Digital twins are virtual prototypes changing the game of design, operations and business processes. Manufacturing, construction, electrical planning and vertical markets that include energy and utilities, transportation, healthcare and retail are embracing the use of these 3D computer-generated models to design spaces more efficiently, reduce operating costs and eliminate data inefficiencies.
While not a new discipline, digital twin technology is expected to grow 38% by 2026, representing a $17 billion market, according to a Deloitte study. Developments in the internet of things (IoT), machine learning, public cloud and simulation and analytics software are enabling ongoing advancements in digital twin virtualization.
“Digital twins are accelerating product and process development, optimizing performance and enabling predictive maintenance. The results that companies are targeting: increasing efficiency, reducing costs and building better products,” according to Deloitte.
Digital twins provide a dynamic, real-world replication of layouts and how occupants will use an area. In physical security, this representation of objects or systems in the built environment merges with other important building data for a more comprehensive view and understanding of spaces.
For security design and management teams, digital twins streamline the complex process of specifying technologies in new or retrofit applications—providing specifics on spaces, openings and other characteristics in a data-rich view of the protected premises. It can also effectively follow regulations and compliances as required and alert of any discrepancies and potential design problems before final execution. For enterprise and campus end-users, digital twins provide an accounting of all system components in a network of buildings or properties, eliminating data silos and putting information in one place.
Digital twins effectively reduce and avoid errors from outside contractors or other issues during planning, flagging these anomalies. Machine learning and artificial intelligence in digital twin technology yields predictive data—helping users become proactive in their deployments. It can also identify product end of life so users can take steps to manage inventory preemptively and without loss of business continuity. Digital twins can also integrate with video surveillance, sensors, access control and building management systems to further monitor and manage these systems holistically.
As physical security systems are connected to a larger ecosystem of data and information, their threat vector widens and may open digital twins to cybersecurity vulnerabilities if safeguards are not put in place.
According to CSO Online, while digital twins provide data and insights, they may also invite malicious actors, as the process uses input from loT sensors or other open connections.
“If proper cybersecurity controls aren’t put in place, digital twins can expand a company’s attack surface, give threat actors access to previously inaccessible control systems and expose pre-existing vulnerabilities,” according to CSO Online.
Since digital twins for infrastructure permit remote monitoring by technicians, hackers could also send control signals if they gain access.
“This could introduce the threat of a remote user being able to access the physical twin via network connectivity. Remedies are cybersecurity hygiene and adopting zero-trust principles. This ranges from encryption to National Institute of Standards and Technology or TLS policies to role-based access control,” according to CSO Online. (Zero-trust policies assert that no user or application should be trusted by default.)
On the other hand, digital twins may also be used as an early warning of a potential system attack, serving as a threat detection barometer and alerting cybersecurity teams of any infiltration.
As more data is created and carried between systems, connections must be managed effectively so information isn’t at risk from potential bad actors. Cybersecurity of connected systems, including digital twins, needs to be a common practice and not simply an afterthought.