After Two-Year Preview, Microsoft Launches Azure Digital Twins

Microsoft's Azure Digital Twins service, used to model physical environments via software for planning purposes, is now generally available over two years after being released as a preview.

Microsoft's partners, such as buildings technology company Johnson Controls, are already using the Azure Digital Twins service. Johnson Controls has its own OpenBlue Digital Twin platform that works with Azure Digital Twins to assess things like energy use in buildings, workspace optimization, safety and workflows within a facility.

Another partner is software company Ansys, which is using Azure Digital Twins to offer "physics-based simulation models" for its customers. Azure Digital Twins is also being used directly by real-estate companies to model their properties.

Azure Digital Twins is used to model a physical environment in software, but Microsoft's solution also tracks any changes made to those physically mapped areas. Typically, sensors in rooms are used to provide the data. The sensors might send information such as room temperature or occupancy, for instance. Azure Digital Twins can be used to plan outdoor environments, as well.

Azure Digital Twins has its own Digital Twins Definition Language (DTDL) for use by developers. Microsoft is bringing DTDL to the Digital Twins Consortium, a nonprofit trade group that Microsoft "cofounded" in May.

The Azure Digital Twins service works with the Azure IoT Hub, a service for managing Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Other Azure Digital Twins components include a spatial intelligence graph for tracking people, places and devices, role-based access controls for administrators, and notifications and routing capabilities.

Azure Digital Twins can be used with other Azure services, such as Azure Data Lake for storage or Azure Synapse Analytics for data analytics. It's possible to add capabilities "such as 3D or 4D visualizations, physics-based simulation, and AI" on top of Azure Digital Twins, Microsoft's announcement explained.

The "digital twins" name isn't wholly original. It derives from the product manufacturing world, where duplicate or twin products are built for testing purposes.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.