In the digital-first era, this invaluable software concept not only improves technology — it can even be applied to boost cyber resilience

The adage “necessity is the mother of invention” could explain how numerous new technologies were invented, and this applies even more dramatically for digital twins. 

During the space race, scientists were called on to develop vehicles and research tools that could hold up at the frontiers of space. Scientists needed to ensure that these solutions would work as anticipated once they left Earth’s atmosphere, because the opportunities for repairs and corrective modifications were scarce.

The invention of digital twins allowed scientists to simulate remote environments and observe how designs would work in an array of different scenarios, so that they can spot preempt issues. The reason they are called digital twins, is because the model can be a living object that can learn, gather information from the physical environment, update its state, and — in some sense — stay synchronized with the state of the corresponding physical object.

Stress testing DX with digital twins

When children have ambitious plans for their building block structures, they may encounter situations where they may be unable to snap two smaller building blocks together, or when they try to enhance an existing structure using an extra set of blocks.

They would then have to dismantle their creation building block by building block until they found and fixed the ‘interoperability’ issue.

Similarly, in the real world, design and interoperability complexities have much higher stakes in the real world where digital transformation (DX) is now a buzzword. Today’s tech stacks are complex, and their individual components have to work together in delicate harmony. Adding, updating, or changing any one component can have a cascading effect on the stability or functionality of the entire system. Making changes to a physical network can be risky if you do not know how new components will impact the overall ecosystem.

With digital twins, you can experiment in a far more aggressive manner than physical networks. Digital twins are well suited to mitigating a potential vulnerability inherent in modern technology: complexity. 

By creating a framework in which digital twins of complex systems can be constructed, we can add a lot more structure and agility to the process of creating these twins and use them to explore a wide range of ‘what-if’ scenarios.  

Dr Rajive Bagrodia, Chief Technologist (Digital Twins), Keysight Technologies

Digital twins for testing cyber resilience

Digital twins can also be used to explore how a wide variety of security risks and cyberattacks impact a network, how the defense strategies will perform, and guide administrators in reconfiguring their cyber strategies.

Subjecting physical networks or devices to adverse types of events for testing is impractical, but without some way to test their resilience and identify red flag indicators of potential threat, the teams responsible for designing and maintaining these systems will be working blind.

That is why the importance of digital twins cannot be overstated. Across the design, test, and validation lifecycle, digital twins can help teams anticipate interoperability issues, determine if enhancements will have the necessary impact to support applications, and predict how a physical system will perform under any number of conditions. You can even observe how they will perform with future technologies which, given the speed at which technology is evolving, is an increasingly critical function.

Overall, this ability of digital twins to help people to anticipate and mitigate impacts will be pivotal for designing, optimizing, and securing the spectrum of technology from small consumer electronics all the way up to connected smart cities.

Soon, with assistance from digital twins, the question “what if” may replace necessity as the mother of invention.