Added Value of Digital Twins in Telecommunications
Digital twins are having their time in the sun, with increasing coverage in even mainstream media about the benefits this suite of technologies is bringing to the business world. And rightly so.
Twins allow for advanced modeling and prototyping, as well as real-time site inventory control and predictive maintenance.
Above all else, digital twins leverage the power of Process Mining to increase visibility.
They allow the organization itself, along with partners, to see what is happening at every stage of every process.
If your company operates in the telecommunications sector, it's huge for you. Especially right now as a confluence of three key factors is causing major ripples through the industry:
- The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices: It’s estimated that by 2025, IoT will multiply the number of connected devices by upwards of 10x.
- The development of 5G networking speeds: This is going to put an unknown strain on existing network equipment.
- The opening of additional bandwidth on the spectrum: This will tax existing infrastructure, what we don’t know is by how much.
Bringing the Power of a Digital Twin into the Telecommunications Sector. How?
Deploying a digital twin can greatly assist in bringing these diverse factors under better control, enabling your company to stay ahead of the curve.
Each of these areas can greatly benefit from a digital twin, be it in real-time remote site inventory control, predictive maintenance, or advanced prototyping in an updated sandbox.
The biggest win here is the ability to keep an accurate inventory of deployed networking assets and change management.
IoT-enabled digital twins allow telcos to closely track their existing infrastructure, which in turn vastly speeds up the process of rolling out expansions, upgrades, and modifications.
Furthermore, the machine learning aspect of a digital twin enables advanced analysis of use patterns, network anomalies, and fault predictions.
Tower locations have a huge assortment of equipment on site: antennae, battery backups, security cameras/alarms, aircraft warning systems, and power generators.
All of this equipment can be difficult to maintain, especially when the tower is located in a remote area.
By installing IoT sensors, and directing their data into a digital twin, remote technicians can closely monitor each piece of equipment and react to issues quickly, even proactively.
Field service management
The same data stream, coming in from tower locations, allows field service staff to head into the field armed with a great deal of information about what awaits them.
No longer will their vehicles need to be fully stocked for any eventuality; rather, the technicians can simply stock themselves with the appropriate parts and supplies for each run, drastically cutting overhead.
Previously, DevOps would work in a “sandbox” environment, that is, a backup copy of the existing network environment.
The caveat to this approach is, once this backup copy is created, the only way to update it to account for upgrades, additions, or any other changes, is to make an entire new backup.
Now, DevOps can create their development environment in the digital twin, so they can work on a constantly updated virtual copy of the existing network.
Different Types of Digital Twins for Different Net Positives
Multiple types of twins exist.
Each comes with its own set of strengths, and when combined to form a unified twin of an entire company, they show the true power of this technology.
A communication service provider (CSP) can benefit from three primary types of digital twins:
- Network twin: Allowing modeling of existing network infrastructure, this twin can help predict failure points during times of extremely high network usage, such as during natural disasters. This twin is also useful because it can incorporate everything from weather patterns to the location of street furniture, to fully account for their possible impact on signal strength and overall network health.
- Customer twin: Having a virtual model of the buyer persona for the company can help alert a telco to specific incidents that may impact that user. For example, gamers who are active in the early hours of the morning can be alerted to possible disruptions to their service due to scheduled maintenance. This enables the telco to keep these customers up to date, which in turn can head off support issues down the line.
- Process twin: These twins model all of the backbone business processes that keep the organization running smoothly. Built on the backbone of a solid Process Mining operation of each department within the organization, a process twin brings the same level of visibility to the office. The ability to analyze the volume of support calls against technician staffing, for instance, can help bring overhead down by reallocating people to the shifts with the highest volume of calls.
A Scenario of Digital Twins Working Unison
When these three types of digital twins all work in unison, a telco company has everything necessary to model, predict, prototype, and support the entire operation. How? Here’s a scenario:
A telco company services a wide swath of rural land in the midwestern United States. It has just been notified by their digital twin’s AI that some of the equipment at a remote tower location may be approaching failure. They use this information to schedule predictive maintenance on this location.
Then, since they know they have a large base of users who are often up into the wee hours of the morning, they send an advance email to that group of customers, alerting them specifically to the possible impact on their bandwidth during the expected outage. They also suggest some tips for how to prepare.
In addition to that email notification, the telco also sends a more standard maintenance alert to the remainder of their customers in the affected area, so they are aware of what’s going on overnight. This group won’t see any particular impact, as the repairs will be complete before they’re up the next morning.
And finally, the company can add a staff member to the graveyard shift on the appropriate day, since their twin has also told them to expect an uptick in complaint tickets coming in, despite their efforts at preemptive notification.
This example scenario shows how each of the three types of digital twins work together, providing the information to predict when maintenance is going to be needed, whom it will affect, and how they can prepare in advance for any additional unforeseen consequences.
Get Ready For What the Future Holds with Digital Twins
Digital twin technologies have come a long way in recent years, and are being adopted by companies of all sizes, and across all sectors of the global economy.
One sector ripe for exploration of the combination of Process Mining and digital twin technologies is the telecommunications industry.
With the proliferation of IoT devices that can both assist in the creation of a digital twin by monitoring hardware, and can put additional strain on that same existing hardware, companies in this space need to prepare.
Digital twins are one step toward being ready for what the future holds in this dynamic and exciting industry.
Michal Rosik Chief Product Officer & Product Visionary at Minit
11. 07. 2019