Digital Twins and Device Twins: what's the Difference and what's in Common?

Digital Twins and Device Twins: what's the Difference and what's in Common?

In recent years, in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT), the terms Digital Twins and Device Twins are increasingly encountered, which describe the creation of virtual models of physical objects or processes, but they have different areas of application. Due to their superficial similarity, confusion often arises. Let's try to understand what these concepts are in the IoT industry.

Digital Twins

A digital twin is a comprehensive virtual model of a physical object, process, system, or service. This can include buildings, machines, production lines, logistics systems, and more.

The goal is to simulate and analyze the behavior of the object in a virtual environment, allowing for the optimization of production processes, prediction of malfunctions, improvement of products and services, and much more.

Digital twins are often used in industries such as manufacturing, automotive, construction, healthcare, and others.

Use cases

Industrial Manufacturing: In production facilities, digital twins can be used to model and optimize the entire manufacturing process. They collect data from various machines and equipment on the production line, allowing for the identification of bottlenecks, prediction of malfunctions, and optimization of efficiency.

Smart Cities: Digital twins can be used to model a city's infrastructure, including road networks, water supply systems, and power supply. This helps city planners make more informed decisions and optimize urban services.

Healthcare: In medicine, digital twins of patients can be created using their medical data, allowing doctors to better understand their health status, simulate the impact of medications, and develop personalized treatment plans.

Device Twins

Device Twins are often a specialized subset of the Digital Twins concept that is focused on IoT devices.

This term usually refers to a virtual model of a specific IoT device that is synchronized with the real device. This allows for monitoring the current state of the device, its configurations, and other metadata.

Device Twins are used for the management, monitoring, and diagnostics of IoT devices remotely. It’s worth noting that the application of Device Twins with LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) devices is particularly valuable. LPWAN technologies, such as LoRaWAN or NB-IoT, allow devices to operate over long distances with very low power consumption. Using Device Twins in conjunction with LPWAN devices enables the optimization of data transmission, thereby saving radio spectrum and extending the battery life of devices.

Device Twins store the current state of the device and can synchronize changes only when necessary, instead of constantly transmitting data. This means that LPWAN devices can transmit data less frequently, which reduces their power consumption and load on radio frequencies, without losing the quality of the data received. This approach increases the efficiency of network resource utilization and can be critically important for agriculture scenarios where devices may be scattered over a large area and have limited power capabilities.

Use cases

Smart Home: In smart home systems, each device, such as a thermostat, lighting, or security sensor, may have its own Device Twin. This allows users to control and monitor the state of devices remotely through a mobile application.

Agriculture: In modern agriculture, IoT devices such as humidity sensors and automatic irrigation systems can have Device Twins. This allows farmers to monitor and optimize the growing conditions of plants by controlling devices in the field remotely.

Industrial Robots: Robots used on production lines can have their Device Twins, allowing operators to monitor the state and performance of robots, as well as update their configuration remotely.


Digital Twins have a broader scope of application and can involve modeling entire systems or processes, whereas Device Twins are more specific and focus on individual IoT devices.

Device Twins are most often used for managing and monitoring devices, whereas Digital Twins are frequently employed for optimizing and analyzing production processes and systems.

Common Ground

Both concepts involve creating virtual models of physical objects.

They are used for simulation, monitoring, analysis, and management of real objects or processes.

Both Digital Twins and Device Twins typically utilize data from IoT devices.


Standardization is important for technology compatibility, the ability to transfer objects from one environment to another, reuse, etc.

In Digital Twins, the most widespread organization is the Digital Twin Consortium. It develops and promotes the Digital Twins ideas, and unites the efforts of other organizations involved in this field: oneM2M, ETSI, 3GPP, etc. More about Digital Twins standards can be found in this book.

With Device Twins, the situation is different as of now: they are used by major IoT providers - AWS and MS Azure, but in a proprietary, albeit very similar form.

Examples of Combined Use

Modern Data Center

The data center is an object that is easily understood by people in the IT field. It is digitized and automated, so let’s take it as an example to explore the joint operation of Digital Twins and Device Twins. For a data center, the use of Digital Twins and Device Twins can be especially useful for monitoring, managing, and optimizing the operation of equipment and infrastructure. Here is how this can work in practice:

Step 1: Creating Device Twins

For each physical device in the data center, such as servers, storage, network switches, and air conditioning systems, a Device Twin is created.

For example, for a server, the Device Twin can monitor current CPU load, memory usage, temperature, fan status, and other information.

For an air conditioning system, the Device Twin can monitor temperature, humidity, and cooling efficiency.

Step 2: Aggregating Data from Device Twins

Data is collected from all Device Twins in the data center and sent to a central management system.

Step 3: Creating a Data Center Digital Twin

Using data from all Device Twins, a Digital Twin of the entire data center is created. This Digital Twin models all aspects of data center operations, including:

  • Resource allocation among servers
  • Optimization of energy consumption
  • Modeling airflow for cooling optimization
  • Predicting the need for equipment maintenance

Step 4: Analysis and Optimization

Using the Digital Twin, data center operators can analyze the operation of infrastructure in real-time and conduct simulations for optimizing performance and efficiency.

