Digital twin: The human possibility

Examining digital twin technology and the potential implication of human digital twin adaptation. Will this technology lead to digital human doppelgangers?

By Max Burkhalter
April 27, 2022
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Defined as a virtual representation of a digital counterpart or physical object, a digital twin offers real-time analytical insight into a replicated source.

First developed by NASA to improve the physical model simulation of the spacecraft in 2010, today's digital twin technology is employed by virtually every segment of industry. Essentially a computer program that utilizes real-world data to create predictive simulations, this internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence- (AI) powered technology is able to analyze big data to drive innovation and improve performance.

A 2021 ScienceDirect study investigated whether or not a human digital twin is science fiction…or inevitable fact.

Twins 2.0

Reaching beyond primary user applications in the manufacturing, product lifecycle management (PLM) and smart healthcare fields, the concept of human digital twin (HDT) is being considered. The IoT-powered ability to utilize data fusion analysis, deep learning technology and human-computer science has eliminated the question of whether or not this concept could be brought to (virtual) life. The question of the ethical implications, however, are not so easily answered.

Author Philip A.E. Brey conceptualized the potential ethics implications of future technologies back in 2012, with the publication of Anticipatory Ethics for Emerging Technologies. His decade-old theories on the ethics of technology relate to the concept of the human 'individual' recently brought into question with the doppelganger-like digital twin.

Aside from any possible religious or privacy implications associated with the creation of a digital copy of a human being, the healthcare benefits of this technology are substantial. A study published by The Lancet Discovery Science outlines digital twin benefits for diagnosing the efficacy of liver surgery on prospective patients.

The complexity of the human liver makes pinpointing lesion sites difficult under current medical technologies. As the study illustrates, a real-time HDT model of a patient could provide risk-free analysis of the exact location surgery is required. Utilizing AI-powered abdominal surgery navigation technology after properly assessing predictive outcomes via the use of a digital twin is one way the healthcare industry looks to benefit from HDT implementation.

Twin peaks… a concept in HDT

Theoretically, as soon as a person is born, a qualified practitioner will create an HDT. In line with the newborn inheriting genetic characteristics of his ancestors, the digital twin will have ancestral data downloaded as well.

Changes occurring in the individual would be synchronously replicated in the HDT, from height growth to external factors such as the implementation of vaccine treatment or physical injury. Reflected in real-time and from real-world events, the cyberspace version of the individual would mimic the lifecycle of the human twin.

The data of each medical examination, treatment or immunization – in addition to data as varied as blood pressure, height and weight – would be uploaded by the corresponding examiner or via wearable IoT technology.

Utilizing the machine learning processes and human-computer science technologies, height and weight could be inferred via predictive analysis data or human growth algorithms. Similar to the way wearables track diet and nutrition information, these predictive analytics could extrapolate future growth and lifecycle implications far in advance of the actual human host's current age.

Whether or not digital twin will ever see human application, the IoT-powered capabilities of this emerging analytical big data technology are seemingly limitless.

Perle powers future tech

Perle Systems proudly partners with leaders in IoT innovation by providing device networking, media conversion and IoT connectivity solutions. To learn more about how Perle tech is aiding network-enabled medical equipment, visit our healthcare solutions page.


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