With the rise of fast networks, fast 3D graphics engines and advances in AI, Digital twin technologies line up to solve industries most pressing challenges. Connecting the real and the digital world has been done in many ways in the past.
It is now realtime and collaborative
Think of it as a video game for engineers to play with their beloved industrial equipment all day long and with their fellow engineering friends :-). Their avatars get together from all around the world to hover over the shop floor. Digital representations of industrial equipment is augmented with real time OT data. The team can rewind to see historical performance and fast forward simulating different scenarios to test configurations, assumptions and new equipment.
The metaverse is loaded with relevant data from edge devices from robots and machines’ sensors and actuators. It leverages physics engines that simulate real world physical behavior, neural networks and AI engines to augment the value of the data in the simulation. Metaverse environments can visualize myriad of things that are hidden or invisible in the real world such as radio waves, particle flows and statistical data. Promising applications are not only in the planning and operation of industrial equipment but now also augment the marketing, sales, service and commerce experience (see also: Digital Twins in Marketing & Sales).
The Industrial metaverse combines industrial Internet of Things (IoT), AR, MR and VR for industrial use, the creation of “digital twins,” and the rich, blending of real-world elements with contextualized and meaningful data. That helps decision makers stay better informed and to keep business processes operating at peak efficiency.
An interesting trait of digital twin is that „they are designed around a two-way flow of information that first occurs when object sensors provide relevant data to the system processor and then happens again when insights created by the processor are shared back with the original source object” (IBM)
The forces driving the industrial metaverse are
- Efficiency: There is still untapped potential in industrial automation making manufacturing more efficient and reliable. Identifying issues before they cause massive disruption can save millions. Collaboratively monitoring the operation with live shop floor data can prevent downtimes.
- Flexibility is key to master changing markets. The agility to change production to proactively address changing markets. Simulating the financial, material and technical impact of supply shortages and fast adaptation will be a key capability for the future.
- Sustainability: Product designers can take informed decisions incorporating sustainability data over the product life cycle into their designs. Big energy saving levers can be identified simulating production scenarios and operating supply chains at scale.
Opportunities – the why
The benefit of the industrial metaverse isn’t warranted for every manufacturer or every product created. Not every object is complex enough to need the intense and regular flow of sensor data that digital twins require. Also from a financial standpoint evaluation is needed upfront to see if a digital twin is reasonable.
The aspirations are high but there is no one size fits all approach to applying the metaverse to the industrial context. The use cases are specific to the problems at hand, the size of the potential opportunity vary on the application. What is indeed huge is the aspired savings and enhancement tied to the metaverse concept:
- Virtual collaboration can solve real world problems: Experts can teleport from site to site and interact with onsite personal for immediate problem solving
- Testing and validation of changes to the production environment
- Decoupling from real assets opens up for new operation models like remote service and operation. Engineering teams can combine the right skill set in the virtual environment.
- Enhancing Agility: Testing modified production scenarios like changing badge sizes can be simulated in the metaverse
- Moving assets: low latency 5g networks allow remote operation of vehicles in combination with autonomous driving
- The metaverse can be equipped with various add on capabilities such as physics engines, artificial intelligence which can for example help to train robots with visual recognition
- Industrial automation supercharged with AI to allow for safe and efficient collaboration of robots and humans
Reduction of downtime and costs:
- With Simulation capabilities and metaverse collaboration of designers and engineers, there’s in most cases no need for a physical prototype which reduces costs dramatically
- Reducing downtime of production equipment increases quality and output and has significant cost savings
- Industrial metaverses can also simulate scenarios for training purposes which makes training more versatile and saves costs for onsite training
Key success factors – the how
An informed digital twin is composed of various data sources. The basic asset data such as CAD drawings, bill of materials, parts lists, user manuals, maintenance plans as well as real time sensor data like locations, temperature, status and other categories of interest depending on the use case. What makes the digital twin concept great is the two way flow of information. To allow communication back and forth in the industrial metaverse, a key success factor is connecting the data using or establishing standard connectors that link the metaverse environment to different other systems.
With the many possible use cases and benefits, companies should not only look at the metaverse as single project but rather establish a „metaverse strategy“ and „metaverse capabilities“. The foundation can be a central collaboration framework (like Nvidia’s omniverse) that includes asset and equipment model as a standard. From there, different use cases can be explored, connectors established. A training program will enable employees on the new capabilities.
Key players in the industrial metaverse
Nvidia coined the term „Omniverse“ originally developed as a collaborative 3D design environment. Together with Ericsson, Nvidia created digital twin cities to populate with virtual 5G antennas to see how environments would impact wireless signals before they were deployed in real life. Nvidia also formed a partnership with Siemens AG an industry technology leader. They combine their offerings in Siemens’ Xcellerator, a business platform that includes a portfolio of curated IoT-enabled hardware, software, and digital services.
The future is bright
With digital twins on the rise and metaverse standards for industry and commercial applications in the making, we will see an expansion of the use cases, hardware, software and service providers.
The digital twin market is expected to grow from USD 6.9 billion in 2022 to USD 73.5 billion by 2027; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 60.6% from 2022 to 2027. The global „Metaverse“ Market size is estimated to reach USD 426.9 billion by 2027 at 47.2% CAGR (https://www.marketsandmarkets.com). The metaverse market is largely driven by the consumer gaming industry.
There is plenty of excitement from industry experts around the globe. How do you imagine the future of the industrial metaverse? Share your thoughts!