For example, if the Digital Twin shows that a certain area of the data center is overheating, operators can decide to redistribute the load or adjust the cooling systems for that area.

Step 5: Implementing Changes

Based on analysis and optimization using the Digital Twin, the real equipment in the data center can be configured or adjusted accordingly to improve performance and efficiency.

Using Device Twins and Digital Twin in conjunction allows not only monitoring the status of individual devices in the data center but also analyzing and optimizing the operation of the entire data center as a unified system.

Connected Car

Each device inside a modern car (for example, the engine, transmission, sensors, control systems) can have its own Device Twin, which tracks the state and parameters of that particular device. However, when we connect all these Device Twins together and model how they interact with each other within the whole car, we are essentially creating a Digital Twin of the car.

In this case, the Digital Twin of the car can be used not only for monitoring and managing the state of individual components but also for simulating and analyzing the behavior of the entire car under various conditions. This can be useful for optimizing performance, increasing fuel efficiency, predicting maintenance needs, and much more.

At the same time, everything depends on the goals. If a Digital Twin of a car is needed for crash test modeling, data from Device Twins alone will not be sufficient - physical properties of the body frame, glass, airbags, etc., are needed.

For example:

  1. Performance Optimization: By creating a Digital Twin of the car, manufacturers can run simulations under various driving conditions and analyze how different components perform. This data can be used to make tweaks and adjustments to the car’s design for optimal performance.
  2. Predictive Maintenance: The Digital Twin can predict when parts of the car will need service. By analyzing data from the Device Twins (such as engine performance, tire wear, etc.), the Digital Twin can provide advanced warnings to the driver or fleet manager to schedule maintenance before a component fails.
  3. Safety Enhancements: By simulating crash tests using the Digital Twin, manufacturers can understand how different materials and designs impact the car's safety. This information can be used to make design changes that improve the car's safety features.
  4. Customization and Personalization: The Digital Twin can also help in customizing the car for individual users. By analyzing driving patterns and preferences, the system can make adjustments to various settings (seat position, climate control, etc.) based on the preferences of the individual driver.
  5. Real-time Monitoring and Diagnostics: The Digital Twin, coupled with the data from the Device Twins, can provide real-time monitoring and diagnostics of the car’s systems. This can be particularly useful for fleet management, where real-time information about the vehicle's health can be crucial for operations.
  6. Energy Efficiency: For electric cars, managing battery life and energy efficiency is crucial. The Digital Twin can simulate different driving conditions and energy consumption patterns to optimize battery life and driving range.

The combined use of Device Twins and a Digital Twin in connected cars allows for a more comprehensive understanding and management of the vehicle's performance, maintenance, safety, and user experience.


In agriculture, Device Twins and Digital Twin technologies can be used together to optimize yields, manage resources, and increase the efficiency of farming operations. Here's an example:

Imagine a farm that employs various IoT devices such as soil moisture sensors, temperature sensors, automatic irrigation systems, and drones for monitoring the condition of fields.

Step 1: Creating Device Twins

For each IoT device on the farm, a Device Twin is created. For instance, a soil moisture sensor has its Device Twin that keeps track of current soil moisture readings. The automatic irrigation system also has its Device Twin which allows for control and monitoring of its operations.

Step 2: Aggregating Data from Device Twins

Data collected from Device Twins is directed to a centralized management system, where it can be analyzed and used for decision-making.

Step 3: Creating a Digital Twin of the Farm

Using data from all Device Twins, a Digital Twin of the entire farm is created. The Digital Twin is a virtual model of the farm that encompasses all fields, devices, weather conditions, and other factors that might affect the yield.

Step 4: Analysis and Optimization

Using the Digital Twin of the farm, farmers can run simulations and analyze how various factors such as weather, soil moisture, and irrigation levels affect the crops. This enables the optimization of resource use, predicting potential issues, and making informed decisions.

For example, if the Digital Twin shows that the moisture level in a particular field is too low, the farmer can use the Device Twin of the irrigation system to automatically increase the irrigation in that area.

Step 5: Implementing Changes

Based on the analysis and optimization conducted using the Digital Twin, the actual devices on the farm can be configured or adjusted accordingly to improve yield and the efficiency of resource usage.

The combined use of Device Twins and Digital Twin allows not only to monitor and control individual devices on the farm but also to analyze and optimize the operation of the entire farm as a single system. This can lead to cost reductions, increased yields, and enhanced overall efficiency of agricultural operations.


Device Twins and Digital Twins can complement each other. Having Device Twins in the system significantly eases and supports the process of creating Digital Twins, especially in complex systems where multiple devices interact with each other. Device Twins provide detailed information about the status, configuration, and behavior of individual devices. This data can be integrated into a Digital Twin for modeling larger systems or processes.

Thus, Device Twins serve as an important building block for creating Digital Twins by providing the necessary data and interconnections at the device level, which can be scaled up to the system or process level.