‘Digital twins’ bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds

How can digital twins help CSPs and enterprises improve processes, find new revenue streams, and increase operating profits?

A digital twin, a digital representation of something in the physical world that is updated with live data, is rapidly taking root as a strategic priority spanning industries. Digital replications, simulations, and testing have become particularly valuable in IoT-driven industries like construction, utilities, manufacturing, automotive, avionics, aerospace, and agriculture. Many enterprises that embrace IoT have deployed digital twins, often beginning with predictive maintenance and repair to prevent wear and tear on equipment like actuators, hardware, large-scale appliances, delivery vehicles, or anything for which performance, temperature, and uptime are critical.

Multinational aerospace and defense company, Rolls-Royce, has deployed them to monitor the engines it produces, Bayer Crop Science has built “virtual factories” for each of its corn seed manufacturing sites in North America, and one Korean city has gone as far as building a digital twin around each of the pillars upholding their community – fire response management and urban development, among others. But it doesn’t stop there, as the ability to model any asset, any system, or any environment in real time has also made digital twins valuable for many other purposes, including supply chain management, asset utilization, partner ecosystems, and more.

Telecommunications is the next frontier for digital twins
It’s expected that the usage of digital twins will continue to grow rapidly. Appledore Research Group recently projected the digital twin market would hit US$10 billion by 2025 and has reported on its application in telecom. Analyst firm, IDC, predicted that by 2030, 30 percent of Global 2000 companies would be using data from digital twins for products connected to the IoT.

While highly IoT-driven industries currently lead in the use of digital twins, it’s easy to see why telecom would be the next frontier for this technology. The combination of 5G, cloud, and analytics that fuels the IoT is the domain of the operator. Communications underpins all aspects of the enterprise’s operations, processes, customer experience, and partner ecosystems. Digital twins could make an impact in four critical areas of the telecom industry as communications service providers (CSPs) develop and deploy complex 5G environments:

  1. Accelerate non-standalone and standalone 5G deployments: A replica of 5G networks combined with different device and user profiles could help validate 5G network functions without having to test failures in real-world environments. The ability to test future scenarios of networks on replicas of networks that today are only partially utilized would help operators design, test, and assure self-optimization of the live network.
  2. Experimentation within virtual workspaces: Project managers and engineers could streamline manually intensive, tedious tasks for tower, radio, and core deployments and installations if they could test and even purposely break or compromise virtual representations of cables, hardware, fiber connectors, or other equipment to better address what happens in real life. This could greatly shorten configuration times, as well as troubleshooting and repair, while reducing the need for upfront infrastructure investment.
  3. Emulate customer interactions: Product designers and marketers could use digital representations of products and services infused with insight about purchase patterns, transactions, channel preferences, social media usage, and other variables. By running through different permutations of the network, marketing, and billing options, it becomes easier to see what will engage the customer and possibly trigger desired reactions and interactions under different circumstances.
  4. Identify strong partnerships: With partner ecosystems and supply chains becoming infinitely more complex, digital twins can help establish which combinations of partners would be ideal for higher-quality products and services, faster delivery times, lower prices, and greater operational efficiencies. The pandemic has taught us that supply chains can be disrupted, and shortages can have profound impacts. Digital twins would help predict future risks and mitigate the losses with experimentation of proactive strategies and solutions.

As AI and machine learning move us toward autonomous systems that continually learn and improve, operators would build self-organizing networks capable of automatically identifying and resolving issues in the management, optimization, and healing of mobile RANs. Digital twins will be instrumental in CSPs’ ability to help their enterprise customers optimize performance and efficiencies. By validating and optimizing different industry use cases and predicting dynamic behavior, it will be possible to transform product design, development, and management—driving productivity gains and innovation, and generating new revenue streams and profits.

By Andrew Morawski

Andrew Morawski, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Oracle Communications, NetworksAndrew Morawski is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Oracle Communications. As leader of Oracle’s telecommunications industry global business unit focused on networks, Morawski is responsible for managing sales, strategic planning, product development, service, and support for Oracle’s Communications products. Prior to joining Oracle, Morawski was most recently President and Country Chairman for Vodafone in the Americas, responsible for the management, compliance, governance and integration of all Vodafone entities operating there. He joined Vodafone in 2012 as Head of Internet of Things (IoT), responsible for leading Vodafone’s IoT sales, strategy and operational initiatives in North and South America. Prior to Vodafone, Morawski was Managing Director for the Americas at Cable & Wireless Worldwide with overall commercial and strategic responsibility for the company’s enterprise and carrier sales, marketing, HR and service delivery operations in the region. Earlier in his career, Morawski worked for Telstra in multiple roles including President and CEO of Telstra Inc, leading the Americas region for Telstra International. He has also held senior management roles with organizations such as Nortel where he managed the relationship between Nortel and SBC through the acquisition of Pacific Bell and SNET.