Digital Twins for Smart Spaces – Beyond IoT Analytics

Smart spaces, physical spaces that are integrated with sensor-enabled Internet of Things devices, are a powerful paradigm for optimizing the operations of the space and improving its quality for the occupants. Managing the applications and services running in the space is a complex task as the operations of the devices and services are dependent on the physical characteristics of the space, the occupants of the space, and the technologies that are being integrated. Digital twinning, the combination of physical representations with a virtual counterpart, is a potential technology for facilitating the management of smart space devices and services. While digital twins are increasingly adopted in industry, their use in everyday environments remains low due to difficulties in creating and linking the virtual representation with the physical environment. In this article, we propose our vision for the adoption of digital twinning as a pathway to improve the functions of smart spaces. We derive a generic reference architecture that comprises four layers, covering the physical space, the sensing infrastructure, the network interfaces, and the underlying computational infrastructure. Next, we identify and address key requirements for the uptake of digital twins in smart spaces and assess their benefits using the ascendancy model of business analytics. Finally, to demonstrate the practicality of digital twinning, we present a proof-of-concept digital twin for the TellUs smart space at the University of Oulu in Finland and use it to highlight the potential benefits of different ascendancy levels.