5G and the Digital Conjoined Twin

For years we’ve been hearing about the rollout of 5G, with much speculation about how exactly it will transform our daily lives. As with any new technology, the most disruptive use case often emerges completely unexpected. In the case of 5G, even with limited availability, we’re already observing emergence of the digital conjoined twin.

The concept of the digital twin, a digital replica and history of a living or non-living physical entity, percolated up the list of the top buzzwords of 2018. And as vendors now clamber to market digital twin solutions while enterprises scramble to develop digital twin strategies, some individuals are already taking the concept one step further.

Driven by concerns about data privacy in light of the many recent breaches and scandals, a few tech-savvy individuals have elected to reclaim their digital twin, hosting and managing their own digital-self-replica in the cloud themselves. The most intrepid are going so far as to bypass the cloud entirely, instead hosting their digital twins locally—that is to say on their physical person. In the words of one such individual:

“5G eliminates the only remaining reasons for me to choose the cloud: high bandwidth and low latency. So I cut out the middleman.”

By hosting one’s own digital representation, in this case using an open source Node.js server running on a Raspberry Pi with 5G stick, physically attached to oneself at all times, the result is a digital conjoined twin.

The inconvenience of carrying a device that needs to be recharged once or more per day is offset by the fact that the digital twin resides in the optimal location: adjacent to the physical entity that it represents. Updates to the state of the individual are immediately reflected in their digital conjoined twin, accessible on the Internet with sub-millisecond latency thanks to 5G. In the age of instant updates, it simply does not get more real-time than this!

This is distinct from carrying a smartphone, the sidekick device of the past decade. The mobile ecosystem never embraced the digital conjoined twin paradigm as, arguably, this would challenge their established People-as-a-Product business model. It’s easy to see why:

“With this setup I can literally pull the plug on my data at any time. It’s a USB cable connected to a power pack.”

Indeed, 5G introduces the possibility to live “at the edge” in a quite literal sense. And the scenario becomes even more interesting when two pairs of digital conjoined twins meet.

While each human discovers the other visually and subsequently engages in verbal conversation, their digital twins spontaneously discover one another via Bluetooth Low Energy and subsequently engage in IP-over-5G conversation. The digital twins require no intervention from their human counterparts in order to engage one another. This leaves the individuals free to interact with one another, once again without distraction—just as humans have done for hundreds of thousands of years—save of course for the quirky contraptions conjoined with their bodies.

Today, April 1st, 2019, marks the first documented encounter of pairs of digital conjoined twins. It would be foolish not to think of this as the dawn of a new era for humanity.