Reimagining digital insight for 2024: how AI and the digital twin will accelerate Industry 5.0, driving deeper sustainability and innovation

Posted: January 05, 2024

In a year dominated by war and realpolitik, COP28 was a beacon of hope for collaboration and meaningful progress towards lasting change. The broadest coalition of voices—industry and technology leaders, governments and civil society—agreed that the world must double efficiency, triple renewables and transition towards regenerative development to mitigate environmental damage, address social inequality, and build resilience so we can live more harmoniously. A positive relationship between people and the planet can be achieved through circular and ethical practices underpinned by digitalization. Specifically, a new, ecosystem-first approach to information and insight based on the integrated digital twin can be the key force-multiplier driving the evolution of Industry 5.0—and with it, the sustainable improvements we need.

And speed is crucial. As the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change says, the next two years are critical. To meet the Paris climate commitments, emissions must begin to decline by next year and fall 43% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels. This trajectory demands rapidly deploying technologies available today and accelerating industrial innovation—to reduce and sequester carbon, scale up sectors such as green hydrogen, build connected infrastructure, and redefine global benchmarks for waste and efficiency.

Three key technologies—digital twins, industrial artificial intelligence (AI), and industrial intelligence that spans your entire business ecosystem—are set to enable that acceleration from 2024.

Shared insight as a centrifugal force multiplier

McKinsey calls this shared-insight approach a “centrifugal force on the organization”. Democratized insights from the field or the edge are being fed back into labs, enabling operators, developers and field experts to co-innovate and unlock radical new approaches in real time.

It stands to reason that when teams can access the same intelligence, they can find solutions for complex problems together. Projects then become easier to deliver on time and within budget, while operational innovation can quickly scale. When Canadian engineering firm Vista Projects deployed an integrated software suite on a large-scale greenfield energy project, it cut costs 16% and engineering hours 10-15%.

The public-private dynamo

From what I saw during COP28, the partnership between the public and private sectors is the dynamo that can drive global sustainable innovation. With initiatives such as Digital India and Saudi Arabia’s vision for a connected country with smart cities such as Neom, governments are radically reshaping their approach to sustainability in sectors as diverse as power generation, infrastructure and manufacturing.

Marrying the capabilities of industrial AI with the scope and scale of a digital twin can accelerate time to insight and capture new value. Industrial AI can support optioneering, predict maintenance and optimize operations in real time. Digital twins are the foundation of predictive modeling, scenario simulation, and efficient lifecycle management.

Together, these technologies empower stakeholders with data-driven insights, proactive decision-making, and enhanced operational resilience. In the critical infrastructure sector, for example, a power plant can expect to reduce fuel costs 28%, maintenance costs 20% and operations costs 19.5% simply by introducing new integrated digital thinking.

Autonomous innovation at scale

How do democratized insights and capabilities unlock new value and sustainability outcomes? A digital twin can support the entire value chain from design to optimization. It pinpoints leaks and resource-saving opportunities, while addressing labor and skills shortages. Such an integrated, ecosystem-wide approach not only boosts operational efficiency but also aligns with sustainability targets. AI and machine learning simply enhance these abilities by enabling a constant state of self-optimization through autonomous processes.

A great example is the City of Salem, in Oregon, where integrated data and AI help to identify weather conditions that would lead to the blooming of toxic algae, to ensure resiliency by predicting and preventing future blooms.

This same thinking is being applied to power generation, and even smart manufacturing approaches.

GenAI + digital twin opens the pathway to Industry 5.0

Looking to 2024, IDC forecasts spending on generative AI (GenAI) solutions will reach $143 billion in 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 73%. We believe this will prompt more companies to explore Industry 5.0 approaches, where intelligent machines work alongside humans. 

Expect industries already well advanced in digital twin and AI adoption to start to actively blend digital insights with knowledge and experience from human, environmental and social sources. Bringing together data analytics, AI and human insight fosters the industrial intelligence to intuitively predict opportunities and inefficiencies.

Some companies are there already. German chemicals leader Covestro has begun innovative development of bioplastic polymers to meet its 2035 carbon neutrality goal and longer-term net-zero commitments. Using AI-enhanced process modeling founded on the digital twin, Covestro’s engineers can quickly simulate and test diverse new polymers, ruling out non-viable options early on, and more quickly iterating on viable ideas.

This kind of test-and-learn approach where AI and the scope and speed of digital are combined with human expertise and judgement neatly exemplifies the innovation-at-the-edge approach that we anticipate will become more prevalent in 2024 and beyond.

Companies are grappling with the demands of the triple bottom line of planet, people and profit. Industry 5.0 approaches, enhanced by augmented intelligence and underpinned by the digital twin, are already making possible a new, more efficient, lower waste, and more equable future.

To discover how building a connected data ecosystem could transform your business, visit Connect.

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