This article was authored by Kevin O’Donovan, Technology Evangelist and founder of boutique technology advisory company, A Bit of This & That.
It’s Been a brilliant 12 months, especially for the Industrial Metaverse.
Now, before you shout out, ‘But the metaverse is dead…’, let me explain.
It is correct to say that the Metaverse has not met many folks’ expectations. If one bought into all the hype from 12-18 months ago, we should be living in ‘Ready Player One’ by now. Thankfully, we are not. My point is we ‘humans’ don’t seem to learn. We continuously overestimate the impact of any new technology in the short term and underestimate it in the longer term.
As I said 18 months ago, most short-term expectations regarding the ‘Metaverse’ were off in “La La Land,”… but in my opinion, the longer-term expectations are still on track. (And on the bright side, many of the ‘experts’ who covered and hyped everything and have now been telling us that the “Metaverse is dead” have found a new bandwagon to jump on to, #GenerativeAI)
Look, don’t get me wrong. A lot of the hype around the Metaverse in the past 18 months was way over the top. It’s resulted in a huge deep ‘trough of disillusionment,’ which has consequences. Especially in many companies and colleagues, where investment has been lost, job losses across the industry continue, and start-ups have gone to the wall. It’s not been pretty.
So it’s been a tough year for the consumer’ Metaverse. But when you look at what’s going on re the Industrial Metaverse, that’s a very different story. The short-term Industrial Metaverse expectations I had 18 months ago have easily been exceeded. So a few points for you to mull over;
Digitalization of Industry is not Slowing Down, with ‘Digital Twins’ Leading the way
The digitalization of industry, Industry 4.0, is accelerating with all sorts of advancements in tech. The convergence of 5G, edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI), improved Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) capabilities, better CPUs/GPUs/DPU’s and better interoperability breaking down ‘data silos’ is simply accelerating this digitalization.
And it’s not just about technology for technology’s sake. This enables unprecedented levels of connectivity, data processing, and automation, paving the way for innovative applications and driving more and more optimization. And ‘Digital Twins’ are leading the way. Again some will say the Digital Twin is not new. Agreed. But that’s like saying computers are not new. They are not. But the capabilities of the Compaq PCs I was off evangelizing about in the late 1990s are very ‘different’ to the capabilities a 2023 computer provides today.
My point is there are some excellent Digital Twin’s out there already. What’s different is the expanding capabilities we’re adding, merging different digital twins, adding more physics-based simulation, more interoperability, and more real-time data… This is a whole new generation of Digital Twin tech.
Look at what was on show at Hannover Messe a few weeks back. The ‘Industrial Metaverse’ was a hot topic for Siemens, NVIDIA, BMW, Schneider Electric/AVEVA, Microsoft, Bosch, Dassault Systemes, and Nokia, to name. Still, a few… and ‘almost’ everyone had a ‘digital twin’ of something.
The Industrial Metaverse is a Strategic Imperative.
When you have the German Government, multiple international companies, and the likes of BitKom all calling out that the implications of the Industrial Metaverse must be considered as a strategic imperative for companies for countries, there must be more to all this than simply hype and marketing.
The Metaverse enabling technologies allow us to build more immersive, real-time, interactive, and persistent Digital Twins of machines, factories, workflows, of complete supply chains. Whether you agree to call this the ‘Industrial Metaverse’ or Industry 4.98 is not the point. All of this is simply the next phase of digitalization, and it is NOT going away.
And companies are not investing in this today just because it’s cool tech. I have yet to meet a person or a company who is investing in all this so they can get to the ‘Industrial Metaverse.’ They are doing it to be more resilient. And in today’s world, that’s THE strategic imperative.
Barriers to Entry are Coming Down.
Whether you are a start-up, a scale-up, an SME, or an Industry powerhouse, designing, building, operating, maintaining, optimizing, and decommissioning factories or infrastructure is hard. Knowledge and competence have been built up over decades, and workflows and work practices have evolved. The laws of physics have not changed … What has changed are the capabilities that ‘tools’ provide, and by tools, I mean the range of Industrial S/W ‘tools’ from the likes of Dassault Systems, Bentley Systems, ABB, Siemens, NVIDIA, Schneider Electric / AVEVA, AutoDesk, Bosch, etc.
However, I personally often hear from start-ups or SMEs that; “.. it’s fine for the big manufacturing or Energy companies; they can ‘afford’ to get access to all the latest and greatest ‘tools’ from such tool suppliers, us small folks can’t as we don’t have the budget or the internal IT folks…”
This is changing. With almost ALL the Industrial S/W vendors now providing access to their tools and capabilities via a cloud / SaaS model, the ‘barrier to entry’ for many is getting lower and lower. Look at what you can now get from all the usual Industrial companies AND the likes of 3DS Experience, NVIDIA Omniverse, Unity Industry, and EPIC’s TwinMotion … This is opening up all sorts of capabilities and opportunities to folks who never had access to such tools before.
New Skills are Coming into the Workforce.
The demand for skills such as 3D modeling, physics modeling, and building photorealistic virtual worlds will continue to rise. Now some folks who have been working in engineering, manufacturing, construction, etc., will have such skills already, but not everyone does. We need WAY more people to have such skills. So don’t dismiss the potential impact of the younger generations, who are growing up creating their own virtual experiences via platforms like Minecraft, EPIC’s Fortnite Editor, Blender, Unity, Decentraland, Roblox Studio, etc.
The influx of fresh talent with expertise in 3D model creation, spatial awareness, and physics simulation is a new phenomenon that bodes well for the future workforce. We need these folks with a natural aptitude for immersive simulations and will likely introduce innovative new perspectives and ideas to industries across the board.
Now this does NOT mean that all our existing workflows will be thrown out the window, and we must start again. This is about complementing our industry knowledge with new skills and capabilities. This is a good thing. Now two last thoughts for you. The above does not consider two other key drivers as to why it’s been a brilliant year for the Industrial Metaverse and why 2023 and beyond will be even better…
The impact of GenerativeAI further lowers the ‘barrier to entry for many—the need to accelerate the buildout of new Energy Transition infrastructure. But these are topics for another day. So, I am convinced it’s been a brilliant twelve months for the Industrial Metaverse.