Digital-twin technology is attractive to businesses trying to get the most out of their physical assets and increasingly to organizations attempting a systematic study of complex systems, such as smart cities and oil-and-gas supply chains.\nThe announcement last month of the Digital Twin Consortium is an attempt to make digital twin technology more powerful and usable than ever before, through addressing one of the key problems slowing down its development: interoperability. The consortium is an open-standards organization under the auspices of the Object Management Group, backed by Microsoft, Dell, Ansys and Lendlease, among many others.\nDigital twins are, put simply, virtual copies of real-world pieces of equipment. The idea is to offer a way to let the designers, manufacturers and operators of that equipment turn real-world data into accurate predictions and simulations of what might happen in various use cases. Creating a digital twin involves physicists, mathematicians and data scientists projecting how real-world forces affect the equipment being simulated. The systems being twinned can be as simple as a mileage calculator for a car or as complicated as a model of an entire city\u2019s traffic patterns.\nAt its highest level, digital twinning is a management tool, according to Gartner research analyst and vice president Al Velosa. It abstracts a layer of complexity out of the basic processes of monitoring and managing systems.\n\u201cI don\u2019t care how you get the data about that thing or that process, I just want that data so I can make better decisions,\u201d he said.\nThe instrumentation and data collection efforts needed for digital twinning frequently rely on IoT sensors, and the two technologies are closely intertwined. Gartner said last year that, while few businesses are currently using digital twins operationally, nearly two-thirds of those they surveyed had plans to begin using them in the near future.\nMost early digital twins \u2013 and the technology is still relatively new, so this encompasses many of the digital twins being used today \u2013 are fairly simple. A turbine on a wind farm has a digital twin that its manufacturer can look at to see whether it\u2019s working correctly, and the operator of the farm can look at for maintenance purposes. If that\u2019s all a system is supposed to do, there\u2019s no problem.\nHowever, issues arise when trying to put large numbers of objects \u2013 say, a smart building, with environmental sensors, HVAC controls, lighting and security tools \u2013 into the same model. The various components of that system stand a vanishingly small chance of all coming from the same manufacturer, let alone using interoperable networking protocols, so it can be enormously complicated to try and forge all of those systems into a coherent digital twin of the whole building.\nForrester principal analyst Paul Miller said that this is the key challenge in the field at the moment, and an indicator of the direction in which the technology is heading.\n\u201cWe\u2019re moving from a world where digital twins are small and company-specific to a world where there large and have more stakeholders,\u201d he said. \u201cTo do that, they need some of these standards to be more established.\u201d\nThat\u2019s where the DTC and other standards organizations come in. By creating open-source standards for sensors and other equipment made by a wide array of different companies, across a diverse set of verticals, the potential to create larger and more complex digital twins can be realized.\nThere are really two aims behind the creation of an organization like the DTC, according to the group\u2019s executive director Richard Soley, who has been a part of the larger Object Management Group since 1989. Along with smoothing the way for open standards to play a larger part in the development of digital twins, the group is focused on getting the technology into as many markets as possible.\nBut the nature of many of those markets, which include infrastructure, aerospace and defense, and mining, oil and gas, means that there\u2019s some entrenched resistance, since most vendors in those verticals have a lot of proprietary technology that they\u2019re eager to protect.\n\u201cYou have to take the time to convince vendors that they can have a slice of a larger pie, rather than a smaller slice in a larger pie,\u201d said Soley.\nMiller said that resistance from vendors could ease once it becomes clearer that what they are being asked to share isn\u2019t necessarily of critical importance to their trade secrets.\n\u201cYes, there are areas of intellectual property you want to keep under wraps, but there are other aspects that there\u2019s no disadvantage in sharing,\u201d he said. \u201cThe voltage generated by a wind turbine isn\u2019t something that needs to be hidden.\u201d\nVelosa said that the consortium\u2019s early focus seems likely to be in connected buildings, given the identity of the major backers.