Frank Diana, the principal futurist for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), is feeling optimistic as another Earth Day rolls around tomorrow.
Earthday.org (EDO) is the brains behind the event, first launched in 1970, that has grown to the point where more than one billion people now participate in activities, making it what the organization describes as, the “largest civic observance in the world.”
In October, EDO announced that the theme for this year is Invest in Our Planet and urged governments, institutions, and citizens to “do their part – everyone accounted for, everyone accountable.
“In 2023 we must come together again in partnership for the planet,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earthday.org. “Businesses, governments, and civil society are equally responsible for taking actions against the climate crisis and lighting the spark to accelerate change towards a green, prosperous, and equitable future. We must join together in our fight for the green revolution, and for the health of future generations.”
Diana suggests one way to take action is through digital twin technology, defined by MIT Sloan Management Review in an article that appeared last year as “virtual replicas of physical entities and their interactions that consist of a combination of enabling technologies and analytics capabilities.”
The article’s authors note that “digital twins are a combination of multiple enabling technologies, such as sensors, cloud computing, AI and advanced analytics, simulation, visualization, and augmented and virtual reality. Companies can use a customized mix of technologies, depending on their needs and expectations. What distinguishes digital twins and makes them so powerful is their ability to emulate human capabilities, support critical decision-making, and even make decisions on behalf of humans.”
There are, says Diana, incredible new advancements and sustainable solutions made possible with digital twins, and he provides the following examples:
- Smart cities—digital twins of construction projects will allow architects and planners to anticipate and avoid likely issues that can delay completion and result in extra waste.
- Supply chain optimization— digital twins can be assigned to every product to trace the carbon footprint of each product sold, from manufacturing to consumption. They will help identify inefficiencies, optimize transportation routes, reduce packaging waste, and improve inventory management.
- Water management —water waste is a huge problem because leaks can go unnoticed for long periods of time. Digital twins will demonstrate where leaks can happen, and how they can be fixed in real-time.
- Transportation—self-driving cars will know every street in a city and be able to avoid pointless idling. We may see the end of parking lots altogether.
- City biodiversity—digital twins of bee and bird populations will reveal threats to these important pollinators so that colonies can be moved and protected as needed.
- Urban agriculture—we may see skyscrapers transformed into hydroponics farms to source food closer to populations and take advantage of excess capacity in empty office buildings.
Diana says the building blocks that underpin these advancements and others are all in place and maturing, “And as they do, how we combine them in ways that create more and more innovation underlies this whole exponential world that we live in.
“Recent advancements like digital twins are quickly sprouting new sustainable solutions. We are headed toward a future where cities are beacons of sustainability, optimized from the ground up, literally, to make life more sustainable for humanity.”