by Erik Peeters (TNO ICT Unit)
High-tech equipment companies increasingly use simulations and models to predict the planned requirements of the machines they build. This “digital twin” provides major benefits to the industrial sector, but it seems that model calculations are rarely compared to the end product. The consequence is that development processes and product maintenance are inadequate and that upgrades don’t benefit from existing models. The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO)’s Industry 4.0 ambitions support organisations with effective use of models and virtual representations of physical systems to understand, predict, optimise and upgrade their systems and systems behaviour in the field.
With the increasing amount of product variants and “series-of-one” products, it is difficult for organisations to maintain physical setups of any system configuration delivered for necessary maintenance and upgrade tests. At the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), we support customers with research and numerous testing of digital representation of products, production processes and use phases. Measurements are taken in the final physical production and use process to make digital models more robust. The goal is to create the digital twin of products and enable industries to start production quicker and more flexibly, without delays in the programming or the production of moulds.
TNO ICT Unit, who are we?
Founded in 1932, the TNO’s mandate has always been to help governments, universities and companies to benefit from independent applied research and inform them with a demonstrable value on major social and economic issues. The ICT Unit works closely with clients, partners and other TNO units in domains like ICT, telecoms, mobility, logistics, defence, security, high-tech, agri-food, and energy.
Strengthening valuable knowledge for The Netherlands is based on co-working with international and leading knowledge partners and companies. The new membership with ERCIM is a great example of both parties benefiting from exchanging ideas and setting up cooperative international research with other members in the ERCIM community and vice versa.
It is clear that ICT presents many new opportunities for addressing all kinds of challenges in society. ICT also has the power to fuel innovation and economic growth. The examples are numerous. Traffic safety can improve and traffic jams are reduced with the use of ICT systems exchanging information so quickly and reliably that cars can drive themselves. Ever more people are collecting data on their personal health thanks to smart sensors in mobile devices, applications and software that measure and analyse medical data. Agriculture has higher production with less impact on environment. Breakthroughs in encryption and algorithms are building the foundations for the actual use of the first quantum computers. ICT provides important stimuli for innovation in a broader scientific context than the concrete applications in themselves.
However, the rapid digital transformation in society is creating new issues of its own. High tech developments like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and independently operating algorithms are becoming increasingly pervasive. Data-driven innovations are important determinants of economic success and societal impact but the distinction between the physical and virtual world is blurring. These developments are giving rise to cyber-physical systems (CPS) in which professionals and consumers interact through augmented and virtual reality interfaces. Secure, transparent, adaptive and robust systems are paramount and necessary for these developments to be successful but also restrained.
TNO aims to assist governments and businesses in the current complex digital transformation by leveraging its know-how in ICT, policy making and business models. TNO’s stakeholders with a focus on product development profit from new opportunities in knowledge and data sharing at an increased efficiency, effectiveness, quality and cost effectiveness. They require fast open infrastructures and trusted digital marketplaces to meet their goals in the new digital ecosystem.
Additionally, businesses and societal stakeholders will need to reinvent their business models based on (big) data and the emergence of dominant platforms. This requires laws and regulation that sustain economic benefits and mitigate negative effects, like privacy infringement. In the triple helix combination of universities, applied research, governments, and businesses the economic value of the investments in science is realised. What sets TNO apart is our multidisciplinary approach embedded in a thorough understanding of the application domain with the goal of transforming research into innovation for businesses and governments.
ICT is also key enabler for innovation in other domains, the high tech equipment industry being one of them. For customers in this sector, TNO has developed the programme “Intensification of Smart Industry” that focuses on the importance of increasing productivity, product development and production technology and services. This includes the perspective of employees and the development of experimental environments in the field lab of the Dutch National Smart Industry Program. This programme contributes to innovations needed to achieve work-learn-innovative environments for lifelong learning at all levels and for (vulnerable) groups in industrial environments. From this and other (future) perspectives, TNO is very interested in contributing to the ERCIM Digital Twin Workgroup and is looking forward to creating value with ERCIM members.
Erik Peeters, director of Operations at TNO ICT Unit, The Netherlands