The metaverse is not reserved for video games, social networks or Web3: it also has many industrial applications and already the first use cases.
But to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the metaverse, companies will need to rise to the challenge of industrialization and move beyond the POC (proof of concept) stage.
The industrial world has long been accustomed to working with 3D models, especially in areas such as luxury craft, which increasingly models its products virtually before manufacturing them. These technologies are now used throughout a product’s life cycle, from the design phase – with PLM solutions – to maintenance and after-sales. With the industrial metaverse, the integration of 3D technologies and data is now pushed even further…
From digital twin to metaverse…
Digital twins – digital doublings of a product, a production line, an operator, a factory or all four at once – are the first bricks in the industrial metaverse. Connected to the real world, these tools are particularly useful for accelerating product design, simulating different configurations, predicting changes in production lines, shortening production cycles or achieving flexibility in the supply chain.
The visualization of the digital twin using Augmented Reality and/or Virtual Reality technologies now reaches a level of precision and realism that makes simulations and projections of virtual production lines tangible. An uninformed spectator can no longer tell the difference between a 3D sequence and a filmed sequence, this realism in the virtual universe makes it possible to engage all the interlocutors. These faithful virtual representations also allow the training of artificial intelligence in hypothetical situations simulated in the digital twin, helping in particular to improve autonomous robotic technology that improves the monitoring of the facility and its security.
Thus, having a digital model or a digital twin is not enough to make a metaverse. To do this, a collaborative approach should be adopted, by opening it up to all the company’s stakeholders – subcontractors, suppliers, business partners, even customers – but also to the various internal disciplines, even if this requires breaking down many silos.
Traceability and value sharing
With an ecosystem vision, the industrial metaverse presents itself as a means of sharing enterprise data in a secure and traceable manner to facilitate the design, production and maintenance of products. For many manufacturers, the development of metaverse provides an opportunity to create a real platform for exchange and cooperation, to improve operational efficiency.
By integrating Web3 and blockchain logic, this collaborative space also answers the challenges of traceability and value sharing between stakeholders by making it possible to improve or even monetize the use of everyone’s digital assets and content. A subcontractor or supplier can, for example, integrate the 3D models of the spare parts it produces in its customer’s warehouse and be rewarded for each of their uses, thanks to the possibilities offered by NFTs. These new features are a powerful accelerator for the adoption of additive manufacturing and 3D printing.
Connection with the production chain
Connection with the production chain is also key, it makes it possible to upload real production data to the metaverse, to use the digital twin to identify optimizations, but above all, in case of alarms on the physical chain, to simulate the different scenarios in the virtual world before the changes are applied to the physical chain.
In this way, the realistic virtual representation mentioned above will be directly augmented by a visualization of the various metrics and their impacts on the production chain with an expected representation of the consequences of these KPI evolutions.
Going beyond the POC and POV stage
The aviation industry and car manufacturers – such as BMW, with Nvidia and its Omniverse solutions – have already made good progress in this reflection, by digitizing their processes and gathering their ecosystem of partners around the same digital platform. However, the industrialization of this type of approach still encounters many obstacles, and all too often the experiments remain at the POC (proof of concept) or POV (proof of value) stage.
But very quickly the question of the industrialization of the production of digital assets will arise in the companies, which will lead to the creation of real production chains of digital products. The interest? Delivering content to industrial metaverses, but also to the general public.
This scaling up will require the metaverse to connect with IS (the information system), the heart of the business, by communicating together historically fragmented data sources – such as CAD (computer-aided design) and PLM (product life cycle) data.
Finally, like any new technology, the metaverse holds a lot of promise that remains to be confirmed. Without adequate answers to the questions of choice of metaverse, architecture and relations to IS, identity and security and finally an appropriate regulatory framework, its use in an industrial context risks being limited.
The task is complex, but it is the condition that must be met to establish a true digital continuity of these services.