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Recent progress in the development of technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), wireless sensor networks, deep learning algorithms, and cloud-based platforms have turned up the heat around the new data-driven paradigm Digital Twin (DT), a concept which was first brought to life by NASA during their APOLLO space program.

In the 5G arena the DT – an emulated model/live replica of the physical wireless network and its processes – is still in its infancy, but is gaining momentum rapidly. DT allows continuous assessment, monitoring, and control through permanent transition of closed-loop data from the physical entities to the virtual counterparts and vice-versa. Thus repeatable development approaches as well as efficient test and validation procedures have become the status in advanced 5G research.

One of the predestined 5G use cases for DT technology are connected/autonomous cars. The application of URLLC (ultra-reliable low latency communication) intertwined with emulated virtual models of the networked and driverless vehicle will support increased road safety and traffic management as a whole in the near future. By deploying DT, new services such as traffic prediction, intelligent navigation systems, and cooperative collision avoidance applications are also on the development radar in the short-term.

Beyond channel emulation and Performance Measuring (e.g., FER), the application of wireless DT technology will not only support mobile network operators in their business strategies of occupying new market fields, but also strengthen the innovative power of vertical industries. The technology segments of the increasingly important machine communication (massive and critical like for example Smart Metering, Tracking, Traffic Safety & Control), enhanced mobile broadband driven by bandwidth-hungry new applications (VR/AR), and converged Fixed Wireless Access (Enterprise and Home) as forerunners of 6G, are all waiting to be fuelled with new intelligent services.

Finally, the wireless DT technology also offers possibilities for supporting the provision of infrastructure as a service, or operating network slicing through NFV (Network Function Virtualization) and SDN (Software Defined Network) integration, providing high flexibility for new use cases.

At AIT we are already using Wireless Digital Twin technology for testing safety-critical and time-sensitive applications for V2X (Vehicle to Infrastructure/Vehicles) use cases which require highly reliable 5G communication and for which field testing is too expensive. We have built a DT as a real-time wireless channel model, which generates location layouts from OpenStreetMap data, and where we can place diffuse and static scatterers to simulate reflection, diffraction and scatter of the signal propagation caused by objects and leading to multipath radio because of the loss of the line of sight. With the channel emulator we measure frame-error rates to determine the quality of a signal connection. Our DT can deal with the frequency ranges 1 – 6 GHz and 30 GHz and can capture buildings, signs, as well as roads and rails.