Using digital twins to be in control of your network assets
Introduction to Ericsson’s Site Digital Twin
As 5G rollout continues to accelerate, it has also continued to challenge network deployment, modernization, and expansion. This has increasingly pressured service providers to:
- Monetize 5G investments
- Digitalize assets to leverage the installed base for a more efficient network expansion
- Reduce the lead-time from site design to live sites
- Optimally connect existing and new technologies
This blog is about Ericsson’s site digital twin - a new, sophisticated capability that not only captures, connects, and standardizes all site data, but also leverages it to the entire product, site design, and network lifecycles. This capability allows companies to access global scale automation and analytics, get more value from their data and optimize their 5G investments. Join us in this exploration of the site digital twin’s uniqueness in addressing the key challenges faced by Communication Service Providers (CSPs) and Tower Companies (TowerCos)in the 5G era.
Enrich, enhance, and leverage your data
Site data capture is the first step to any network deployment, upgrade, or expansion process. It has traditionally been done manually – an engineer would need to physically visit the site location to measure and record the site topology, assets, and components. This data would then be manually updated into different systems and in different formats, depending on the company doing it. As a result, when any change needed to be made to the site data, it would take extensive administrative effort to update all different formats and systems.
This means that the current processes are highly manual and dependent on physical site visits, with a high risk of data loss and inaccuracy. The data capture and documentation, in turn, is fragmented and non-standardized – different entities in the ecosystem record and control information from the network using different systems and methodologies, which often do not communicate with one another. As a result, the data from the network sites is isolated, disconnected, and inaccurate since it is not continuously updated. A lot of the data is discarded or has low value, making it useless for network upgrade and expansions or for use at a global level.
This is where the site digital twin comes in. According to an analysis from MarketsandMarkets, the global addressable market for digital twin envisages a drastic growth with a CAGR of 58% between 2020 and 2026, driven mainly by the Healthcare & Pharmaceutical, Manufacturing and Automotive industries. However, the technology is also gaining ground within the Telecom industry, mainly due to the need to make accelerated and informed decisions on where and how to invest from a 5G perspective.
What can the site digital twin do for site design, data capture, documentation and beyond? It digitalizes network sites and all its components in a 3D environment, offering a 360 degree-view of the installed base, sites and network via a digital twin platform. What used to be a manual-based, fragmented and non-standardized site engineering approach, is now an automated, data-driven and digitalized one. Let us see how it works.
The Site Digital Twin Platform
Ericsson’s site digital twin platform has two key elements – the site data sources, which are the different methodologies to capture site data, and the Building Information Modelling (BIM) solution, which contains and manages all the digital information about every aspect of the network and its products’ lifecycles, in a vendor-agnostic environment. Let’s look into each of them in more detail.
There are three different methodologies for capturing site data and ingesting it into the system:
- Lasers and drones. These technologies provide millimeter data accuracy and millions, if not billions, of data points to describe the site, which is about as good as it gets when it comes to capturing, visualizing, and interpreting site data. However, lasers and drones can’t be used in certain markets due to regulatory or market complexities
- Manual site data capture. Manual way of collecting the data. After the site design is created, the engineer uses and updates that design dynamically. This enables data capture and maintenance on a dynamic level.
- Existing information from CAD solutions or inventory systems. They allow service providers to leverage existing investments when upgrading or expanding the network.
Once the data is captured, it can be translated into a site digital twin, a consistent approach to the structure of the site information – the data is captured, created in a standardized format, and continuously updated. This makes it valuable for every stakeholder in the value chain, as well as for future network evolution, providing a contiguous data set which can be used at any time in the lifecycle of the site.
Building Information Modelling
The other key element to the platform is BIM, which is the data enrichment piece. BIM is an open standard system used for construction projects across many different industries. We are leveraging those existing solutions, tailoring and enriching them with telecommunications and our own knowledge to make it suitable to our customers.
Ericsson uses BIM as the enabler for a drag and drop technology. It works just like when building a new kitchen - a company will capture the dimensions of the customer’s kitchen, input those into a drag and drop system with elements such as the freezer, oven, etc. They will then create a bill of materials, a design drawing and the services required to install the kitchen. It is exactly the same for the site digital twin, but in this case, BIM is used for the understanding of a site. These are the key components of our BIM solution:
- Component Digital Twin Library - We ingest components from a component library which is continuously maintained and contains more than 30,000 components, both Ericsson and third parties. That allows us to drag and drop 3D images of site components, see how much space and power they use, and several attributes that are described in a table. We can think of these as the ingredients of a cake recipe.
- Business Logic - The business logic, or design rules represents the cake recipe – it allows components to be related together. The rules define the relationship and compatibility between the components. There are numerous different combinations between the components, and the site digital twin leverages hundreds of Business Logic rules embedded into our systems.
- Project data - the process of how the user interrogates this data, how the data is ingested and how it relates to an outcome.
- Network and site view – the actual digital twin of the installed base, site and networks
The BIM and the site digital twin digitalize sites not only to create 3D models, but also to create a data platform that helps CSPs and TowerCos to start from the design phase and continue through to building and maintaining network sites to ensure higher-quality and more energy-efficient sites.
Get the most out of your site and network data
With Ericsson, CSPs and TowerCos no longer need to assume – they can make fact-based decisions. The site digital twin is fully interrogatable on a site and network level, and provides information for how to best plan, design, install and maintain customers’ networks.
Additionally, we can integrate with customers’ own IT systems through application programming interfaces (APIs). With that, customers can consume this data in their own systems, providing accurate data sets which can feed into for example operations, marketing, and finance.
Get the most out of your site and network data with Ericsson’s site digital twin and start your journey towards a true end-to-end, future-proof network lifecycle.
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