The new Azure Digital Twins available in Public Preview

Glenn Colpaert | 29.06.2020
Reading time 4 min

As announced at Microsoft Build 2020, Azure Digital Twins has a new public preview of the service. This public preview refresh is available as from now! The original Azure Digital Twin service will be retired by the end of the year 2020.

Traditionally IoT is all about connecting assets but as connected solutions continue to evolve, businesses are looking to connect entire environments. For example, industry companies might look for a solution to connect all their factory lines to improve operations of the entire factory. A digital twin is a digital replica of real-world things, places, business processes, and people. It enables control, analysis, and understanding of how to improve real-world business operations.

Azure Digital Twins allows customers to create rich models of their entire business and combine traditional business data with this comprehensive model, to drive operations, analytics, and optimizations of the general flow of business.

Azure Digital twins is a development platform for the next generation of IoT solutions.

Updated Capabilities

The new Azure Digital Twins version comes with a set of updated capabilities, while the previous version was heavily focussed on Smart Spaces, the new updated versions brings more flexibility and openness. Allowing you to create a digital representation of the physical world providing rich experiences and interactions, insights, and alerts.

Flexible Modeling

Create custom domain models using the Digital Twins Definition Language (DTDL). Twins can be described in terms of telemetry, properties, command, relationships, and components. It allows defining semantic relationships to connect twins into a knowledgeable graph (inheritance).

The new DTDL is perfectly aligned with IoT PnP and the Time Series Insights data model.

{
    "@id" : "dtmi:example:Station;1",
    "@type": "Interface",
    "extends": "dtmi:example:Room;1",
    "contents" :[
        {
            "@type" : "Property",
            "name": "isCoccupied",
            "schema": "boolean"
        },
        {
            "@type" : "Property",
            "name": "hasAVSystem",
            "schema": "boolean"
        },
        {
            "@type" : "Property",
            "name": "capacity",
            "schema": "integer"
        }	
    ],
    "@context" : "dtmi:dtld:context;2"
}
Richer Compute

The new Azure Digital Twins comes with an open compute model, it allows creating a live execution environment from the DTDL models. Using a rich event system to drive business logic and data processing, using external components such as Azure Functions.

Insights from the live execution environment can be extracted using a powerful query API.

Accessible Hub

Azure IoT Hub is no longer internal to Azure Digital Twins. The new version allows us to use a new or an existing IoT Hub to connect IoT and Edge devices to keep the live execution environment up to date.

Next to IoT Hub you can feed the live execution environment with real-time data using REST API’s or create a Logic Apps connector.

Scalability

The new Azure Digital Twins comes with a brand new architecture with improved scalability and openness. Event routes allow us to send data to downstream services via Event Hub, Event Grid, or Service Bus. Connect Azure Digital Twins to Time Series Insights to track the time-series history of each node. The new Azure Digital Twins allows alignment of the Time Series Insights model in Time Series insight with the master model from Azure Digital Twins.

Store data in Azure Data Lake, analyze data with Azure Synapse, and other Microsoft data tools for analytics. Integrate end business processes and workflows with Logic Apps.

Model any environment, connect sensors and business systems to the model.

Digital Twins is an important component of next-generation business solutions. Important to mention is that there are currently no UI components that face end customers at this point. Digital Twins is a platform for developers to model the real world, controlled using a rich set of REST APIs and C# SDK (Public Preview).

With the new Azure Digital Twins available it is possible to develop next-generation IoT solutions today. It’s built around the ability to model your perspective of the real-world, a live executing environment brought to life with data, an event-driven approach to data processing, and on top of that a powerful query language.

Based on the initial views and demos of the service this is definitely a step in the right direction. The openness that allows us to route events to further downstream applications will open up the platform with more possibilities. Next to feeding the live executing environment through REST APIs, bringing your own IoT Hub to the environment is a major improvement compared to the previous version.

During the next few weeks, I will be exploring the new preview and write down any findings and guidance. Stay tuned, in the meantime, you can also check the official documentation here.

Cheers,

Glenn