Digital technologies, digital twins

Summary of reports about enabling digital technologies for New Zealand’s circular and bioeconomy, including the role of digital twins and the potential for digital twin technology to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.

There is a wide range of digital technologies that can enable a circular economy and bioeconomy in New Zealand. These include artificial intelligence, big data analytics, internet of things, 3D printing, digital engineering, digital twins and digital product passports for traded goods. You can read an overview of the roles that they can play in the report "Digital Technologies, Digital Twins and the circular and bioeconomy" available below. The report was developed through research by Aurecon, Sustainable Business Network and Thinkstep-anz

Digital Twins

The research had a focus on the role of digital twins. A digital twin is 'a dynamic and interconnected digital representation of a physical asset or system, enabling comprehensive insights and informed decision making.'

A wide range of digital twins in development or early-stage use in New Zealand were identified in the research. Most twins are of cities, buildings, or infrastructure, often developed by councils, to enable efficient design, planning and management of resources and assets. Sector-oriented R&D programmes include forest, vineyard and orchard twins to support sustainable and productive growing systems. These current uses are consistent with circular objectives for resource efficiency.

Digital twins have important potential to support circular or sustainability objectives. They can help track materials in the value chain, facilitate predictive maintenance of machines, and fill gaps in information about product composition and availability to enable markets to function well for product reuse or recycling.

Digital twins are not yet being developed in a way to realise their full potential in New Zealand. A lack of data literacy is reducing the effective exchange and use of data. Limits in collaboration across industry and data standardisation mean digital twins are being developed without optimal interoperability.

The report suggests government could enable the potential of digital twins. This could be done by encouraging data sharing and collaboration across industry, with government, and with the Māori tech sector and communities. Government support with the development and adoption of standardised frameworks and technical capabilities, such as artificial intelligence, would enable digital twins to operate in connected ways.

Built environment use case for Digital Twin

The research also developed a hypothetical digital twin use-case for a built environment. The use case highlighted how digital twin technology could unlock more circular outcomes to achieve cost and resource savings. It also showed how digital twins could allow virtual trials of design changes, material and equipment choices, and infrastructure upgrades.

This use case, along with selected digital twin examples from New Zealand, was presented to a business and government audience in November 2023. The recording and report from the workshop are available here.

Workshop: Potential of digital twin technology

Last updated: 01 May 2024 Last reviewed: 01 May 2024