Bringing digital twins and blockchain together to boost smart manufacturing

6 Dec 2022

Image: Dr Radhya Sahal

Confirm researcher Dr Radhya Sahal is exploring how tech could enable smart distributed manufacturing with a focus on real-time operational data analytics.

Dr Radhya Sahal is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Smart 4.0 research fellow at Confirm, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for smart manufacturing.

She received her MSc and PhD in computer science at Cairo University. She went on to hold a postdoctoral position at the University of Galway, and is now based at University College Cork.

Sahal’s research interests include blockchain, digital twins, big data, internet of things (IoT), industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, smart cities, stream processing, and query optimisation over large-scale distributed data system.

‘Developing blockchain-based digital twin collaboration could potentially serve distributed manufacturing by providing insights for making decisions smarter’

Tell us about the research you’re currently working on.

My current research work focuses on digital twin collaboration in distributed manufacturing. Digital twins play a vital role in improving distributed manufacturing by providing the up-to-date operational data representation of physical assets, which supports decision-making to avoid the potential risks in distributed manufacturing systems.

However, using digital twin collaboration to predict the risks in distributed manufacturing systems and reach consensus-based decision-making faces many challenges, including data interoperability, authentication and scalability.

Therefore, the combination of blockchain and digital twin technologies has significant advantages in addressing the challenges of digital twin collaboration for smart distributed manufacturing in a decentralisation fashion.

Our project aims to build a concrete ledger-based collaborative digital twin system for smart distributed manufacturing, focusing on real-time operational data analytics.

In your opinion, why is your research important?

All research work is important to generate new knowledge and technologies to deal with major unsolved problems.

Regarding our research, we believe our work can be a step towards smart distributed manufacturing with a focus on real-time operational data analytics. Furthermore, we’re exploring how blockchain technology can empower digital twin collaboration to provide a smart concrete solution for distributed manufacturing.

From the commercial point of view, nowadays digital twin technology is used across various industries at different stages – from the products being manufactured to being consumed. Furthermore, the digital twin collaboration will be a crucial concept for creating an end-to-end enhanced virtual representation of distributed manufacturing systems – for example, in energy, railway, logistics, healthcare, consumer products and so on.

Moreover, it will change the industrial way the world works by combining blockchain, AI, IoT, edge/cloud and other advanced technologies. Therefore, developing blockchain-based digital twin collaboration could potentially serve the distributed manufacturing by providing insights for making decisions smarter.

What inspired you to become a researcher?

My inquisitive attitude since I was young and the beautiful environment that gave me more than I could handle in terms of mysteries. This developed into a more scientific orientation; little by little, I got into computer science and learned something new every day.

After that, I started thinking about researching to gain a deeper understanding of the scientific process. After the first paper I published, I became addicted to research.

What are some of the biggest challenges or misconceptions you face as a researcher in your field?

Many challenges still exist in bridging the physical worlds to digital worlds. The digital twin technology needs several years to be adopted in all manufacturing sectors. As a result, my research is still in the early stage.

The digital twin collaboration is still in the conceptual stage to demonstrate wide industrial adoption and become well-defined engineering practice within the industry. Moreover, the lack of mature and stable technologies stands in developing a concrete end-to-end collaborative digital twin system for smart distributed manufacturing.

Do you think public engagement with science has changed in recent years?

The Covid-19 era has reshaped the world regarding the economy, healthcare systems, remote work environment, people’s lifestyles and daily routines, etc. For sure, public engagement with science has changed.

Covid-19 restrictions also caused a big challenge for marketing industries and forced them to rapidly adapt to contactless marketing to meet consumer needs while maintaining their expectations to achieve desired growth. Consequently, digital transformation for companies has been accelerated.

Our research work can serve the marketing industries by adopting the digital twin collaboration concept to provide a virtual representation of products, processes, consumers, malls and other participants within the supply chain.

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