We have not yet fully understood the Metaverse in its actual functions-aside from virtual reality-and some global players are declining the concept from a corporate perspective, raising further questions. But beyond the glittering marketing activities of multinational corporations, let’s see independently what the Industrial Metaverse means and what it could represent for our organizations.
The metaverse for the corporate world
We have already addressed the topic of the metaverse in a previous article, beyond the user interface-the tool with which we will interact in the metaverse-to focus on the engine that will manage digital identities, property titles and transactions. In my vision as a software designer, I always distinguish what is visible from what is not but what makes the system work: in this case, blockchain and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO).
And even in the metaverse, declined for the corporate world, I will do the same thing: I will independently analyze the facts and then try to predict an approach that is functional, operational, and in line with a company’s goals. Only then will organizations be able to take advantage of the potential of this new tool to stay in line with trends without losing competitiveness.
The differences with the “general” metaverse
Before we get into the details, let’s look at how the metaverse changes as we approach the consumer model or interact as industries and private organizations. According to research by Deloitte, the two metaverse models will converge into a single symbiotic ecosystem in which people can interact with both the industrial and consumer components.
The common element is the transposition of the physical world into the virtual world, the heart of the metaverse. Here virtual reality allows people to play a dual role: to be producers, consumers, or prosumers, or the fusion of the terms producer and consumer.
In Deloitte’s interpretation, the division between the industrial metaverse and the consumer metaverse is related to the use of services. Specifically, as far as the industrial metaverse is concerned, the industries that are born or spread there can then have a practice match in the physical reality, generating actual economic value.
The technologies involved in the industrial metaverse
Friends from the Rising Sun have delved into the details of technologies used in the industrial metaverse, creating a visionary matrix of what we will use as enterprises in virtual reality to produce and deliver our services.
EqualOcean Intelligence has created a specific name, Meta-X, for this set of technologies, including:
- Mixed Reality: for complex industrial scenarios requiring low operating latencies and enabling remote collaboration, real-time equipment diagnosis, and industrial model design;
- Compute Engine: understood as computing power available as-a-service for low-latency operations;
- Digital Twin: offers the possibility of recreating a digital twin not only of the individual machine but also of the factory and the entire production chain up to the overall economic system;
- AIoT: arises from the confluence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) and enables better management of directly neighboring devices and machines;
- Computer Graphics: intended as an enabler for the generation of 3D models for later use in virtual interactions in the industrial metaverse;
- Blockchain: a technology that enables the reshaping of transaction management from a decentralized perspective. This promotes the building of “trust without trust,” that is, it generates greater security between counterparties engaged in the production chain. The characteristics of blockchain that enable greater trust are immutability and transparency.
The path to Industry 5.0
Taking a closer look at the technologies of the industrial metaverse, we notice that many of them are considered akin to the Industry 4.0 paradigm. However, if we broaden the view, we see that the metaverse extends beyond technological boundaries by giving a new role to people.
Human-centricity now seems to have become an inescapable goal in all techno-economic developments that I have found myself analyzing along with sustainability, the stalwart bulwark of any futuristic perspective.
But the human-centric vision that permeates the industrial metaverse is not just an expression of technologists. Even the European Commission has outlined its vision in this regard.
The European Commission’s vision of Industry 5.0
The European Commission sees Industry 5.0 as a catalyst for resilience, projecting toward sustainability and assigning a central role to people in value creation. I couldn’t agree more.
And this transformative, human-centered, resilient and sustainable vision allows me to affirm the confluence of the goals of Industry 5.0 with those of the industrial metaverse.
Putting people at the center of the production system is a winning strategy because it allows automation technologies to be adopted as a support to human labor, not as a replacement. I like this concept: it aligns with the new role that people will play in the economic system and, consequently, in the metaverse.
Through the creation of an integrated and resilient ecosystem, the increased robustness of the production system seems to be another element that unites the two paradigms. The metaverse and Industry 5.0 are fueled by the technology base and the drive for interoperability and application cooperation that support the system.
Sustainability, which is at the heart of each of us, will thus emerge in all its forms through our new, responsible and conscious role.
Technical capabilities, business scenarios and application value
We have come to the point of dwelling on the new opportunities that the industrial metaverse will offer businesses in specific scenarios. The possibilities are varied, such as:
- Rapid and safe training of employees through meta-representation of natural work environments. With Mixed Reality or virtual reality, companies can create virtual environments that represent the real conditions in which resources will work. This not only speeds up time, but also improves people’s safety in the event of risky environmental conditions.
- Ability to simulate before executing or delivering. Implementing a simulation of a machine’s behavior through the digital twin, for example, will enable companies to speed up processes.
- Use virtual reality to perform tasks remotely. Whether augmented or mixed reality, the metaverse offers the ability to operate remotely without the physical displacement of experts. As in the case of remote surgery, the doctor is physically located in the Netherlands and the patient is to be operated on in Somalia, for example.
- Collaborate with other parties on design and production without physical limitations. As mentioned above about additive manufacturing, a manufacturing company can use third-party services to design the artifact and then produce it directly where it is needed through industrial 3D printing service centers. In addition to increased manufacturing capacity, we may be thinking about new operating models for our organizations.
These are only part of the possible operational scenarios that will create unprecedented application value. Each company can develop new strategies and tactics based on its business model to improve operational efficiency and agility.
The synergy with blockchain and industrial DAOs
We have already discussed how a DAO aims to encode an organization’s operating rules into a computer program (the smart contract). This allows transparency and disintermediation from a centralized entity. In practice, DAOs will allow us to digitalize not only transactions but also the actual operation of an organization from preset rules.
Here we will see the emergence of decentralized autonomous or, better, Business-to-Business (B2B) industrial organizations. These organizations serve only businesses and adopt the “code is law” rule as an integral part of their organizational structure.
With blockchain and smart contracts, a new ecosystem scenario will open up. The collaboration will be fostered by adoption and the implicit “trust without trust” that enables collaboration with other organizations by leveraging the immutability and transparency features of blockchain. This will reduce friction in granting the trust necessary to operate between parties that do not know each other directly.
This synergy, in my view, will open the door to an ecosystem of businesses based on open and transparent collaboration, without geographic or size discrimination. Everyone will be able to participate in this autonomous, transparent, and inclusive production ecosystem.
The industrial metaverse not only promotes the development of a new economic and social model, but also manages to do so in a sustainable way Click To Tweet
The impact on society: will it be stakeholder capitalism?
Who knows, then, that the premises of inclusiveness and transparency of the industrial metaverse will also condition the becoming of the Great Reset announced by the World Economic Forum, which aims precisely at building a new economic world based on People – Planet – Prosperity – Partnership, a paradigm of the UN SDGs.
An economic world that renounces Shareholder Capitalism – where the primary goal of a company is to create shareholder value – by promoting Stakeholder Capitalism, where the primary purpose of companies is to create value for “stakeholders,” namely workers, suppliers, customers, shareholders and local communities.
In theory, the industrial metaverse should fit perfectly with this new economic model made up of extremes of decentralization, a precursor to the inclusiveness needed to achieve equitable and sustainable progress.
The growing importance of people
For now, we certainly need to promote the centrality of people, who will become the main players in the economic scene. They will play a key role in rethinking the way products are made.
Many see product customization as central to the evolution toward Industry 5.0, which, as envisioned by the European Commission, will be human-centered, sustainable, and resilient.
So, welcome to the metaverse, forerunner of a new economic model and promoter of a new social model that puts us, human beings, at the center of social and economic activities. It will be a highly valued model that I fully support because it also places sustainability as a primary goal of business.