Summary of my Work on Digital Twins

Digital Twins are currently the topic closest to my heart, which I’m also most actively working on. In my research at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, I’m investigating the potential of Digital Twins to efficiently develop and operate applications for cyber-physical systems. This research is mainly focused along three pillars: (1) Understanding Digital Twins, (2) Understanding existing Digital Twin Tooling (3) Building improved Digital Twin Tooling.

Do you want me to dig a bit deeper on this with me?
Or see an opportunity for me to speak or write about any of these topics for you?
Don’t hesitate to contact me here!

Understanding Digital Twins

To make the concept of Digital Twins more tangible, I’ve developed together with some colleagues at JKU Linz several Digital Twins that are available on Github (click here for our Airquality Digital Twin, or click here for our Digital Twin of a Smart Room). Based on the experiences collected there, I’ve written two articles for the heise iX magazine (potential audience of 30.000 readers for each article, so quite a huge thing for me). Starting with a general article with an example-based introduction of the notion and relevance of Digital Twins to cope with the complexity of cyber-physical systems (read here – german content), I’ve followed up with a more in-depth article to show how to actually develop such Digital Twins, using an implementation of a smart room in the tooling offered by Microsoft Azure (read here – german content).

Besides these more practical applications, we have also published a exemplar paper of our Airquality Digital Twin at a workshop of the MODELS conference in 2021, and a paper on using Digital Twins in smart manufacturing to enable reactive planning using Genetic Algorithms at ISOLA 2022.

Understanding existing Digital Twin Tooling

Together with Andreas Wortmann and Jerome Pfeiffer from the University of Stuttgart, we have worked a lot on understanding and comparing existing tooling that is already there to help people develop and maintain Digital Twins. Together, we have written a paper for IEEE Software, in which we evaluated the three most promising Digital Twin platforms at that time against popular software quality attributes (read the paper here). In a follow-up paper in the Journal of Object Technology, we have shown that these platforms are essentially re-inventing UML Class and Object Diagrams (that’s why the title is „Old Wine in new Bottles“ – read the paper here).

Based on these findings, I’ve written another article for the heise iX magazine, in which we did a broader survey on Digital Twin market leaders from different areas, in order to compare their tooling. I tried to put together the different toolings to create an extensive roadmap on introducing Digital Twins in your organization. Read the article here (german content)

Building improved Digital Twin Tooling

Based on the work in the previous two pillars, the vision of my research is to create improved Digital Twin tooling that outperforms what we currently see on the market. The main challenge I see with these existing tools is that it’s still a whole lot of effort to develop and maintain Digital Twins.
Why? Because most things still need to be done from scratch, although people are developing Digital Twins for so many years now.

Together with a team from Aarhus University in Denmark, we are currently working on a software framework that enables to reuse as much as possible from one system to another, when connecting a Digital Twin to a running software, or a simulation of this software. We are currently in the process of publishing our results on this – this site will be updated once there are first publications available.

In order to put together the software for your particular Digital Twin system, I’m working on another framework, together with colleagues from the University of Stuttgart. This framework will provide a product line based approach to auto-configure Digital Twin architectures for different features, and different tools realizing these features. A first vision of this idea is available here, but more is still to come!