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18 March 2021

Blog | The digital twin: more than just a nice picture

The digital agenda is an absolute priority for Cadac Group. As frontrunner in digitization, we de not only facilitate digital trends and innovations, but we also look at them critically. In this blog, CTO Paul Smeets takes a critical look at the applications of the digital twin.


Let me start with my sincere apologies. I have gotten into the habit of not chasing all kinds of hypes, and certainly not writing about them, but I it is time to make an exception. I have to say something about the definition of digital twins.

The digital twin, like many other concepts such as BIM and PLM, is a comprehensive container term. Cadac's roots lie in the digital design process, so it is not surprising that we come across many definitions of the digital twins that have emerged from this perspective. The digital twin is often described as a 3D representation of reality, linked to a wide variety of (real-time) data about this reality. For example, sensor data linked to machines or building installations that indicate that maintenance is required.

There is no doubt that this is all very valuable information that can support or improve several specific processes, but it also often raises the fundamental question for me; why is 3D representation so important? I wonder what value visualizing the maintenance status of an object in a 3D environment adds to the maintenance process. Do mechanics stare through AR glasses looking for the object they need to replace? I think that a 3D visualization often adds little value and only complicates the process. A simple message telling the technician that the central heating pump needs to be replaced on the third floor in the technical room is often much more effective. Not the data about the thing (the pump), but much more the process (maintenance process) that leads to a timely replacement of the thing, is where the real value is. And yes, of course, data produced by the pump itself can also add to the maintenance process.

This goes to the heart of the digital twin, and it certainly is not creating a real-time 3D representation of the real world. It is much more a digital reflection of processes that take place in reality. A retailer sets up an online store where customers can buy goods, see physical stock, and claim any warranty, just like in a real store. This has much more to do with a digital twin than a 3D representation of the same store for the simple reason that the online store adds much more value for the retailer and customer than a visual 3D representation.

If a company increasingly mirrors its processes digitally and integrates them with reality, so that it can complete its processes better and more efficiently, then this company has a clear digital twin strategy. A 3D representation could add something to this, but that is the icing on the cake.

At Cadac we started in 2016 with the realization of our own digital twin strategy in order for customers to interact with our company online, via, more easily than when visiting one of our offices. From renting software to hiring specialists and hosting training courses virtually. These are all services and processes that were previously handled traditionally but are now easily accessible to our customers via You could see the digital twin as the starting point for the digital transformation.

I still come across many one-dimensional definitions of the concept of digital twin where the focus is purely on the object and not on the process, as Wikipedia still says: ‘A digital twin is the generation or collection of digital data representing a physical object’. Clearly a missed opportunity, I would say, too much inspired by the origins of the concept (NASA in the 1960s) and with too little regard for the origin of information during the entire life cycle.

The essence of a digital twin strategy is therefore not to show visually beautiful pictures, but to digitize processes and integrate systems that support this process. The beautiful pictures will then come naturally.

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Cadac Group

Paul Smeets

Chief Technology Officer

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