Executable Digital Twin (xDT) – Part 1

By Ian McGann

Exploiting Artificial Intelligence in Simulation and Test has a bright future

Hi, my name is Ian McGann, and I started working at a company called LMS (Leuven Measurement Systems) about 20 years ago. LMS was acquired by Siemens in 2012. During my early years working for the company I was focused on acoustic simulation. More specifically, our main focus was on making detailed acoustic simulations accessible, easy to use and accurate. One of the main technologies that helped us do this was called acoustic transfer vectors (ATVs). This technology allowed us to go from using acoustic simulation in a research context to using it to help design real products. That technology has evolved, and so did my role within Siemens. I moved to the US, became a sales person and as such lost the technical connection to several topics that I am passionate about. Meanwhile, technology evolved faster than I could have imagined.

xDT's from creation, validation and deployment

Discovering fast paced innovations

Two years ago I returned to Leuven, Belgium and took on a new position related to business strategy management. This new position re-connected me to our most advanced technologies, some of which related to digital twins, autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. This role connected me with the research teams, which had quadrupled in size over those 20 years. There were one or two technologies that I saw as game changers in the industry. Innovations, that would allow you to take simulations and push them beyond their use in the design domain and into the world of manufacturing and operations.

To understand this better I wanted to first understand how it all began. I started searching the key people within the company who hold the technological memory of these past, fast paced, years. My quest brought me to the doors of our head of research, Dr. Herman Van der Auweraer and the head of our strategy group, Dr. Katrien Wyckaert and I quickly realized that the information I was getting was very valuable and would be of interest to others.  

A conversation about AI, Executable Digital Twins and more …

We drafted some colleagues in to help setup a recording session outside our offices (corona and all). Although we gave the questions to them upfront, I still wasn’t completely sure how they would answer them. We touch on the main topics that are leading the way towards bringing the virtual world closer to the physical world. Additionally, how these technologies can show their benefits in design and also stretch those technologies towards production and operations. Topics we discuss include AI, demystifying some myths and focusing on the real added value and outlook. Also discussed is a new wave of digital twins – the executable digital twins.

Our AI experts

Dr. Herman Van der Auweraer is our Principal Key Expert and Director Research and Technology Development for the Simulation & Test Solutions business segment of Siemens Digital Industries Software. Herman holds an MSc in Electronics Engineering and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from KU Leuven, Belgium. His technical background is in signal processing, system identification and control. In 1986 Herman joined the company and is presently responsible for identifying and coordinating strategic innovation programs, many of which are performed in collaboration projects with academic and industry partners. Herman is also guest professor at KU Leuven an active in advisory boards related to innovation and technology transfer

Dr. Katrien WYCKAERT is our Director Simcenter Industry Solutions, for the Simulation and Test Solutions business segment of Siemens Digital Industries Software. Her educational background is civil engineering, with major in Electrotechnics/Mechanics and she graduated in 1986 from KU Leuven, Belgium. She holds a PhD in the field of non-linear dynamics and mechanical system testing and modeling. Her professional technical background is in NVH and acoustics testing and simulation. She has held various positions in research, product development as well as product management and strategy. Currently she heads the Siemens Simcenter Industry Solutions Competence Center. Within her current role, she oversees industry go-to-market strategy for the Simulation and Test solutions of Siemens Digital Industries Software.  

The next episode

I’ve watched the interview a few times, and although my corona haircut makes me cringe this conversation made me realize that there is a lot more still left to discuss.  Therefore, I’ve setup another interview with my colleague Tommaso Tamarozzi, who is managing a research team within the simulation group. He has been working on the executable digital twin project quite extensively and I’m sure he can shed more light on this exciting technology. Stay tuned for the next interview and some jaw-dropping showcases.

In case you missed it …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at