Last week, MIT Technology Review and German automation company Siemens released a report zeroing in on the value, opportunities, and challenges presented by the rapidly evolving industrial metaverse.
The industrial metaverse differs from the possibly better known consumer metaverses, which are digital spaces for socializing, gaming or entertainment.
It’s also different from enterprise metaverse, which is the use of the technology within an organization’s work environment. For example, Accenture has an integral enterprise metaverse, called the Nth floor, used to onboard new employees.
The industrial metaverse, in contrast, is the digital simulation of the entire business operation, from machines, factories, cities, transportation networks, and other highly complex systems.
An industrial metaverse is a digital twin of a factory, allowing businesses to model, prototype, and test millions of designs in real-time, and in an immersive, physics-based environment, before material and human resources are committed to a project.
“By merging digital twins with their real-world counterparts, companies can optimize production and processes in a continuous feedback loop,” said Peter Körte, chief technology and strategy officer, Siemens. “This convergence of digital and real worlds will change the way we work and collaborate, enabling real-time interaction with other people and machines, just like in the real world.”
The report details the following benefits that the industrial metaverse could bring to organizations:
- Detect and fix early errors without disrupting production lines
- Collect data in a digital world — information that can be used to support a wide range of AI-enabled use cases, such as predictive maintenance and big data analytics
- Offer employees remote access to expert skills and virtual training modules regardless of their physical location
- Sustainability – An energy-efficient metaverse, powered by renewable sources will be a game-changer for organizations scrambling to achieve sustainability standards. For example, an organization can minimizing a site’s environmental impact even before construction begin, saving resources and materials. Or, an organization can see exactly which parts of a building are the least energy-efficient, and shut down any kind of heating or ventilation if not required.
Siemens, for example, used digital twin technology to simulate the construction of a factory in China to test the facility’s performance and efficiency before laying a single brick. The company touts 20 per cent higher productivity than in conventional factories, 30 per cent higher manufacturing volume and 40 per cent higher space efficiency.
The building blocks of the industrial metaverse encompass all the viral ‘next big things’ such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cloud and edge computing that will, in turn, require connectivity and computational power, the report said.
It will also require digital twin fidelity to fully capture the data surrounding the physical counterpart to their digital twin, and a high level of interoperability to integrate industrial metaverses using a common language, like open APIs, compatible data formats and protocols.
“Interoperability and openness of digital solutions are the basic prerequisites for building and participating in the industrial metaverse, but also for successful digitalization in the present,” said Matthias Ziegler, managing director, technology innovation, Accenture. “When companies try to lock others out, they will only lock themselves in. We still see a lot of siloed landscapes and approaches. There’s a lack of interfaces and interoperability, even a lack of standards.”
For organizations looking to get started, the report recommended:
- Develop a clear industrial metaverse strategy despite the absence of universal standards
- Invest in underlying technology, including edge hardware, industrial 5G networks, digital twin technologies, and AI/ML
- Find the right partner providing metaverse services or applications
- Determine a specific value proposition (for e.g. reducing waste or accelerating the product development cycle) and use case for the implementation of industrial metaverse
- Consider employees’ reactions to the metaverse and educate them on the opportunities it creates while investing in upskilling and training
- Find new talent