How the metaverse will change tomorrow’s industry

The metaverse will fundamentally change the way the economy works. The major financial players have well understood this. AXA Investment Managers launched its thematic fund on the meta-verse a few weeks ago. It consists of about 250 titles divided into four categories: games, socializing, work and technology activation. Much of the attention the meta-verse has so far focused on the first two categories (games and socializing). But it is as a technological facilitator that the benefits in terms of value creation and innovation will certainly be the most significant. Some speak of an “industrial metavers”. It’s the same idea.

Many industrial applications

The goal is to simulate experiences or phenomena in the virtual world in order to provide an answer to the problems of the physical world. The most emblematic example is certainly Nvidia, a US listed company specializing in graphics processors, artificial intelligence, and which has a foot in the metaverse. Last December, the group’s CEO, Jensen Huang, announced plans to create a digital twin of the Earth capable of predicting climate change using artificial intelligence. It is not a project that can succeed in the short term. It can take at least ten or fifteen years of research and investment. But suppose Nvidia succeeds. It can make it possible to anticipate and prevent the climate change that will take place in the physical world, for companies to adapt, for insurance companies and for all economic actors.

Other uses are possible. At Oceans.ai, we aim to create a metaverse within a few years that can help predict and predict the impact of corrosion on energy infrastructure, for example. Corrosion in the broad sense (including pipelines, gas pipelines, road infrastructure, etc.) cost France almost 84 billion euros in 2019. This equates to 3.5% of GDP. If we could better anticipate the degradation of materials under the influence of the environment, this would make it possible to reduce the costs generated as well as the risks and to strengthen the safety of the goods.

In the same spirit, Boeing is creating its own internal metaverse based on digital twins to avoid design flaws on its aircraft. Boeing is also seeking to improve the maintenance and inspection of its aircraft. The US group uses current and historical maintenance data and has developed a machine learning algorithm which, if the project is successful, could anticipate the weak points to be monitored on aircraft as a priority. However, this is not an easy task.

Regulation and complexity of data processing

Metaverset is based on the following technologies: augmented reality (eg 3D objects that fit into a space), virtual reality (simulation of a 3D environment existing in the physical world), blockchain, 5G, IoT ( connecting physical objects to the Internet), industry 4.0 (equivalent to the convergence of the virtual world with real objects) and artificial intelligence. Access to data is the key to success for the latter. It is common to say that in the field of artificial intelligence, large amounts of data are needed. It is true. But what is not often highlighted is that the quality of the data (for example, continuous and consistent data) is even more important. This makes it possible in particular to create operating systems that act as a framework for the digital twins that we have mentioned.

Data quality is not an end in itself. It is also important to keep in mind all the data protection needs and the still disparate rules that apply here and there in this area. Contrary to what we may think in Europe, we are lucky. The rules are going in the right direction. In early April, the European Parliament adopted more flexible rules to facilitate data sharing (neutral intermediaries to aggregate data, incentives for public actors to share their data, etc.). This should help to promote the innovation climate around artificial intelligence and therefore around the metaverse. Finally, this system should soon be supplemented by a law on the use of data generated by linked objects (which is currently being discussed at Member State level). This is also a crucial point for the industry.

Channel funds

The challenge now is to channel funds from private equity fund more towards the themes of innovation in the industry. This is a challenge in France, where fundraising is mainly dominated by the fintech segment and to a lesser extent by medtech. In many cases it is only venture capital of companies (funds owned by large industrial groups) with the support of the Public Investment Bank (BPI). This is insufficient if we want to reindustrialise France and multiply the sectors of expertise. We hope that the current tenant of the Elysée will also address this issue.