The world of industry and technology is burdened with many new terms and names, such as the Internet of Things IIoT, Digital Twin, Industrial Metaverse. Surely you have heard or read many times about the “industrial revolution” Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 is a topic for a separate article, but there are many new ideas, concepts and technologies emerging from Industry 4.0 projects. Many industrial technologies are also based on their parent IT technologies in the everyday world.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
The first example of such a technology is the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects things (appliances, “smart” technologies, security, etc.) via the Internet (network).The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) works on the same principle. It connects Things (i.e. production lines and their sites, factories, power plants, robots, systems and their subsystems, etc.) using the Internet (industrial network based on industrial communication protocols). Different companies offer different solutions, starting from the technology itself, HW/SW solutions for the different parts of this technology. Today, companies are offering comprehensive IIoT as a service also in the cloud.
IIoT services, like its classic versions in the IT world, focus on both functionality and the safety and security of the entire system of interconnected elements. All functional and qualitative requirements (so called non-functional, i.e. for example qualitative goals, availability, reliability, maintainability, safety, security) must be implemented separately into individual connected objects (Things) so that the objects are able to perform their function independently. At the same time, however, the principle is to interconnect the elements so that a more complex interconnected system brings new and superior functionality and/or increases overall efficiency. This means that all elements in the system identified must be able to communicate with each other. How to secure and inherently secure such complex systems is a separate and very large area.
A Digital Twin is a digital image (representation) of various Things, i.e. objects, products, systems and technologies that can be part of an IIoT, for example. It is therefore a digital image of a real physical element. We can think of it as, for example, a model in the design phase of a product, which can be gradually extended during the life cycle of a product or any system. Models and approaches to modelling is also a separate area of different disciplines. However, Digital Twin is not only about the object model, it is also about linking them and looking for connections, synergies and conflicts between them.
The real object is connected to the virtual one and the individual physical parameters are updated in its digital twin in time. In the digital plane, the system can be experimented with, verified, simulated and also artificial intelligence can be applied to investigate various phenomena, functionalities and qualitative properties. Thus, this technology is highly applicable to the entire life cycle of complex systems, from design and verification of overarching functions to operation, changes, and shutdown or replacement by another system.
The technologies implement, as in the previous case, techniques for identifying objects in a real system augmented by their digital form in a parallel environment.
Virtual 3D space or Industrial Metaverse
By the term Metaverse we can imagine a virtual 3D world or virtual reality. We can connect to the digis using a classic PC or even a smart mobile phone. For a real 3D effect and the perfect feeling of a virtual 3D environment, we have 3D glasses or other products available today that can be used to create similar 3D glasses from a classic phone. For years, Google Play has been providing virtual reality (VR) applications using the aforementioned glasses and VR features of mobile phones. Anyone can try out the virtual 3D space for free on Decentraland, for example, or VRChat and the like.
The industry has not fallen behind in this area and is trying to apply the knowledge gained to its applications. The goal is to build a virtual environment with the implementation of already created digital objects. The visions of industrial virtual 3D space projects are huge. Imagine a project of a large technological unit, a chemical plant, a power plant, a production line and other large complex products. In solving technical problems, but also in business and management meetings, everyone has access to a virtual world where they see the given physical solution in its virtual copy. These are representations of digital twins in 3D virtual space, i.e. models to which we can apply intended changes, perform experiments on them and apply artificial intelligence to find the desired ones. Of course, it is also a search for error functions and properties of complex systems. This will be discussed more in future articles.
And what is and will be the practice?
These technologies have, as already mentioned, high targets. But as in everything, it depends on the concept and human creativity. Exaggerated expectations can end up in unusable costly and ineffective solutions. In the worse case, if the modelling principles are not properly understood, they also lead to ignoring the basic physical properties of the real world, hence to insecure states of the art and links between systems. Due to the complexity and heuristic nature of artificial systems, the field of safety will need to focus on higher-level goals and safety principles tailored to this domain. On the other hand, the same technologies and principles can be used to the benefit of safety.
In any case, new technologies are pushing the industry forward, and even with many blind and costly paths, there are clever and effective solutions. If the industrial virtual space offers a suitable solution for multiple disciplines within the system lifecycle, it can become an effective and very useful tool that will lead to the development and modernisation of the industry.
The current trend shows that large companies are investing huge resources in these technologies. In the IT world, the traditional companies are Google, Nvidia, Meta (formerly Facebook), Unity, Qualcom (see for example These 8 Tech Giants Have Invested Big in The Metaverse (makeuseof.com)).
We will continue to monitor and report on technology trends for you in our column. There is a lot of space to explain individual technologies, their qualitative features, and above all their safety and security. Just as we have set out in our vision and mission.