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NTT Proposes the “Digital Twin Computing Initiative” – a Platform to Combine High-Precision Digital Information Reflecting the Real World to Synthesize Diverse Virtual Worlds, Generate Novel Services and Bring about Society of the Future

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Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (TOKYO: 9432) (Head office, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan; Jun Sawada, President & CEO; hereinafter referred to as “NTT”) has established the “Digital Twin Computing Initiative” as an innovation platform for digital transformation to meet the demands of the coming era for rapid, dynamic transformations of human societies and economies and realize smart societies [1].

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190610005259/en/

Digital Twin Computing aims to transcend the limits of conventional ICT technology by creating diversified cyberspace easily from highly precise digital information reflecting real-world objects such as things, humans and societies, to achieve not only extremely advanced and profound communications, but also achieve large-scale, high-accuracy predictions and simulations of the future. Thus, this initiative also aims to help to solve various social problems around the world, help to create innovative new services and accelerate the creation of smart societies.

The Digital Twin Computing Initiative is part of the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) initiative [2] promoted by NTT.

1. Background to conceptualization

NTT has continued to contribute to the achievement of the modern digital society through its ubiquitous provision of high-speed, broadband communications networks and safe, secure information systems. Meanwhile, digitalization for humans from telephony through to email and social media, and for things from maps through to digital appliances and self-driving cars has dramatically advanced. In future, more advanced digital societies will emerge and more closely unify the real world of things, humans and societies and their high-precision digital information counterparts in cyberspace.
These will be the highly-digitalized next-generation societies in which further expansion of human knowledge and emotional expression through large-scale, high-accuracy predictions will be enabled by high-precision digital information in cyberspace seamlessly linked to the real world. Furthermore, these societies will be capable of more advanced and more social communications (e.g. consensus building and decision-making) than the conventional, familiar communications (e.g. knowledge sharing and human collaboration).
To clear a path for this future society, NTT has established the “Digital Twin Computing Initiative” as a new information and communication initiative to undertake with its future partners.

2. About Digital Twin Computing (Figure 1)

“Digital twins” have been mainly gaining attention in such fields as manufacturing. A digital twin is digital information that accurately represents features (e.g. shapes, conditions and manufacturing processes) of things such as machine parts [3]. Digital information about humans such as images obtained from medical appliances (e.g. MRI or CT scans) can also be thought of as digital twins.
In contrast, our proposed “Digital Twin Computing (DTC)” is a computing paradigm which expands on the above conventional digital twin concept by enabling humans and things in the real world to be recreated and interact without restrictions in cyberspace with "digital twin operations” – computations to exchange, converge, replicate and synthesize multiple digital twins.
While conventional digital twins have been mainly used for digital observation or control of physical objects, DTC aims to expand the scope of such digitalization from things to humans and enhance communications among humans and things in cyberspace.

3. The future achievable with Digital Twin Computing

DTC will enable the solutions to a variety of social problems and innovative services described below.

[Simulations at Earth and Outer Space scales] Virtual societies in cyberspace using large-scale digital twins to reproduce global-scale natural conditions (e.g. climate and reserves of resources) or social changes (e.g. populations and GDP) can be constructed to create high-accuracy prediction models for simulating and predicting the near future. These simulations and predictions can be applied to policies for sustainable development goals (SDGs), etc. based on the obtained global-scale resource balance forecasts. Moreover, combining the digital twins of real-world cities (e.g. Tokyo and San Francisco) with outer space digital twins to produce balance simulations of the atmosphere, water, food, and energy will contribute to space development.

[Discovery and resolution of urban issues] Digital twins of cities and their citizens can be used to anonymously collect the experiences, cultures, values, desires and complaints of the citizens. These digital twins can be used to discover latent problems in cities that usually go unnoticed such as dangerous intersections and high accident rate areas, and find solutions optimized for collectives. Also, these digital twins can be used to simulate synergies with other cities and generate “sister cities” with similarities or mutually complementary and unexpected combinations leading to new collaborative relationships for building wealthier cities.

[Prediction and control of diseases] To combat the outbreak of an infectious disease, virtual societies can be created in cyberspace by combining geographical and transport information, etc. with digital twins of people mapping their activity and relationship patterns to accurately make predictions of the spread of the infection and enable real-time active control of the outbreak by controlling the flows of transport and humans, making decisions about class closures in schools or remote learning, and by enabling automatic search and reservation of the most appropriate hospitals.

[Multifaceted personal decision-making] Recording your work skills into a digital twin will allow you to have the digital twin perform daily tasks such as scheduling or making bookings for meeting rooms. In addition, your digital twin could be replicated so that you can alter the digital version of your past self, various situations or pre-supposed knowledge and engage in dialogue between your real-world self and your altered digital twin to attempt to uncover solutions to various problems. Moreover, a number of your digital twins could debate at super high-speed in cyberspace to discover solutions or perspectives that you might not be able to see.

4. The platform driving Digital Twin Computing (Figure 2)

The DTC platform consists of the following four layers; the “Cyber/physical interaction layer”, a layer to collect the physical-world data required to generate a digital twin, and to submit feedback to the physical-world from the application running on the platform; the “Digital twin layer”, a layer to generate and maintain digital twins using data received from the Cyber/physical interaction layer; the “Digital world presentation layer”, a layer to provide the framework to invoke digital twin operations using digital twins stored in the Digital twin layer; and the “Application layer”, a layer to easily create DTC applications using the digital world presentation layer.
As a crucial aspect of this achievement, the privacy of humans and the intentions of the owners of things must be fully respected and information related to them must be handled with all the necessary care. Thus, this platform must be equipped with security mechanisms to preserve privacy.

5. Going forward

The success of the Digital Twin Computing Initiative will depend on intimate cooperation across wide-ranging fields of research and technology such as the social sciences, the humanities, natural and applied sciences and interdisciplinary fields. NTT Laboratories aim to achieve the Digital Twin Computing Initiative by collaborating with future professionals and global partners across these wide-ranging fields of research and technology. For details about this Initiative, please refer to the white paper at http://www.ntt.co.jp/svlab/e/DTC/whitepaper.html.

[1] NTT Group Mid-term Management Strategy “Your Value Partner 2025” (in Japanese)
[2] Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN)
[3] Dr. Michael Grieves, Digital Twin: Manufacturing Excellence through Virtual Factory Replication, 2015

Contact information

Inquiries regarding this press release:
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation
Research and Development Planning Department
iown-pr@hco.ntt.co.jp

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