Microsoft Launches Azure Digital Twins for AI, IoT

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The new Azure offering gives a virtual representation of a physical environment expanding access to AI, Cloud and IoT technologies to every company.

At their recent Ignite conference, Microsoft announced the launch of their newest platform, Azure Digital Twins. It’s designed to offer a virtual representation of a physical environment and expand access to AI, Cloud and IoT technologies to companies of all sizes. The company says their research has shown a growing demand for solutions that provide a deeper understanding of the interactions between people, places and things.

To achieve this, Microsoft decided to create their own version of digital twins. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical environment using data from many sources. They’ve been used for industrial equipment for quite some time, but the company believes it’s also applicable to modeling the ways we live and work to improve both public and private spaces, increase efficiencies and provide new opportunities.

See also: Snowflake lets you share data across Azure and AWS

Azure Digital Twins is now available in public preview. It allows users to query data in the context of a space rather than from sensors, which they can then use to build repeatable and scalable experiences combining data from digital sources and the physical world. It will become part of the Azure IoT platform.

Once a digital model has been created, the Azure IoT Hub is used to connected the devices that sync with the physical world. This can assist users in building IoT solutions for predictive maintenance, analyzing energy needs, optimizing available space and more.

According to Microsoft, key features of Digital Twins include:

  • Spatial intelligence graph. This is an actual virtual representation of a physical environment that models the relationships among people, places, and devices. This digital twin generates insights that allow organizations to build solutions that can improve energy efficiency, space utilization, occupant experience, and more. This includes blob storage—the ability to attach and store maps, documents, manuals, pictures, etc. as metadata to the spaces, people, and devices represented in the graph.
  • Twin object models. The service also offers pre-defined schema and device protocols that align to a solution’s domain-specific needs to accelerate and simplify their creation. These benefits can apply to any interior or exterior space, as well as to infrastructure or even entire cities.
  • Advanced compute capabilities. Users can define functions that generate notifications or events based on telemetry from devices and sensors. This capability can be applied in a variety of powerful ways. For example, in a conference room when a presentation is started in PowerPoint, the environment could automatically dim the lights and lower the blinds. After the meeting, when everyone has left, the lights are turned off and the air conditioning is lowered.
  • Data isolation via multi- and nested-tenancy capabilities. Users can build solutions that scale and securely replicate across multiple tenants and sub-tenants by leveraging built-in multi- and nested-tenancy capabilities to ensure data is isolated.
  • Security through access control and Azure Active Directory (AAD). Role-Based Access Control and Azure Active Directory serve as automated gatekeepers for people or devices, specifying what actions are allowed—and helping to ensure security, data privacy, and compliance.
  • Integration with Microsoft services. Customers and partners can build out their solution by connecting Azure Digital Twins to the broader set of Azure analytics, AI, and storage services, as well as Azure Maps, Azure High-Performance Computing, Microsoft Mixed Reality, Dynamics 365, and Office 365.

Azure Digital Twins will be available for customers on October 15, 2018.

Sue Walsh

About Sue Walsh

Sue Walsh is a freelance writer and social media manager living in New York City. Her specialties include tech, security and e-commerce. You can follow her on Twitter at @girlfridaygeek.

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