The industrial metaverse is coming...can you take advantage?

Jan. 17, 2022

There are definite applications that will bleed into B2B territory and redefine the way companies are doing business both on and offline.

UrsaLeo's John Burton

Are you ready?

Right now, many of us are already tired of hearing the word metaverse. It's being tossed around like the words internet and eCommerce were in the 1990s. Back then, many of us underestimated the internet and this new way of buying and selling. Compared to back then—with the way we currently interact, communicate, and spend—you truly understand how we’ve evolved.

The metaverse is dominating the airwaves and the hype continues as companies scramble to determine how they will leverage this new online real estate. Peek under the hood and you begin to realize that the numbers don’t lie; it seems like the metaverse is here to stay. Bloomberg Intelligence tells us that the value of the metaverse is expected to reach $800 billion by the middle 2020s, with that figure climbing to $2.5 trillion by 2030.

Many of the big guns are following the trend and jumping on the bandwagon to own their spot. We’ve already witnessed Facebook laying claim to the namesake of the future with a rebranding that had many of us scratching our heads. Let me digress and make something very clear…nobody owns the metaverse and, in fact, the principles behind this soon-to-not-be-a-phenomenon are based on interoperability with many people and companies moving and interacting freely in this space.

 With a number of B2C companies getting into the metaverse game (e.g., MSFT Hololens, PlayStation’s VR helmets, Facebook’s own Oculus, Epic Games’ video games, Alibaba’s Ali Metaverse, etc.), there are definite applications that will bleed into B2B territory and redefine the way companies are doing business both on and offline.

The industrial metaverse begins to evolve across many corners of the internet

As we move into 2022, technologies will converge and the industrial metaverse will start to take shape. What will make up the industrial metaverse? On one side, we have Industry 4.0 (Industrial IoT or IIoT) which has been gathering data from equipment and environments for many years. This data is increasingly stored in the cloud and accessed through an off-the-shelf IoT provider, such as Amazon’s AWS or Microsoft’s Azure. 

On the other side, we have the 3D world of gaming technology, augmented/virtual/mixed realities, and CAD. Combining the two leads to an immersive environment where IoT data can be accessed in new and innovative ways. A corner of the industrial metaverse is created when we add remote collaboration as a feature set in this environment, where many users may access the same data at the same time and virtually interact with each other.

Real-time positioning systems can add another layer to this mix and track a person’s position in real time, which is then rendered in the 3D world, complete with avatars and other defining information.

Large companies like Amazon are already embracing the industrial-metaverse trend. The ecommerce behemoth has taken their IoT product and 3D-rendering technology and combined them to offer the AWS IoT TwinMaker—a toolkit for combining AWS IoT data with 3D models derived from CAD. 

Rich and immersive environments begin to take shape in the industrial space

Richly immersive 3D environments that can be viewed on any device—a smartphone, iPad or a wearable headset—are going to make inroads into the industrial space, enable more meaningful collaboration and user-friendly experiences. Think sales and marketing, on-site training conducted from a distance, and remote maintenance, to name a few.

Some of these applications will use virtual reality, but more are likely to use ‘mixed reality’ where data is overlaid in the real world, enabling the operator to make use of real-time data in an industrial setting.

Gaming technology allows for additional visualizations to be created and overlaid in the real world to further enhance the operators dataset. Connectivity problems are being tackled by technologies such as 5G and high speed satellite links that deliver the needed bandwidth in industrial or remote applications. 2022 will see all of these technologies mature and start to be used in more industrial use cases.

This is only the beginning and experimentation is key

The metaverse hype will continue to proliferate—companies will experiment with new ideas, then scrap those ideas for even newer (and possibly better) ones. I do believe that this is only the beginning. None of us will get it all right the first time and many will need to pivot as the metaverse evolves. But experimentation in the industrial world is going to be an important part of testing and learning how we can put our best ideas forward and embrace “in real life” beyond the “real world.” 

John Burton is CEO of UrsaLeo