How to define a digital twin, digital triplet and reality twin?

The OSS we’ve been building for the last 30+ years aren’t too dissimilar to the digital twins the world is getting all excited by today.

I find it really interesting, not just because of the buzz, but because the term “digital twin” seems to mean different things to different people. Having seen what OSS are capable of, I’m somewhat underwhelmed by what people are calling their digital twins.

But within the context of what OSS have long been able to do, I’d like to define a few terminologies, including:

  1. Digital twins
  2. Digital triplets
  3. Reality twins
  4. Reality triplets

No idea if anyone else does or will agree with these terminologies, but at least they will provide a baseline to help me describe this world that’s significantly overlapping with OSS.

Digital Twin

First coined in the early 1990s (by David Gelernter), digital twins are a virtual representation of real-world entities. In the world of OSS, this is really just an inventory or asset management system. You have a visual representation of all the network devices and how they interconnect. Typically this represents physical inventory items (eg routers, switches, patch panels, cables, etc). But it could also represent logical inventory too (eg virtual circuits, virtual machines, etc).

Whilst the data is the digital twin may change from time to time, it remains relatively static (eg daily reconciliation).

The diagram below provides an example of a digital twin (in this case showing a topological view of a communications tower in my OSS sandpit):


Digital Triplet

A digital triplet is similar to a digital twin, but with one distinct difference. It also shows variable data, such as telemetry, that is changing on a regular basis. This could show the near-real-time performance metrics / graphs of devices in the network.

The OSS example below shows the network devices (circles), connectivity and telemetry (eg CPU and RAM inner circles, throughput, discards, etc)  of a digital triplet.

The examples above demonstrate that OSS have been digital twins / triplets for decades. Other industries are just starting to realise how our tools, data, processes and knowledge can be leveraged.

I’m really excited about taking the two-dimensional construct shown in the digital triplet above and turning it into an interactive three-dimensional model of a physical / logical / real-time network graph.

To my knowledge though, the reality twins / triplets we describe below are only just starting to appear with advances in 3D imaging technology becoming commercially available.


Reality Twin

The reality twin is similar to a digital twin, but shows a photorealistic representation of the assets. It provides greater spatial awareness of a site for remote workers. The example below shows a reality twin, a 3D model of a comms tower site, with assets such as antenna, remote radio units, mount groups and other appurtenances annotated (and reconciled with the inventory / OSS data sets). 


Reality Triplet

Like the digital triplet, the main distinction between the twin and the triplet is the fact that the visualised data is changing dynamically. The Augmented Reality view of the tower below is only annotated with inventory data, However, the engine that drives it can also inject streaming data such as telemetry relating to the assets on the tower from an alarm management or performance management solution in your OSS. It could also be overlaid with environmental data such as wind speed, temperature and air pressure if a weather station is mounted on the tower… or any other data you want to visualise for that matter.

Each of the four examples above provide situational enrichment, for field workers, remote workers and customers alike. Combined with the extensive data our OSS and BSS collect, these visualisation techniques provide an exciting array of possibilities across the entire network and service life-cycle (plan, design, build, operate and maintain).

Of course there are any number of other types of twins (process twins, component twins, etc), especially as they apply to industries other than telco.

As mentioned earlier, there are many different definitions of what a Digital Twin is. Does the twin / triplet terminology used above resonate with you, especially as it relates to your OSS and real-world networks / assets? Please leave us a comment below to share what your definition of a digital twin is.

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