Digital twins are everywhere, whether you realize it or not. They’ve been around for a long time in the industrial arena where digital representations of a plane or car in aerospace and automotive help engineers model and test systems without having to build a real prototype. 

Take personalization to the next level:

Instead, imagine if a digital twin was an accurate digital representation of you? What possibilities would be opened up? Imagine a digital simulation that looked, thought, felt and acted just like you. We’re already starting to see companies build their own digital representations of you in health and fitness, shopping, and anytime you fill out a profile. But are you in control of your twin, and can we envision a future that harnesses this potential more fully and seamlessly?  

Working in silos vs centralized digital twin 

Most apps collecting information about you to personalize the experience are working in silos. An airline app that knows what seat and food you like most, where and when you’ve flown, creates a partial twin. But this information isn’t shared, so the digital twin they build will only be as complete as the information you share, and they collect. Apple HealthKit is different, however. It collects data inputs from other external apps such as Strava and MapMyRide to know even more about you, but still lacks global functionality to bidirectionally communicate with all apps people might use on a daily basis.  

But what if, like Apple HealthKit does in fitness, there was a broader ecosystem that is able to work with  decentralized and tailored services from airlines, health apps, browsing, and shopping etc, but in such a way these apps all pulled data from a unified digital twin? One that was able to access a more complete representation of you to provide a much greater level of intelligence and personalization? If your digital twin knew more about you, many of the mundane tasks such as product recommendations, and decisions would be better and more tailored to your needs. Every app you might use would have this heightened level of intelligence. 

The role of a digital personal coach  

With this centralized and more complete digital twin, we have the ability to create a system that can anticipate your needs. It would be like having a digital assistant, or digital personal coach, that knows you inside out and can anticipate what’s right for you across your entire life. Not only does your personal coach know you better than any app, it serves as the digital guardian of your valuable digital twin. Your personal coach becomes both your digital assistant and digital protector, only granting digital and data access to apps on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. Let’s explore some of the possible ways in which your digital twin can impact your life, and how your new personal coach can support you in the digital, and physical world. 


Sports and athletics 

Elite sports coaching is becoming more readily available, and more mainstream. By bringing together data from every aspect of a given athlete’s life, it’s possible to personalize and optimize the advice and coaching that the athlete is given to maximize performance. That always includes obvious things like physiological data and nutrition, but it often includes subtler things such as sleep patterns and travel history.   

Gatorade worked with Cambridge Consultants to develop a bottle that would monitor the hydration of the Brazilian soccer players and report it to coaches as they prepared for the World Cup in 2014. Fast forwarding to today, can we take coaches out of the loop? Whoop, for example, monitors daily activity and sleep to provide real-time coaching guidance without a live coach. There are many apps that collect bits of data, but, as yet, there is no system to date that is leveraging all the data available to create a more complete digital twin.  

Work and productivity 

In the workplace, the digital twin might assemble data that underpins your efficiency and productivity at work. Did you sleep well last night? Did you eat breakfast? Did you drive two hundred miles this morning?  Do you look stressed? Onto your next Zoom call, the system might notify everyone that you’re running a minute late and put your image in soft focus in case those tired eyes detract from how people perceive you.  

If you’ve too much going on, your personal coach will schedule a few minutes of quiet time in your calendar for a quick walk or coffee break. Your coach knows you, and helps you stay more focused and productive even when you’re too busy to think about it. Your coach knows you and can help you find a better work-life balance. 

Travel and leisure 

It’s perfectly possible for existing digital assistants to take a lot of time and effort out of booking a vacation. Based on profile information, it can be quick and simple to set up flights, hotel and rental car. But although the assistant is efficient, you still need to give it specific orders. By comparison, a digital personal coach knows you so well, it doesn’t need detailed orders, or any orders at all. Picture being able to ask your phone to ‘set me up with a vacation in July’ and for the coach to come back in seconds with a recommended destination, travel plans, provisional restaurant bookings, attraction tickets and arrangements to look after your dog while you’re away.  

