Azure Digital Twins: Creating IoT Solutions for the Real World

Illustration: © IoT For All

Today, organizations show a growing appetite for solutions that provide a deeper understanding of assets and complex interactions across environments. This shift is driven by the need to be more agile and respond to real-time changes in the world. It involves moving beyond tracking individual assets or devices to focusing on everything within a rich environment—from people, places, processes, and things to their very relationships.

Companies are creating digital replicas of their physical world to really understand these intricate environments, also known as digital twins. With Microsoft Azure Digital Twins now generally available, this Internet of Things (IoT) platform provides the capabilities to fuse both physical and digital worlds, allowing you to transform your business and create breakthrough customer experiences.

According to the IoT Signals report, the vast majority of companies with a digital twin strategy see it as an integral part of their IoT solution. Yet, the reality is that modeling entire environments can be complicated. It involves bringing together the many elements that make up a digital twin to capture actionable insights. However, siloed data across these experiences makes it challenging to build digital twin solutions that bring those models to life. Doing so in a scalable, secure way is often time-consuming.

Enterprise-Grade Deployments

Azure Digital Twins is an industry-first solution. It breaks down silos within intelligent environments by fusing data from previously disparate devices and business systems. It means you can track both past and present events, simulate possibilities, and help predict future events for those environments.

With Azure Digital Twins now generally available, it offers ready-to-use building blocks that can simplify creating detailed, comprehensive digital models that bring solutions to life. This trusted enterprise-grade platform brings the scale, reliability, security, and broad market availability that enables customers to build production-ready solutions.

Customer Insights and Partner Solutions

Intelligent environments come in all shapes and sizes, and their attributes and outcomes are as varied as the industries in which they are used. As such, the possibilities for digital twins are endless—it can be used to model industries and environments that include factories, buildings, stadiums, and even entire cities. Today, we are working with customers and partners who create digital twins to model everything from facilities and spaces such as smart buildings to manufactured products and the very processes within their supply chains.

One company pushing the boundaries of renewable energy production and efficiency is Korea-based Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction. Doosan worked with Microsoft and Bentley Systems to develop a digital twin of its wind farms, which allows operators to remotely monitor equipment performance and predict energy generation based on weather conditions.

The solution uses Azure Digital Twins to combine real-time and historical IoT, weather, and other operational data with physics and machine learning-based models to predict production output for each turbine in the farm accurately. Based on the simulated models, Doosan can proactively adjust individual turbines’ pitch and performance, maximize energy production, and generate insights that will improve the future design of its next-generation wind turbines.

The innovation and productivity that Azure Digital Twins enables doesn’t stop there:

Johnson Controls collaborates with Microsoft to digitally transform how buildings and spaces are conceived, built, and managed. At the center of this collaboration is a holistic integration between their platform, OpenBlue Digital Twin, and Azure Digital Twins. This partnership helps enable integrated building management, and the platform serves as the foundation for energy and space optimization, predictive maintenance, and remote operations.

Ansys, a market leader in simulation software, now offers native integration of simulation-based digital twins via Ansys Twin Builder for customers using Azure Digital Twins. This lets engineers quickly deliver real-time, physics-based simulation models for operational use. Doing so helps make it possible to integrate the simulation-based twins into a broader IoT solution efficiently.

Brookfield Properties, one of the world’s largest commercial office landlords, partnered with Willow to create a digital replica of their One Manhattan West (OMW) property using Willow’s Azure Digital Twins-based product. Dedicated to creating a “live, work, play” ecosystem, this lays the groundwork for a digital-first future while unlocking cost savings, energy optimizations, and value-added services today. This solution leverages premade, open-source models by RealEstateCore that can be used to help accelerate development across industries.

Platform Capabilities

The Azure Digital Twins platform was built to simplify and accelerate the creation of IoT connected solutions. With a comprehensive set of capabilities, companies can develop customized, connected solutions with ease. And with the ability to layer your vertical domain specialization—such as 3D or 4D visualizations, physics-based simulation, and AI—on top of Azure Digital Twins, it’s easier than ever to focus on driving results for your customers.

This also includes new developer experiences with broad language support for SDKs, Digital Twins Definition Language (DTDL) modeling and validation tools, and the Azure Digital Twins explorer sample which helps visualize the graph representing your environment. Other capabilities at the core of the Azure Digital Twins platform allow you to:

  • Use an open modeling language, DTDL, to create custom models of intelligent environments easily. Besides, premade models and converter tools for vertical standards help accelerate development when using Applications across industries.
  • Bring digital twins to life with a live execution environment that is scalable and secure and uses data from IoT and other sources. Using a robust event system, you can build dynamic business logic to keep business apps fresh and always up to date. You can also extract insights in the modeled world’s context by querying data on a wide range of conditions and relationships.
  • Break down silos using input from IoT and business systems by easily connecting assets such as IoT and Azure IoT Edge devices via Azure IoT Hub and existing business systems such as ERP and CRM to Azure Digital Twins to extract relevant insights across the entire environment.
  • Output to storage and analytics by integrating Azure Digital Twins with other Azure services. This includes the ability to send data to Azure Data Lake for long-term storage or to data analytics services such as Azure Synapse Analytics to apply machine learning. Another important Applications is time-series data integration and historian analytics with Azure Time Series Insights.

Advancing Technology with Open Partnerships and Ecosystems

Built upon open partnerships and open ecosystems, Microsoft co-founded the Digital Twins Consortium in May 2020 in collaboration with other companies. Together, we are contributing to best practices and shared digital twin models. We are committed to helping create an industry standard and bringing digital twins—including DTDL—and all the different vertical specializations of digital twins across industries into an open ecosystem.

More than 170 members span companies, government agencies, and academia to drive consistency in the vocabulary, architecture, security, and compatibility of digital twin technology as it’s used across industries. This means that everyone across the ecosystem can benefit from a collective pool of industry standardized models so you can accelerate your digital twin journey.

Get Started with Azure Digital Twins

As Microsoft Azure partners and businesses already using Azure Digital Twins have shown, it offers a robust platform for building enterprise-grade IoT connected solutions with the scale, compliance, security, and privacy benefits that customers can bet their business on. Learn more about Azure Digital Twins and how to get started building digital replicas of your own intelligent business environment.

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