Digital Twins are a hot topic. They offer a virtual replica of something real, from the physical world (a factory, a machine, a process, … the human body!), with a unique capability: helping to take decisions to improve that physical version (e.g., by providing valuable estimates on potential situations that may occur).
Initially “just” sophisticated 3D computer models, Digital Twins now provide a complex ecosystem (see Figure 1) that allows building dynamic computational models capable of constantly learning from their physical counterparts, helping them to improve their operability and performance (thanks, among others, to Artificial Intelligence –AI–, VR/AR or even metaverses, combined with the development of physical sensors connected through Internet of Things –IoT– concepts). Given their ability to support experimentation at a fraction of the cost of real-world experimentation, world-leading companies are now engaged in deploying Digital Twins in a wide range of applications (from the design of complex industrial systems –precision agriculture, power generation, etc.– to the modelling of the human brain; there are a large number of practical applications).
This technological complexity (and the wide range of suitable applications involved) implies that it is not enough to develop operational and efficient tools, but there is also a need to facilitate the availability and accessibility of these tools to make them integrable, fully exploitable, and easily manageable.
SOLUTION – CHANGE2TWIN MARKETPLACE
Then, Change2Twin, with its aim to facilitate and promote the development of Digital Twin technologies, has developed the Change2Twin Marketplace. With “marketplace” as a rather widely used term (gaining more and more popularity due to the digital transformation, where IT-infrastructure –e.g., IaaS, PaaS–, software services or workflows –e.g., SaaS, BPaaS– or potentially anything else –i.e., XaaS– can be provided as a digitized service), the Change2Twin Marketplace is, particularly, a curated architecture-agnostic technology platform, which is populated with state-of-the-art tools and solutions from technology providers. It is a public platform to promote and showcase Digital Twin-enabling technologies (e.g., software services and data offerings) but also consultancy and information services for facilitating Digital Twin deployment. So, with a manufacturing ecosystem containing many technologies and potential partners needed to make Digital Twinning possible, Change2Twin has created a marketplace to help both sides (manufacturers and technology providers) find the right partners and to support Digital Twins’ operation. You can browse the complete catalogue or try out the speed of its online keyword search engine!
WHAT? – MARKETPLACE OFFERING
Change2Twin Marketplace provides a set of offerings that support the transformation towards a Digital Twin. Currently, it distinguishes between the following offering types:
|A consulting offering manifests as a consulting workshop, teaching, or training events.
|SOFTWARE APPLICATION OFFERING
|Reference datasets, reference processes, success stories, and studies and analysis, are possible information offerings that require information access credentials on the marketplace.
|For software application offerings, both software-as-a- service (service access credentials required) and bundle (Docker Container registration) offerings including, e.g., simulation services, database services or data analytics.
|DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE OFFERING
|IoT infrastructure, RFID tags or edge computing environments could be potential digital infrastructure offerings.
Marketplace offerings can either be bought (which implicitly indicates that there is a high Technology Readiness Level –TRL–, along with a service level agreement –SLA– and a price) or the innovation item can be used experimentally (which implicitly indicated that there is a low TRL, with a “best effort” agreement and an academic or community code of conduct). In this regard, software packages are considered a key marketplace item, given their importance for Digital Twins’ development.
Then, the Change2Twin Marketplace proposes three different kinds of software package offerings:
- ready-to-use packages are directly offered by the IT infrastructure + middleware + landing-page architecture, so the user can select, deploy and use the marketplace itself;
- ready-to-install packages can be downloaded (as a deployable Docker image), and installed and executed in external IT infrastructures;
- ready-to-adapt packages are mainly provided as open-source with the corresponding documentation that explains installation, running and enables the extension, improvement and adaption of the provided software package for the particular need of the final customer.
At the time of writing (October 2022), the Marketplace holds 36 offerings: 27 are internal offerings from project partners, while the remaining 9 are external ones already onboarded. More offerings are under the revision process, waiting for additional information to be provided by the owners. In terms of the TRL, 13 solutions are innovation products (TRL < 8), and the remaining ones are fully qualified products (TRL 8-9).
HOW? – MARKETPLACE ARCHITECTURE
Change2Twin Marketplace is currently supporting this matching functionality (manufacturers – technology providers) with its already-deployed landing-page (see Figure 2.A within the marketplace architecture; below), which currently enables searching, browsing and discovering adequate tools and services (in the upcoming releases an extension is planned to provide standardized interfaces to couple 3rd-party assessment methods/tools).
However, the Change2Twin Marketplace goes a step beyond by providing a full-fledged ecosystem including not only the offering but also the dynamic operation of the services, payments, bonus material, additional collaboration, cooperation services and smart interactions. This is to be achieved by providing additional tools and methods that support users to identify their needs, performing digital transformation workshops, applying assessment tools, and enabling the accompaniment of the customer from the design of the challenge to its solution in the field. Thus, the Change2Twin Marketplace is envisioned not only as a web-landing-page where a user finds appealing information (recall Figure 2, layer A) but as an “offering hub” in a network of hubs that evolve towards a full-fletched problem-solving ecosystem, understood as a common conceptual infrastructure that can be used individually for one marketplace, but also linked and/or used by several marketplaces to provide a network of solutions that enable the provision of additional tools, thus establishing an ecosystem of tools and methods.
To support the vision of this comprehensive ecosystem, the Change2Twin Marketplace implements an abstraction of the underlying infrastructure in the form of a marketplace middleware (Figure 2, layer B). Since users of digital technology are interested in the offering and not in the technology operating it (hardware, software; see infrastructure layer in Figure 2, layer C), the middleware offers an abstraction layer over the infrastructure bringing gains in terms of flexibility.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the Change2Twin Marketplace is an ongoing development with the aim of promoting high access, availability, and interaction between technology providers and end-users, able to grow over time and evolve to suit the actual needs of a Digital Twin development and user ecosystem.
You can find deep information on how the Change2Twin Marketplace has been modelled and on the set of state-of-the-art technologies deployed to support it in D2.x project deliverables or, more condensed, in Change2Twin’s position paper on how to overcome Digital Twin barriers for manufacturing SMEs.
Josué Iglesias – Change2Twin Ambassador