Virtual Twin: Risk-free IoT Project Planning

16.01.2023 by Ümit Günes

Autobahn bridge under construction


High initial costs tend to be the rule, not the exception in IoT projects. Companies that use the IoT Solution Optimizer save time and money when planning their IoT solution.

Recognizing damage before it becomes visible is the aim of a pilot project on Germany’s A9 autobahn near Nuremberg. A traffic infrastructure improvement project commissioned by the Federal Highway Research Institute made a bridge smart. Sensors continuously monitor the wear and tear and material fatigue of its steel, concrete and asphalt. These connected structural components communicate continuously with each other via the Internet of Things (IoT). Possible damage can be identified at an early stage and repair work can be undertaken, thereby preventing the bridge from becoming unusable or even collapsing. The challenge faced by projects of this kind is to ensure that permanently installed solutions—as in this instance—run efficiently and reliably for many years.

IoT Solution Optimizer: A Digital Test Environment for IoT Solutions

In many cases, however, companies lack specific know-how, experience, hardware or wireless technology comparison opportunities. Choosing the right overall solution in advance and thereby avoiding high follow-up costs is then easier said than done. That is the very task for which Telekom developed the IoT Solution Optimizer. Companies use this online tool to test planned IoT solutions virtually in advance before budgeting costs or scheduling real tests. All relevant parameters of the IoT project and the interplay of individual components can be fully modeled in a virtual environment. This virtual twin helps to answer—among others—the following questions:

  • Are the hardware and the transmission technology suitable for a specific application, or do other components function maybe more efficiently and less expensively?
  • Which sensors and which connectivity do I need to measure input variables such as temperature, humidity, expansion or oscillation?
  • Which batteries are powerful enough for external use in cold winter temperatures or for indoor installation?
  • Which technology is the best for transmitting collected data to the cloud?
  • Does my solution work in other countries? What happens if the wireless module logs into another network?
  • And how do I achieve the longest possible service life of the sensors?

The IoT Solution Optimizer takes just minutes to show whether an IoT project can function as planned, how efficient it is and where it has further optimization potential. Companies receive a decision-making basis for preparing and optimizing their project plan before investing in its implementation.

Configuring the IoT Project Step by Step

The cloud-based service works its way through the virtual project step by step, covering all of the relevant aspects—from the application area via the hardware and the network protocols to the battery life and product properties. Companies can specify their own design and suitable components for individual substeps. Or use solutions from the integrated IoT product shelf of Telekom partners.

Hundreds of customers have modeled over 1,000 projects with the IoT Solution Optimizer. Since it was launched in 2019 the tool, which now has the Green Magenta Sustainability Label, has acquired new features:

  • Interested parties can use the service for a year free of charge : Simply register and start project planning with the virtual twin. Optionally you can first book a Mobile IoT Starter Workshop.
  • The number of available country networks has increased significantly. Along with Telekom’s Europe-wide network 20 European partner networks and the T-Mobile US network can now be used.
  • In addition to NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) wireless modules for LTE-M and a multimode module are now available. That means cross-border use cases all over Europe and products from over 100 manufacturers. In all, Telekom has the world’s largest catalog of certificated IoT modules.
  • The modules now incorporate GNSS/GPS positioning.
  • Over 50 different terminal devices for 30 industries and application areas are available for hardware comparisons.
  • More cloud profiles for providers like Microsoft Azure and protocols such as TLS/DTLS for encrypted MQTT communication are available.

Planned to the Smallest Detail

Choosing the right wireless antenna is an example of how precisely an IoT project can be planned—and how important each individual step is. Antennas or battery life are often the last thing project planners think about and yet these unassuming components exert a significant influence on the success of planning. Using the IoT Solution Optimizer product planners can not only find the right wireless antenna but also test placing it on a virtual circuit board. Only then is it clear how antenna alignment affects the range, which is a decisive factor for, say, an indoor use case. How the choice of antenna influences a module’s battery life can also be simulated in advance.

To be able to carry out this unique range of simulations Telekom technicians ran hundreds of what-if scenarios in the cloud. Over the years the IoT Solution Optimizer has incorporated data from the entire user community, Telekom projects and Telekom’s constantly growing partner network, information provided by manufacturers of batteries, antennas and GPS receivers, and roaming partners’ network configurations.

Save Time, Resources and Costs

Time gained is a major advantage for the project team. The battery life of a virtual device, for example, can be tested for a period of up to 15 years with an accuracy of well over 90 percent. What used to take days working with Excel spreadsheets now takes just seconds. The result is a much faster time to market. Costly mistakes in the choice of hardware can also be avoided, saving costs and valuable resources. Companies can gain access to the IoT without running risks while at the same time identifying optimization potential for the planned project—and do so before investing a single euro.

Sensors in the Autobahn Bridge

For bridge construction the use case could be as follows: Sensors are required to measure temperature, humidity, expansion and oscillation and not be damaged by pressure in the concrete. The hardware must also run for years without an external power supply. The planners select the right components from Telekom’s IoT offering. The readings do not involve large data rates but the data must be relayed reliably to the cloud, so NB-IoT is a suitable transmission technology. Performance analysis reveals that with another battery and a different protocol the battery life of connected IoT devices can be doubled and product costs reduced overall. The bridge builders order the optimized measuring module from a specialized supplier who can start work on production much sooner than planned. The planners benefit from the time saved because there are no unscheduled delays in the further course of production. And the project partners are pleased because the total costs are much lower.


Walkthrough Solutions for Your IoT Project

Walkthrough Solutions for Your IoT Project

From advice on IoT hardware, networking and implementation to the right Cloud application and analytical tools, thanks to our global network and partner ecosystem we can provide single-source end-to-end solutions for your IoT project.

More about Walkthrough Solutions

From advice on IoT hardware, networking and implementation to the right Cloud application and analytical tools, thanks to our global network and partner ecosystem we can provide single-source end-to-end solutions for your IoT project.

More about Walkthrough Solutions

Woman with laptop and clipboard in warehouse
Ümit Günes
Ümit Günes

Marketing Manager IoT

Having been with Telekom since 2008, Ümit possesses a comprehensive understanding of various facets of the Internet of Things. He has a keen interest in the digital transformation of the business world. On this blog, he shares insights into the latest developments and trends in the IoT sector that provide genuine value to customers.