts predict hundreds of millions of things will be represented by digital twins within three to five years.
Above, Thomas Kaiser, senior vice president of IoT at SAP, talked with me about how the smartest companies are using digital twin technology to shake up the status quo. Featured is a clip of Ian Kimball of SAP demonstrating the amazing power of digital twins using a connected coffee machine at SAP TechEd Barcelona.
How Digital Twins Disrupt
A digital twin is a virtual representation of a process, product or service. While companies have been using digital twins for years, it’s only with the Internet of Things (IoT) that they’ve become cost-effective.
Using software on a cloud-based platform, digital twins pull together and analyze data companies can use to monitor and head off repairs and other problems before they occur. They can look into the future, simulating scenarios to uncover new opportunities for delighting customers. The data is deep and broad, encompassing business content like the customer’s name, exact street location of their coffee machines, and service level agreements. Information is also contextual and of course, from sensors. The digital twin replicates everything about the machine’s operation history, from how many cups and what type of coffee people are drinking, to the precise temperature of the milk and amount of steam pressure used to brew each pour.
Think of digital twins as a combination of your smartest product technician coupled with advanced machine monitoring capabilities plus predictive and preemptive analytics. The measurable gains for companies are astounding. By 2018, IDC predicts companies investing in IoT-based operational sensing and cognitive-based situational awareness will see 30 percent improvements in the cycle times of impacted critical processes.
Four Steps to Get Started
When I talked with SAP’s Thomas Kaiser, senior vice president of IoT, at SAP TechEd, he told me about the hottest industries using digital twins, and what companies can realistically expect. After the event, he added these thoughts to what we covered in my video interview.
“Digital twins are becoming a business imperative, covering the entire life cycle of an asset or process and forming the foundation for connected products and services,” said Kaiser. “Companies that fail to respond will be left behind. Those that embrace digital twins have the opportunity to better understand customer needs, continuously improve their products and services, and even identify new business models that give them competitive advantage.”
Digital twins are becoming a business imperative, forming the foundation for connected products and services.
Kaiser recommended four steps to get started with digital twins, noting that while these steps are easy to list, they can require significant effort to achieve. First, integrate smart components into new or existing products. Second, connect the products/services to a central (cloud-based) location with streaming, Big Data, in-memory and analytics capabilities to capture sensor data and enrich it with business and contextual data. Third, constantly analyze the data to identify areas for improvements, new products or even new business models. Fourth, use digital insights to create new services that transform the company — disrupt before your business is disrupted.
The coffee machine on stage at SAP TechEd may have looked like every other one, but quietly brewing behind it is a world of innovative difference. As for that question about how fast your coffee machines can fuel growth, using digital twin technology, it’s a potent brew of fresh insights fueling innovation with tremendous business outcomes.
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