• One Pacific island nation threatened by climate change is considering making a digital twin of its culture in case of disaster.
  • The idea of building virtual copies of places and processes is becoming increasingly popular. 
  • Chip maker Nvidia plans to build a supercomputer that will create a digital twin of the entire planet.

Man wearing a VR headset interacting with the objects in the metaverse

Making digital copies of entire countries might be one way to save information from climate change. 

The Pacific island nation of Tuvalu plans to create a version of itself in the metaverse as rising sea levels threaten its physical existence. Tuvalu’s minister for justice, communication, and foreign affairs, Simon Kofe, said recently during the COP27 climate conference that creating a digital twin of Tuvalu could preserve the country’s culture. It’s part of a growing interest in creating digital copies of everything from physical objects to complex systems.

“There is probably no better way to simulate ‘what if’ scenarios than with digital twin technology,” Bob Rogers, the CEO of Oii.ai, a data science company that uses digital twins, told Lifewire in an email interview. “Digital twins essentially create a replica of the environment you want to test. And once created, AI systems can run scenarios based on the parameters that you change. In the case of Tuvalu, it can simulate climate change conditions like rising sea levels and ‘foresee’ how those conditions will affect the island nation.”

Digital Copies

Tuvalu's Kofe said the country is looking for alternative ways to protect its heritage due to climate change.

"As our land disappears, we have no choice but to become the world's first digital nation," he added. "Islands like this one won't survive rapid temperature increases, rising sea levels, and droughts, so we will recreate them virtually."

If rising oceans swallow the island, Tuvalu hopes to preserve its territory and culture in the cloud. "Piece by piece, we'll preserve our country, provide solace to our people, and remind our children and our grandchildren what our home once was," Kofe said.

There is probably no better way to simulate ‘what if’ scenarios than with digital twin technology.

Rogers said that digital twins are playing an increasing role in plans to mitigate global warming risks. Chip manufacturer Nvidia announced last year that it was going to build a supercomputer to create a digital twin of Earth.

"The tech is supposed to predict climate changes based on various factors," Rogers added. "Another company called AspenTech is using digital twin technology to model chemical processes. It can learn how certain processes will affect the environment."

Many Uses for Digital Twins

Digital twins can be useful for modeling weather that’s affected by climate change, Achalesh Pandey, vice president of AI & Digital Transformation at GE Digital, noted in an email interview with Lifewire. The systems can help understand possible impacts and outcomes from a weather event and provide recommendations and control actions to improve community resilience.

"For an island community like Tuvalu, this is even more important," he added. "Digital twins can use data related to weather, equipment condition, or system performance to predict, pressure test, and reduce the impact of a climate-related event. By matching the real-time conditions of a critical asset, process, or network, power generators, grid operators, and others can run simulations to predict how that system might react in different scenarios in the future."

For businesses, digital twins can not only predict demand, but they also allow you to identify capacity within your supply chain, whether this is room for additional products, delivery vehicles, or more salespeople in your store, Daniel Hulme, CEO of the AI company Satalia, told Lifewire in an email interview. These insights can inform businesses’ marketing campaigns, hiring strategies, and product roadmaps.

"By removing the risk of a real-world scenario, digital twins enable businesses to make bolder and more impactful decisions for their organizations," he added. "We're seeing digital twins for a variety of businesses, such as creative agencies, seaports, food delivery businesses, supermarkets, and pharmaceuticals."

A digital twin might soon even be useful for meeting your friends. The company Orbits is building virtual venues that it claims will be accessible via any browser.

“It’s like having your favorite building or location in a website and being able to join others or watch live events from different rooms,” the company’s co-founder Nena Salobir said via email to Lifewire. “We’ve created digital twins for festivals and events held in iconic locations, as well as digital twins of corporate headquarters, too.”

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