Digital Twin Initiative Reaches Across The Cloud To The Edge

IIoT and operational data enable simulation on a much larger scale.


Digital twins are a hot topic of conversation across industries. Everyone wants a piece of this technology, without necessarily understanding how it fits into their day-to-day workflows. Today, digital twins are generally used as real-time digital models for validation and verification of a physical twin (model) of a product or system via simulation. Microsoft and Ansys are helping customers envision digital twins at a much larger scale.

Başak Mutlum, senior director in the Azure Edge and Platform Engineering team at Microsoft, is exploring what happens when you combine Ansys simulation capabilities with Microsoft’s digital twins, edge and cloud expertise. Such hybrid digital twin applications bring information technology (IT), operational technology (OT), and engineering data and capabilities together to manage risks and downtime for businesses, and to help them gain a competitive edge through more informed decision making across disparate systems.

“When we think about possible use cases and predictions, we have to take the physical world and physical simulations into account, as well as data-driven modeling through AI and ML models,” says Mutlum. “With Ansys, we can combine all of these use cases through physics and simulation to make more accurate, data-driven predictions that lead to more efficient operations, less prototyping and material waste, as well as less energy usage for our customers that ultimately have a more positive impact on our world.”

Digital transformation, super-sized

Microsoft Azure Digital Twins is a platform that can be used to model entities such as a building, energy distribution grid, warehouse, or factory — basically anything that is important to a business. To do that modeling involves integrating and contextualizing all IT and “alt” data — i.e., engineering, business, and engineering data — to represent a customers’ end-to-end business.

With this OT data and IT data, the model is kept “alive” — or synchronized and continuously updated with information from the real world collected from IoT systems. Using IoT data to keep the digital twin updated is a key differentiator Microsoft brings to the partnership with Ansys, resulting in a living digital representation of some aspect of the real world. From here, it’s possible to monitor the physical environment through its digital twin and provide operational insights into exactly what’s happening in that environment at any given time.

In the case of a plant, this involves monitoring operations between disparate pieces of equipment on the shop floor, temperature levels in the facility, or critical access points to delivery bays and other areas simultaneously.

Microsoft brings its Azure IoT Edge, Azure IoT Hub, Azure Digital Twins, and several other services, while Ansys brings industry-leading multiphysics simulation capabilities and engineering expertise. The ultimate aim is to bring the physical and digital world together to help customers build solutions that span the cloud to the edge — from smart cities to smart, connected energy grids, to autonomous vehicle environments, such as factories or plants.

Hybrid digital twin overview.

Creating a better future through the power of prediction

Together, Microsoft and Ansys software enable you to do something incredibly powerful in the prediction of the future state of both your business, and of future digital trends. You can predict failures or downtime through an operational business-enabled by simulation that enables you to identify optimization opportunities that are normally too complex to find just by monitoring the physical environment.

Using Azure digital twins, you can run scenarios on Ansys Twin Builder runtime to obtain predictions that help you understand how a system will behave under different circumstances to support autonomous decision making. By incorporating Azure digital twins with Ansys Digital Twin, you can enhance the live insights gained from Ansys Digital Twins.

This integration enables you to run various “what-if” scenarios and simulate how the system will perform in different circumstances. You can then use these insights to anticipate potential outcomes and better understand edge cases before implementing any changes. By tailoring the scenarios to meet your specific business needs and goals, you can ensure that the simulation is aligned with your objectives and provides valuable insights to help you meet them.

Making way for innovation

Because Ansys is very close to the engineering side of things, the Ansys-Microsoft partnership brings together all the siloed knowledge needed to comprehend the physical aspects of anything you want to predict. This includes anything in the physical world such as particles, air fluid dynamics, and their effects on industrial equipment that form the basis of operations.

“The engineers who use Ansys software normally in their day-to-day business are running the Ansys simulation software on their laptops or on-premise systems, and that is where the knowledge stays,” says Mutlum. “No one tries to combine it with other disciplines or other software experiences. Moving Ansys capabilities into the cloud and combining them with OT and digital twin technologies essentially breaks down more traditional silos, making way for information sharing and innovation in this space.”

Migrating to the cloud also makes it possible for engineers to do more with what they’ve got in high-performance autonomous computing systems — creating endless possibilities by opening organizations up to whatever new cutting-edge technology is available.

Mutlum is excited about the future direction this initiative will take and identifies the need for continuous innovation with Ansys Twin Builder in Microsoft Azure digital twins in the future. Of course, digital twins technology is still very much considered cutting-edge technology for customers, especially digital twin platforms that are available in the cloud. As these technologies become bigger commodities, the partnership will increasingly command attention.

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