It can do all that because it’s talking to your digital twin who knows that you enjoyed Mexico in October but not July (too hot) but that Barbados will be comfortable for you. Who knows that you have a key meeting in the second week of July (when you can’t travel). And who knows where the best vegan (not veggie) food is at the destination.  

Shopping and commerce 

In 2011, Katrina Lake started Stitch Fix, and in 2017 went public with revenues of $1billion. Stich Fix represented a new way for consumers to find and buy clothing. Using a sophisticated AI engine and human personal stylist, shoppers create an online profile to more easily find clothing and outfits that fit their lifestyle. Each interaction helps the AI engine better understand the consumer and make better clothing recommendations with each subsequent interaction. Your digital twin is constantly refined.  

As your twin grows, fed by various applications, it matures with you. Finding products that best suit your needs will be easier. Brands, services, and products can be automatically curated for you. This concept goes well beyond the two-dimensional Amazon recommendations, and factors in many aspects of your life to find products right for you, based on your current needs, location, preferences, and desires – all defined by an advanced digital twin and personal coach looking out for your very best interests.  

Health and wellbeing 

Creating a digital twin can help us stay healthier and assist us when we’re sick. New technologies like those from Omron or Qardio are being developed that allow people to measure heart rate, brain waves, glucose levels and blood pressure with simple devices you can now purchase online. Each one of these signals is either a direct measurement or a proxy for a biological function. The Apple Watch is adding more and more biosensors and features making health monitoring and data collection even easier. 

Imagine, however, if we had the ability to monitor our bodies so closely that we could detect oncoming issues before they become health problems. In its simplest terms, if we pre-emptively monitored our bodies and took immediate action, we would remain healthier and could avoid complications. For example, if we knew we had the cold virus before we were symptomatic, could we intervene sooner and stave off the cold. We can think of hundreds of conditions for which early detection and intervention could increase the propensity for better health. 

Our digital twin can track our health over time to predict patterns or triggers that might make us sick. Our twin sees what we eat, where we go, and what we do, and can make personalized recommendations for food, exercise and mental health to keep us healthy. While there are thousands of specific apps for individual issues, nothing exists that ties this all together and looks out for your best interests as a complete individual. 

Where do we go from here? 

The personal coach would take personalization to a whole new frontier where distributed applications feed real-time data to a centralized digital twin for which you have absolute control. Technologies exist to create digital representations. Affectiva has EmotionAI to characterize your emotions in real-time. The AppleWatch is collecting GPS, vital signs, and knows whether you’re walking, running, or sitting. Amazon and Google know what you buy and what content you consume. But no one is tying this, and terabytes of other data about you, together. It’s decentralized, and it’s not under your control. This model needs to change. 

Building a digital twin is no small challenge. It requires information feeds from many disparate applications. The more that brands can feed data into your digital twin, the richer the digital picture becomes. Artificial Intelligence models will give the personal coach the ability to synthesize various inputs into something valuable. Aggregating this data is paramount and requires cooperation and standards.  

Your single digital twin would be managed by your personal coach who keeps you healthy, safe, and more productive. Your personal coach also controls access to your digital twin, sharing relevant information to apps and services on a need-to-know basis. And there’s clearly a big security and privacy challenge. It will take some innovative thinking and collaboration to make the system work. 

Your digital twin will grow and mature with you as you use more goods and services – whether you’re taking a trip, going to work, or going for a run, data is being collected. While it might take time for your personal coach to know you better than your mother, one day soon it might just be the friend who knows you best. 

If you’d like to explore these themes in more detail, don’t hesitate to drop me an email. I’d be delighted to talk further.

Eric Cohen
SVP, Consumer Business

A recognized leader in consumer and health technology, Eric has more than 30 years’ experience of developing products that create new consumer experiences using new technologies and healthcare behavior models. His track record in new product innovation and development combined with his first-hand knowledge of patient care and industry-leading patient engagement methods plays a critical role in developing new products and services in the consumer and wellness markets.