Digital Twins for 5G Towers: OpenTower iQ combines specialized drone technology and AI

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The rollout of 5G connectivity is underway, and the demand for better data has continued to grow. Indeed, 5G will likely back many of the mobile mapping and other field applications that are leading the way in digitizing our world. However, the process of installing, inspecting and maintaining cellular towers (especially rolling out a new generation of technology such as 5G) remains difficult and costly.

It is in this challenge where the Bentley Acceleration Initiative saw an opportunity. The strategic investment fund and incubator initiative has the goal of bringing together partners in digital co-ventures to accelerate the use and applications of digital twins. Their answer, OpenTower iQ, is the result of a co-venture between Bentley and Visual Intelligence, a Houston, Texas-based sensor technology company, and Aeroprotechnik, an aerial inspection engineering company based in Viseu, Portugal.

OpenTower iQ – Better Scanning and Intelligent Monitoring

OpenTower iQ is a new digital twin solution powered by Bentley’s iTwin platform, and designed specifically for telecom towers. The platform can provide 3D visualization, real-time decision support, and predictive design from the ground up.

Conduct automated inventory including automated AI for equipment identification and classification.

As the demand for data continues to grow, tower companies and engineering firms are looking for all-inclusive, engineering-grade solutions to co-locate, modify, and maintain telecom infrastructure for the 5G rollout. OpenTower iQ is designed to make it easy to modify existing towers and maintain accurate models, helping to automate the repetitive work of producing as-built models and using artificial intelligence to detect critical components.

Telecommunication and infrastructure companies that manage towers can use OpenTower iQ to monitor the health of their towers and gain access to shared, secured data through a central portal. Data analytics can provide cost benefit analysis to boost operational efficiency and revenue assurance. To accelerate the launch of OpenTower iQ, Bentley Acceleration Initiatives acquired digital twin technology from Aeroprotechnik, a leading aerial inspection engineering company that specializes in automated asset data capture and digitalization solutions. The technology included artificial intelligence and reality modeling capabilities that provide detailed information on current site conditions, which helps tower companies speed up rollouts, enhance decision-making, and shorten sales cycles.

With OpenTower iQ, Tower Cos and Mobile Operators gain continuous access to near real-time information to better monitor, predict, and react to any required tower modifications by leveraging digital twins and reality modeling capabilities.

One of the key focus areas is to help improved accuracy of tower inspections. Bentley Acceleration Initiatives partnered with Visual Intelligence whose patented dual-sensor drone technology digitalizes physical infrastructure with millimeter accuracy to reliably deliver 3D, engineering-grade asset intelligence. Visual Intelligence is able to map more measurable surface area than alternative aerial and ground-based methods. It uses a patented drone sensor technology has the unique ability to capture the components of a tower including bolts, wires, ladders, and other items with an extremely high degree of accuracy that was not previously possible.

“Until now, drone data has failed to live up to its promise to the tower industry. This is largely because survey-grade drone sensors can’t collect the fidelity of data required to extract engineering-grade tower intelligence. Our patented drone sensor technology is the first of its kind to collect millimeter-class tower information. We partnered with Bentley to utilize OpenTower iQ to translate this new fidelity of data into as-built digital twins, and then apply AI to automate and unlock new kinds of tower insights. With OpenTower iQ, we’re enabling new applications of drone data and accelerating the value of digital twins to tower companies worldwide,” said Ted Miller, founder and chairman of Visual Intelligence and former chairman and CEO of Crown Castle International

With the ability to scan and create comprehensive millimeter accurate digital twin, a tower company can virtually inspect a tower. Without sending personnel into dangerous conditions, operators can check to see if it the asset been constructed correctly, determine if the tower’s structural integrity is intact, and run co-location scenarios. Unlike reality models produced from cameras, OpenTower’s Visual Intelligence enables a digital twin that can support advanced analyses such as connection integrity analysis and mount mapping analysis.

This “smart” inventory management saves time, cost, and improves safety. OpenTower iQ is designed to handle the large asset portfolios of operators, easily processing and analyzing tens of thousands of towers.

Santanu Das, senior vice president, chief acceleration officer, Bentley Acceleration Initiatives says that they are looking for technology partnerships that can get to market, and the needs of the telecommunication infrastructure were a clear fit.

“The telecom industry is going through a rapid transformation as multinetwork operators are expanding their portfolios through consolidation and moving from a 4G platform to 5G. Without a doubt, digital twin solutions like OpenTower iQ, ‘powered by iTwin,’ will help tower owners make the most of the industry’s burgeoning opportunities.”

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About Author

Carla Lauter

Carla Lauter is the editor of SPAR3D.com and the SPAR 3D Newsletter. Before joining SPAR 3D, Carla spent 10 years on NASA and National Science Foundation funded projects focusing on Earth science and communication. She has worked on web-based outreach and online interactives for NASA Earth Science, including products for satellite missions measuring sea level, salinity and hyperspectral ocean color.

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