Digital twins are software models of physical items. This allows for the ability to model and monitor a physical item in real-time without actually touching the current status of that item.
At this week’s Microsoft Ignite event, the company announced that its digital twins model uses its Azure IoT Hub platform to connect IoT devices and sensors that keep the digital model up to date with the physical world. Sam George, partner director for Microsoft’s Azure IoT business, explained in a blog post that this allows users to manage the digital model using event-driven and serverless methods that can then be transferred to the physical environment.
The Azure Digital Twins also integrate with Azure data and analytics services to allow users to track past actions in forming a digital model.
Digital twin models are quickly scaling the hype cycle and are gaining traction in support of IoT deployments.
“We’re on a steep learning curve with it [digital twin technology] now,” Marc Halpern, vice president of research for engineering and design technologies at Gartner, recently told SDxCentral. “We’re at the peak of hype with digital twins, where I think it’s going to happen and it is happening.”
According to a recent Gartner survey, and noted by ZDnet, 48 percent of companies in the IoT space are using, or plan on using, digital twins by the end of this year. The research firm added that more than 50 percent of manufacturers with at least $5 billion in annual revenues will have at least one digital twin initiative in place by 2020.
Azure IoT Central
Microsoft also rolled out general availability of its overarching Azure IoT Central platform. That platform was initially launched as a preview late last year.
The Azure IoT Central platform is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product that allows a customer to rapidly provision an IoT service. George wrote that customers can provision an IoT service in seconds, customize that service in a few hours, and move it into production with one day.
“We harness the key complexities of operating, managing, securing, and scaling an IoT solution so customers can bring their connected product vision to life faster,” George explained.
The platform also includes analytics capabilities and bulk device management capabilities. It runs on a per-device pricing model and offers a free sample package to support the deployment of a small number of devices for development purposes.
Microsoft earlier this year pledged $5 billion in spending toward IoT and edge technologies over the next four years. That pledge came a week after a companywide reorganization announcement that prioritizes Microsoft’s cloud and edge products and services over Windows.
IDC predicts the IoT space will generate $772.5 billion in revenues this year, a 14.6 percent increase compared with 2017. Software is expected to be the fastest growing segment of the IoT space with a 16.1 percent compound annual growth rate over the next five years.
“Software creates the foundation upon which IoT applications and use cases can be realized,” noted Carrier MacGillivray, VP of IoT and mobility at IDC.