Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Azure Digital Twins Now Available to Empower Enterprises with Virtual Product Modeling 

Since its start as a beta project two years ago, Azure Digital Twins was designed as a tool to help enterprises digitally build virtual physical environments for product modeling and related critical business projects.

Now Azure Digital Twins has matured to be generally available as a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering to enterprises in Azure, where they can bring together data from disparate devices and systems to make product modeling easier for customers.

Azure Digital Twins allows users to create digital replicas of things in the physical world, which are known as digital twins. As an internet of things platform, it provides capabilities that allow enterprises to fuse together physical and digital worlds.

“Organizations are showing a growing appetite for solutions that provide a deeper understanding of not just assets, but also the complex interactions across environments,” a Microsoft spokesperson told EnterpriseAI. “To really understand these intricate environments, companies are finding the need to create digital replicas of their physical world.”

To do this, Azure Digital Twins digitally replicates physical worlds for enterprises by modeling the relationships of people, places and devices that co-exist within a physical environment, according to the spokesperson. “This digital twin generates insights that allow organizations to build solutions that improve energy efficiency, space utilization, occupant experience and more.”

Using Azure Digital Twins, users can gain new spatial intelligence capabilities and new insights into how environments and infrastructure are really used. The aim is to give enterprises in a wide range of industries the opportunity to use the platform’s robust capabilities for building enterprise grade IoT connected solutions.

Azure Digital Twins enables the creation of knowledge graphs based on digital models of entire environments, according to Microsoft. These environments can be buildings, factories, farms, energy networks, railways, stadiums, entire cities nd more. The digital models that are created can provide insights that drive better products, optimized operations, reduced costs, and breakthrough customer experiences.

Analyst: Reminiscent of CAD Applications

Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, said that in many ways he sees the growing environment of similar digital twins and the new Azure service as an expansion of the virtual simulation features that have been used for years in CAD (Computer-Assisted Design) programs.

Charles King of Pund-IT

“But, instead of modeling air movement over the surfaces of a new automobile, digital twins aim to enable the creation of digital models of far more complex environments with the help of data gathered and analyzed by IoT sensors and devices,” said King. “Azure Digital Twins could provide valuable insights and information for building designs and architectural projects. If the technologies work as Microsoft Azure hopes, Azure Digital Twins could become useful in other areas that utilize or depend on the construction of highly complex models.”

For enterprises that seek to develop more products in the world of IoT, the new platform could be very useful, he added.

“Without the availability of a commercial solution like Azure's, developing digital twin models would require complex development efforts and powerful compute assets,” said King. “As Microsoft's and competing digital twin solutions mature they could open up largely or entirely new areas for IoT development.”

Azure Digital Twins starts by allowing users to model physical environments and lets them connect devices to the models, according to Microsoft. Through this process, customers can gain new spatial intelligence capabilities and new insights into how spaces and infrastructure are really used.

By creating this general release of Azure Digital Twins, Microsoft is making the platform ready for enterprise-grade deployments that can also take advantage of the analytics, data and AI services customers are already able to access through Azure. One of its strengths is to break down silos within intelligent environments by fusing data from previously disparate devices and business systems, allowing users to track past and present events, simulate possibilities, and help predict future events for those environments, according to Microsoft.

Azure Digital Twins does this through ready-to-use building blocks that can simplify the creation of detailed, comprehensive digital models for customers so they can visualize products, processes and more.

One early user is Johnson Controls, which is using it to digitally transform how buildings and spaces are conceived, built, and managed. In this project, Azure Digital Twins is involved in a holistic integration with Johnson’s OpenBlue AI-infused building services platform to enable integrated building management. OpenBlue serves as the foundation for energy and space optimization, predictive maintenance, and remote operations for the company.

Azure Digital Twins is built to make it simpler to accelerate the creation of IoT connected products through a comprehensive set of capabilities. It also provides the ability to layer vertical domain specializations—such as 3D or 4D visualizations, physics-based simulation, and AI—on top of Azure Digital Twins as needed by customers.

Also included is broad language support for software developers, as well as SDKs, Digital Twins Definition Language (DTDL) modeling and validation tools, and the Azure Digital Twins explorer sample which helps visualize graphs representing environments.