June 13, 2024

Harnessing Digital Twins

How Semantic Web Technologies Drive Advanced Data Interoperability and Insight

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, businesses are constantly seeking ways to optimise operations and enhance decision-making processes. One of the most transformative innovations in recent years is the advent of digital twins. By leveraging ontologies and knowledge graphs, digital twins can benefit from vast amounts of integrated, high-quality data. This article explores the concept of digital twins, the critical role ontologies and knowledge graphs can play in their creation, and the benefits of employing semantic web technologies to build these advanced systems.

What Are Digital Twins?

Digital twins create a detailed and dynamic digital replica of physical assets, processes, or systems, providing a comprehensive understanding of their real-world counterparts. This technology aims to enable businesses to simulate, predict, and optimise their operations through real-time digital representations. The benefits of digital twins can be profound:

  • Improved Operational Efficiency: Digital twins provide a comprehensive view of operations, enabling businesses to identify inefficiencies, streamline processes, optimise resource allocation, and adjust production schedules.
  • Predictive Maintenance: By continuously monitoring the condition of equipment, digital twins can predict when a machine is likely to fail. This allows businesses to perform maintenance before failures occur, thereby reducing downtime and maintenance costs.
  • Enhanced Innovation: Digital twins offer a risk-free environment to test new ideas and strategies. Businesses can simulate different scenarios to evaluate the impact of changes before implementing them in the real world.
  • Cost Reduction: Optimised operations and predictive maintenance can lead to significant cost savings. By avoiding unexpected equipment failures and minimising downtime with the help of digital twins, businesses can reduce operational expenses.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Digital twins can contribute to environmental sustainability by optimising resource usage and reducing waste.

Digital twins offer tremendous potential across a wide range of industries. For example, in manufacturing, they can be employed to reduce the need for physical prototypes, enhance system performance, and ensure maximum reuse of materials at the end of the lifecycle. Siemens, a leader in the digital transformation space, helps manufacturers leverage the full potential of digital twins, including machine-builder Hugo Beck, who developed a sustainable packaging machine thanks to this groundbreaking technology.

At Semantic Partners, we are proud to be taking part in the National Digital Twin Programme (NDTP) through our work for the Department of Business and Trade. The NDTP is a government-led programme committed to growing national capability in digital twinning technologies and processes throughout the United Kingdom. It aims to enable the creation of digital twins that are safe, secure, trustworthy, ethical, and accessible to organisations of all sizes, whether they are in the public or private sector.

The Role of Ontologies and Knowledge Graphs

A crucial requirement for an organisation to implement digital twins is achieving digital maturity. This involves having a robust data infrastructure that provides reliable, high-quality data. This is where ontologies and knowledge graphs can play their part by structuring and integrating diverse data sources, ensuring consistency, and enhancing data quality.

Ontologies define the relationships between different data elements within a specific domain. They provide a structured framework for data integration, ensuring that disparate data sources can be combined seamlessly. For example, in healthcare, an ontology can describe the relationships between symptoms, diagnoses, treatments, and patient outcomes.

Knowledge Graphs are a way to represent and store complex relationships between data elements, making it easier to query and analyse data. They provide a visual and interconnected map of data relationships, enhancing the understanding and utilisation of information. For instance, a knowledge graph in manufacturing can map the relationships between raw materials, production processes, equipment, and finished products.

Using ontologies and knowledge graphs offers several key advantages:

  • Enhanced Data Integration: Ontologies and knowledge graphs enable seamless data integration from various sources, ensuring that all relevant information is included in the digital twin. This comprehensive data integration leads to more accurate and reliable simulations and predictions.
  • Improved Data Quality: They ensure consistent and accurate data representation by defining clear relationships and standards for data elements. This consistency improves the reliability of data-driven insights and decision-making processes.
  • Better Decision-Making: Structured data enhances advanced analytics and insights, enabling businesses to make more informed decisions. With a comprehensive and interconnected view of data, businesses can identify trends, uncover hidden patterns, and gain deeper insights into their operations.

These advantages are applicable across numerous domains, from smart cities, where ontologies and knowledge graphs could be utilised to integrate data from traffic sensors, energy meters, and public services, to healthcare, where they could unify patient records, treatment plans, and medical research data.

For the past year, Semantic Partners have been working with the Department of Business and Trade on expanding the Information Exchange Standard (IES), an ontology developed by the UK Government. The purpose of the IES is to streamline information exchange between the government’s data repositories by providing a common vocabulary. Practical use cases include, for example, simplifying the exchange of transport and housing information among government organisations.

Building Robust Ontologies and Knowledge Graphs with Semantic Web Technologies

Semantic web technologies, including RDF (Resource Description Framework), OWL (Web Ontology Language), and SPARQL (SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language), are ideal for creating intelligent and interconnected systems that facilitate data integration, interoperability, and enhanced query capabilities across diverse domains.

RDF is a framework for representing information about resources in a graph form. It provides the foundation for data interoperability by enabling different systems to understand and exchange data seamlessly.

OWL is a language for defining and instantiating Web ontologies. It adds more vocabulary for describing properties and classes, allowing for more detailed and precise representation of data relationships. Additionally, OWL supports inferencing, which enables automated reasoning over data. This means that new information can be derived from existing data relationships, providing deeper insights and enhancing the overall understanding of complex data sets.

SPARQL is a query language for graph databases, designed to retrieve and analyse data stored in RDF format. It enables complex queries and data processing, facilitating advanced analytics and insights.

Collectively, these technologies empower organisations to unlock the full potential of their data through seamless integration, and achieve digital maturity — a prerequisite to digital twin implementation.

Working with Semantic Web Experts

Implementing these advanced technologies requires specialised knowledge and expertise. The role of semantic web experts is to ensure that businesses and other organisations can fully leverage the benefits of ontologies and knowledge graphs.

  • Tailored Solutions: Experts can design and implement solutions that are customised to the specific needs of the business/organisation. Working in close collaboration with their clients, experts can create tailored ontologies and knowledge graphs that deliver maximum value.
  • Efficient Implementation: Experienced professionals ensure that the technologies are implemented efficiently and effectively. Their expertise reduces the risk of implementation errors and ensures a smooth integration with existing systems.
  • Ongoing Support: Experts provide ongoing support and optimisation to ensure the technologies continue to deliver value. They offer continuous improvement to keep the systems aligned with evolving business needs and technological advancements.

At Semantic Partners, we have a team of specialists in semantic web technologies. Our experts are equipped to help clients harness these powerful tools to drive innovation, optimise operations, and enhance decision-making processes. Contact us to learn how we can support your digital transformation effort.

About the author:
Christelle Maignan
REach out

To discuss a project, collaboration, or for anything else, just shoot us a message.

Let's work together