Mirrored World: Digital Twins Report for Duty Across Government

Emerging tech

The Accenture Federal Technology Vision highlights the five technology trends poised to have the most significant impact on how government operates over the next three years. Today, we look at Trend 2: Mirrored World, which promises to drive improvements across a range of Federal use cases.

The “digital twin” first came to the forefront in NASA’s circa-1970 use of computer simulations to diagnose and repair the damaged Apollo 13 spacecraft from 200,000 miles away. Lately, the rise of cloud, AI, machine learning, 5G, and IoT have pushed such modeling to the forefront as a critical tool for managing the enterprise.

For example, how can government ensure next-generation nuclear reactors are as safe and secure as possible? The Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) uses digital twin technology to develop reactors that can operate with unprecedented levels of monitoring, control, and supervision.

Meanwhile, all three military branches are using or exploring digital twins to improve weapons platforms and systems’ maintenance and readiness. The Army, for instance, is modeling the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to enhance maintenance and assess accident or battle damage, while the Air Force is using this approach to evaluate cyber vulnerabilities within its global positioning system (GPS) satellites and systems.

Simulated Systems

A digital twin replicates physical assets in a virtual environment as a simulated model of a machine, process, or system. This sophisticated modeling can help program managers understand how these objects might behave under various circumstances.

Digital twins can simulate complex scenarios in countless new and unimagined ways – for example, using machine learning – to capture new insights and surface new possibilities.

Machine intelligence makes it possible to create a mirrored world in which complex or chaotic interactions can be reproduced, analyzed, and optimized. Advanced versions of the digital twin can deliver living models of entire workplaces, warehouses, product lifecycles, supply chains, ports, mission spaces, and even cities.

Federal leaders see great potential for digital twins to impact the way government meets its mission. The Accenture Federal Technology Vision found that 24 percent of Federal executives say their organization is experimenting with this approach, and 63 percent expect their organization’s investment in intelligent digital twins to increase over the next three years.

The Federal Imperative

As a decision-support tool, digital twins give government the ability to mimic the real world with unprecedented precision and accuracy. And they enable new levels of experimentation: Decision-makers can change any number of variables and conduct unlimited ‘what-if’ analyses to model likely outcomes.

Digital twins can help to remove blind spots. By layering in machine learning algorithms, these tools can model a vastly expanded range of potential scenarios, helping government leaders become more proactive in risk awareness and mitigation.

In addition, the digital twin approach can help government agencies to drive more effective partnerships. The Air Force Research Laboratory, for instance, is teaming with a Florida-based public-private effort to develop a secure digital twin to improve semiconductor production. Eighty-seven percent of Federal executives agree that digital twins strengthen their ability to collaborate in strategic ecosystem partnerships.

Intelligent digital twins promise to change how Federal agencies operate, collaborate, and innovate. In Trend 2: Mirrored World we describe a range of potential Federal use cases – from asset optimization, to remote diagnostics and troubleshooting, to predictive maintenance, to route and traffic optimization.

Agencies can start today to build intelligent twins of their assets and ecosystems. By piecing together their first mirrored environments now, they will be far better positioned to succeed in a more agile and intelligent future.

About Bill Marion, Ian McCulloh, PhD, Viveca Pavon-Harr, PhD, and Paul Ott
Bill Marion is growth and strategy lead for defense and intelligence, Ian McCulloh is chief data scientist, Paul Ott is supply chain operations & industrial transformation lead, and Viveca Pavon-Harr is applied intelligence discovery lab lead at Accenture Federal Services.