Everything Appears To Be Connected, But Can It All Communicate?


From retail and manufacturing to healthcare and transportation, the world is getting smarter thanks to machines, sensors, devices, networks and spaces that are becoming increasingly more intelligent. With expanding capabilities to improve the way we live, work and learn, it seems everything is connected. But can it all communicate? Consider this:

  • Inventory accuracy for the average U.S. retailer is only 63%
  • Nearly 13,000 workplace injuries occur every day
  • Despite people traveling less in 2020, fatal crashes rose by 24% from 2019

While responsive, smart and intelligent are words applied to a broad range of products—from appliances and phones to vehicles and robots—few among us have an in-depth understanding of the physical and non-physical (or virtual) properties that enable them to create a fully connected digital space where everything in and around it communicates. To realize such an environment, location awareness and context will be essential, particularly as more businesses, people and things occupy digital spaces.

Location awareness and context defines many of the actions we take, every day, helping us not only remember where specific items have been placed but also why collectively they are necessary in helping us complete a task or achieve a goal, whether it’s driving to work, finishing a project on time, taking the dog to the park or shopping for groceries. In fact, there is little we can successfully accomplish without having a deep, contextual understanding of where we are at any given time, and our relationship to what is around us.

Without a doubt, technology has expanded our ability to find things. Take GPS, for example. Through extensive digital mapping and location awareness, we can pinpoint the location of places, people and things that are equipped with sensors and connected to a network. Now apply those same principles to a specific ecosystem—a warehouse, hospital, construction site or an entire community.

At Verizon, the next evolution in mapping technology, Digital Space Management (DSM),

is being developed with the use of digital twins, location intelligence and contextual awareness—all of which have the potential to fulfil the promise of the fourth industrial revolution and the future of communication in a 5G world. Similar to but far beyond the capabilities of GPS, DSM expands location mapping from a static representation of a space to a 3D digital twin that reflects or mirrors the physical space and everything in and around it. The digital twin concept is not new, however. Decades ago, NASA used digital twins to duplicate systems in space for the purpose of simulating and assessing conditions on board a spacecraft. Since then, the model has evolved to give enterprises more insight into their factories and systems, yet their capabilities are limited by a lack of central space management.

Software and machines can answer the question of “where,” but they cannot achieve higher levels of spatial awareness without the tools and knowledge needed to derive meaningful insights from that data. So, imagine when software and machines do have the ability to function with the same level of advanced spatial awareness and accuracy as humans—contextualizing their surroundings and understanding how to interact with and navigate the world in fine detail.

Today, some of the world’s largest companies are using digital twins, with data improving innovation, success rates and productivity. Potential future use cases include:

  • Product development and design and predictive machine maintenance in manufacturing
  • Autonomous vehicle development in automotive
  • Improving healthcare delivery and personalized care in medicine
  • Decreasing workplace injuries in construction
  • Visibility through the entire supply chain
  • Warehouse optimization
  • Retail inventory control

In the not-so-distant future, DSM may not only help break down information silos and expand situational awareness with data but also model workplace operations in real-time to keep people safe and more productive than ever. Most important, with the potential of DSM to power a new era in automation, machine learning and location technology, humans and machines will be better equipped to understand and engage with the world around them.

About the author: As the Executive Director of the Verizon Location Technology team, Jeff leads a talented and diversified team of engineers, data scientists, product, marketing and commercialization individuals to provide location services across Verizon for both internal and external customers. He brings to bear his background in partnerships, sales, and execution to deliver location services to Verizon and its customers. Prior to joining Verizon, Jeff was VP of Partnerships at Oracle Data Cloud. In his free time, you’ll find him enjoying the Colorado outdoors with his wife and four kids.

Edited by Erik Linask

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