This article was authored by Simon Bennett Head of Research and Innovation at AVEVA
On initial inspection, the Industrial Metaverse may seem like pure-breed innovation, but with more study, it emerges as a complex jigsaw puzzle of existing technologies that need to be correctly blended to deliver on the promise.
At AVEVA, we define this pathbreaking technology as an interconnected, immersive, and persistent virtual universe where teams can interact with each other and digital objects in real time. Think of it as a collective virtual environment that blurs the line between the physical and digital realms in an increasingly interconnected world.
In the world of design and operating the world’s industrial infrastructure our customers find themselves deep in heterogeneous data sources, multiple platforms, sometimes questionable data quality, and requiring decisions to be made on an hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute basis. Talk to any of them and their main complaint is the quantity and trust that they put into their data.
Put this into a live industrial metaverse setting where teams can meet to discuss the scheduling and details of the next six months of production processing, and it will end in disaster. We have long recognized the importance of trusted data and so the first piece of the jigsaw puzzle is a Digital Twin. Take Gwinnett County, Georgia USA – the Department of Water Resources in Gwinnett County, manages the purification of drinking water, fresh and grey water services, and the delivery of more than 70m gallons of water per day to 1m+ residents. Gwinnett worked with AVEVA and its partner to implement a digital twin of operations at multiple sites spanning water production plants, distribution and transmission networks, and hundreds of water collection points. Gwinnett created a unified platform that streamlines efficiency and optimizes performance, boosting clean-water delivery by 20% against rigorous industry standards.
Having world-class data is the minimum entry point for an Industrial Metaverse, but of equal importance is how people interact with each other differently in a more immersive 3D environment than in the 2D world of MS Teams and Zoom. Take the University of Milan who set about challenging the traditional method of teaching Industrial Chemist undergraduates. Most students were able to understand the key chemical concepts but professors at the university saw how challenging it was for students to connect these fundamental concepts into a system of concepts which is typical of an operating plant. With increasing costs and regulations making it harder for students to go to industrial site visits, Professor Carlo Pirlo decided to offer evening classes using AR/VR headsets in a full plant simulation. His study of two control groups indicated a +60% increase in academic performance among those who attended the AR/VR sessions.
Our ability to understand the world is deeply based on our perceptions of our environments and AR/VR immersion is a great platform for the Industrial Metaverse to drive better collaboration between people and machines – including our customers and supply chains. Powerful collaboration emerges as our second jigsaw piece.
But this isn’t a jigsaw made of only two pieces, there are many other factors to consider such as cyber security, data dominion, cloud provision, network support for remote metaverse attendees, UX design, the role of AI, protection of Intellectual Property, etc… The list is long, and the jigsaw is increasingly more complex. But of important note is that these are all existing technologies, there is no jigsaw piece that is unknown science or fundamental research. It all exists already. At AVEVA we see great potential for the Industrial Metaverse, we are confident that with our customers and technology partners we can complete this jigsaw together.