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Digital twins and data visualization in Industry 4.0

The question of our latest Technology Circle (15.11.2022) is simple: How can we translate data to actionable insights and implement them efficiently? And why is it important to do it?

We invited five speakers to talk about digital twins, data visualization and the Building Information Modeling (BIM) used in the Lausanne train station renovation project.

The digital twin.

Prof. Markus C. Krack from FHNW Brugg-Windisch told us what a digital twin actually is (and what it isn’t) and what it’s used for in the real world.

In the future, everything might exist twice. Each real object might have its virtual counterpart. Those virtual counterparts are more than just copies. They are directly linked and synchronized with the physical twin, influencing each other.

Digital twins are a hot topic. Many are talking about the concept, but few know what a digital twin really is. There is a clear-cut definition.

A digital twin is a virtual image of a physical object that can receive information from its physical counterpart and send information back to the real object in real-time.

Prof. Markus C. Krack

A CAD drawing is not a digital twin. A virtual replica isn’t a digital twin, either. It’s only a digital twin when both sides are connected and communicate.

The first real application of a digital twin came from NASA. For a space mission, NASA created the flying twin to mirror the space object in real-time.

Its computing and simulation power predicts what could happen to the real-world object under certain circumstances. Based on the digital twin’s calculations, it also makes decisions for the real object.

Three kinds of digital twins.

We distinguish between the product twin, the production twin and the performance twin.

The product twin is a virtual replication of a real product. It uses data from the real product to quickly and effortlessly test various use cases and situations.

The production twin replicates a manufacturing system to supervise and support production. If it detects anomalies, it can quickly decide whether to stop production before something overheats, for example.

The performance twin is also called the digital memory of a product. It can map things like production key figures, quality characteristics and processing times to predict and improve the performance of its physical twin.

Today, we use digital twins for a variety of purposes like:

  • Manufacturing improvement. We respond to changes in production conditions in real-time by simulating the process.
  • Risk management. The measured data from the equipment can be used to detect irregularities and predict possible failures.
  • Process optimization. This can show potential for improvement of the process, allowing automatic optimization by AI.

A real digital twin today: the Lausanne train station reconstruction.

Jan Reifler and Mathias Kuhn from Basler & Hofmann presented the intricate project of the Lausanne train station reconstruction.

Lausanne is beautifully located at Lake Geneva, well known for its landscape and is on the UNESCO world heritage list. It’s part of a dynamic region that continues to develop strongly with above-average growth in population.

The number of travelers between Geneva and Lausanne has doubled between 2000 and 2010 and is expected to double again in the next ten years.

To prepare for this growth, the Lake Geneva region is implementing project Léman 2030.

The plans to build out the Lausanne train station as part of Léman 2030 include widening the platforms, demolishing certain buildings, extending the underpasses and much more. A huge undertaking.

The crazy thing is, the new train station already exists!

The Lausanne train station project is a BIM pilot project of the Swiss Federal Railways SBB with a complete data model of the station.

A huge advantage of this approach is that one single source of truth exists. SBB can use the 3D model, for example, to generate 2D formwork and reinforcement plans.

Creation of formwork plans using BIM data.

Creation of reinforcement plans using BIM data.

One thing needs to be demolished and another thing needs to be built in its place. It’s quite the challenge to coordinate that for hundreds of instances.

Using AI, SBB could transfer the time data to the digital twin, which then processes the information and creates a construction and demolition sequence.

In the future, every building, every bridge and every road could have its digital twin. To get there, we need standardized processes and tools on which we are currently working.

Modern data visualizations: more than colors and bars.

Manuel Werner and Caspar von Stülpnagel from b.telligent GmbH showed some interesting example cases from Microsoft’s Swiss Championship Challenge 2022.

Back in the day, people used to report data mostly with tables. This only lets us see figures. As visual creatures, it took us a long time to understand data presented that way.

In the next step, we started visualizing data in graphs. That was a step up from sheer numbers but it lacked interaction. Although the data was easier to understand, we could only see what the analysts wanted us to see.

Today, the world of data visualization is different.

The “best report of the world” (yes, there is actually an award for that) looks like this. It excels in two important principles: design and gamification.

The importance of report design.

Reports are not just numbers and graphs anymore. They’re designed as applications you can interact with. If you access the report above, you’d intuitively know how to find the data point you need. It uses natural eye movement patterns to guide you to the most important figures and functions and generates conclusions in text form that help you easily understand the data.

The importance of gamification.

The interactive component of the report makes it possible to add gamification elements. This binds the consumer inside the reports and lets them decide — based on your rules — what data they see and how.

Let us introduce ourselves.

The Industrial Transformation initiative: Realize digital transformation in your company.

The production industry is a significant economic sector in the Basel Area. To help companies succeed, we bring together stakeholders from industry, academia and startups to collectively advance innovation in the field of Industry 4.0.

Our Industrial Transformation team’s activities include:

  • A series of public events for the industry dedicated to technologies important for the innovative development of our tri-national region.
  • Promote cooperation between entrepreneurs and academia.
  • Technology circles Industry 4.0 Events and workshops on Industrial transformationIoT and advanced technologies for digital transformation.
  • An AI4 and SME program for the collective and concrete development of Proofs of Concept with Artificial Intelligence Innovative solutions for the production industry.
  • The i4Challenge accelerator for SMEs, startups and new ideas for Industry 4.0.

Industrial Transformation is a initiative from Basel Area Business & Innovation

Basel Area Business & Innovation is a non-profit investment and innovation promotion agency on a mission to establish the Basel Area as the Swiss business and innovation hub of the future.

The Basel Area is the name of the economic region of Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft and Jura. Companies, institutions and startups that want to explore business opportunities here can profit from our services in three main categories:

  • Invest: We help foreign or outer-cantonal businesses set up and find footing in the Basel Area.
  • Innovate: We mentor and accelerate companies in the Basel Area that focus on life sciences and industry 4.0.
  • Switzerland Innovation Park: We offer four locations with fully equipped labs and office space for collaborative innovation.

Our new Main Campus

Welcome to 50’000 m² of interconnected innovation space. As part of the most dynamic life sciences cluster in Europe with over 700 companies in the Basel Area, this iconic campus will become a meeting point for biotech and healthcare trailblazers. The landmark architecture by Herzog & de Meuron, developed by SENN, actively promotes exchange and offers an attractive and state-of-the-art working environment for startups, scaleups and established companies.

And we’re not alone.

We collaborate with partners who share this vision. This event was the 9th iteration of the Technology Circle, an event series focused on industrial transformation, where we invite our partners to speak on their topic of expertise to a live audience.

Stay tuned for our next event, the 11th Technology Circle!

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