Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT) have exponentially expanded the universe of identity points for organisations.
By Lindokuhle Jele, junior software consultant at TechSoft International
Whether it comes from a customer or an abstracted ‘thing’, there is an influx of data to the cloud, which companies use to drive decision-making. However, the increasingly complex regulatory environment means businesses must tread carefully when collecting, storing, and using data. This is where the use of digital twins becomes a game-changer.
According to TIBCO, a digital twin is when every process, service, or physical product gets a dynamic digital form or representation. The physical product can then be evaluated and manipulated based on the analysis of the digital twin in a range of working environments. Think of this as the perfect convergence between the physical and virtual worlds.
Essentially, a digital twin uses real-world data to create a simulation via a programme that predicts how a product or process will fare. These programmes are easily integrated into AI, ML, and IoT to enhance output.
Therefore, these virtual models can be used to test and support better decisions for the tangible things/products being emulated. Without making this seem too esoteric, there must be two-way interactions between the physical entity and the virtual one for the digital twin to work.
Fortunately, IoT devices and sensors are becoming more sophisticated and powerful. Having improved processing capabilities result in the strengthening of their digital counterparts. Practically, this entails using more advanced analytics, AI, and ML to make the digital twin smarter and more capable. The more powerful the IoT device becomes, the more advanced the digital twin will be. In turn, this enables the development of even more sophisticated IoT devices.
Of course, managing this is a complex process. A lack of standards makes it even more challenging to achieve. For instance, IoT devices have no universally accepted Identity Credential and Access Management (ICAM) standards in place. As has so often been the case in the lifecycle of innovative technologies, this gives rise to disconnected, proprietary measures that reduce the potential for interoperability. Throughout this, trust between the physical device and the digital twin becomes harder to establish.
This is where the importance of having a global digital trust framework comes in. Part of this entails the need for decentralised architecture and decentralised identity. Just think of the obstacles in industries like healthcare, where the digital twins will invariably encounter volumes of sensitive data regulated for privacy.
When combining a digital twin with your IoT environment, organisations can enjoy significantly improved functionality at every stage in the healthcare process. This includes monitoring a patient, applying preventative healthcare measures, or even customised healthcare outcomes based on digital twin simulations. In this instance, both the digital twin and the person whose data is being used, stand to benefit from a privacy-preserving data-protection capability that comes from putting a decentralised identity in place.
In retail, this can be used to create virtual models of customers who can try on clothes, accessories, makeup, and even hairstyles. Digital twins can also simulate the appearance of an interior design plan and identify the ways to further enhance the customer experience by how they will look or feel in specific scenarios. Additionally, the digital twins can help with in-store planning and security based on virtual simulations.
Built around trust
Identity management around the human individual, the IoT device, and the digital twin will see the involvement of several parties, from issuers and holders to verifiers. Each one of these needs to bring a trust component into the process if the information is to be exchanged in a secure, standardised manner.
An open standards-based approach with no single third-party used to disseminate data – reduces the attack surface. Not having a single point of failure means that trust in the system can be enhanced, and trusted digital twins are created. This is similar to how the blockchain is more secure thanks to its decentralised nature.
Many organisations worldwide have already embraced these digital twins to help overcome some of their most challenging business requirements. Given the reliance by these digital twins on accurate, secure, and real-time data, technologies like the blockchain and smart contracts can strengthen the trust relationship.
Fundamentally, these blockchain-backed digital twins can usher in a new era of advanced decision-making, especially when combined with technology-agnostic tools that are a central theme to open standards.
In theory, the next step in this evolution can see the smooth operation of physical devices, processes, and systems, along with their digital twins, to introduce even better software-driven solutions. The resultant improved customer experiences and data-driven insights will bring more opportunities for business growth than ever.