There is a lot of talk about the metaverse as an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds – and its impact on life and business. The industrial metaverse doesn’t generate as much attention, but it is still surrounded by misunderstanding among many manufacturers. Manufacturers that are giving it serious consideration are positioning themselves to lead in what is becoming a multibillion-dollar business opportunity – an opportunity that offers nonlinear revenues, savings and efficiency improvements and does not depend on selling virtual products to avatars. Successfully commercializing the metaverse will enable manufacturers to maintain their assets and products for much longer and lengthen their monetization timeline.
An article from the Pew Research Center defines the metaverse as “the realm of computer-generated, networked extended reality, or XR, an acronym that embraces all aspects of augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality (AR, MR and VR).”
ISG finds this definition somewhat limiting. We start from a different definition, one that expands the focus from business-to-consumer interactions to a broader business-to-business-to-consumer perspective.
How to Define the Industrial Metaverse
ISG defines the industrial metaverse as the realm of all resources that can be digitally accessed by a company and the entire ecosystem of suppliers, partners and customers in a secure, intelligent and connected environment.
Based on this definition, the industrial metaverse is the ultimate environment in which all digital engineering transformation and digital thread initiatives come to fruition, not only from the social and consumer perspectives but from a business and operating model perspective as well.
These digital threads can connect suppliers, partners, production and distribution facilities, dealers, distributors, company or third-party service agents, customers and other stakeholders. The connections and beneficial use cases don’t need to have anything to do with the “traditional” view of the metaverse, where people connect for gaming or to buy, sell or trade virtual products. These same opportunities exist for manufacturers as way to monetize their goods, but there are also better, industrial-specific use cases.
If you’re still unsure about what the industrial metaverse is, consider this: if your company has done anything with robotics, digital twins, simulations enhanced with AI and analytics, IoT, immersive engineering design, augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) for training or blockchain, then you already have experience with one or more elements of the industrial metaverse.
Many of its building blocks are not new. What’s new is how they are being combined and applied in new use cases. What sets industrial metaverse apart from earlier and, in some instances, still-evolving technologies like IoT, AR/VR, digital twin and others is the emphasis on collaboration. One of the best examples is of designers, engineers, dealers and selected end customers coming together from remote locations to collaboratively design and test new products; they can view 3D models and simulations in the industrial metaverse and discuss them in real time.
Collaboration as a Goal of the Industrial Metaverse
Harnessing collaboration – whether it is within the company, with suppliers, distributors, other partners or customers – is a leading value lever for the industrial metaverse. This focus on collaboration is what makes Web3 and blockchain valuable components of the industrial metaverse. Blockchain offers a way to provide a unique, unalterable digital identity and record that can be securely accessed by stakeholders without relying on a central authority or clearinghouse.
The industrial metaverse provides a way to securely link the physical and digital worlds, often using event data and other input captured through IoT. By applying AI and other software to this data, many use cases are possible related to planning, real-time response, maintenance and OT optimization, agile product development, improved quality, customer engagement and more. Many of these use cases can be scaled and commercialized through as-a-service models, creating new revenue stream opportunities.
Many enterprises do not have the infrastructure or vision to take full advantage of the metaverse, but they are moving there. Energy companies are currently directing 18% of their digital investment budgets to metaverse, according to the Pew Research study that also found automotive, machinery and assembly companies are budgeting 17%. Those industries all exceed the level of investment from the media and entertainment industry (15%), which is seen as the leader in metaverse development and commercialization. Among all industries, 57% of companies that consider themselves “metaverse aware” are adopting the technology.
If manufacturers link their building blocks into digital threads across the extended value chain, the industrial metaverse will ultimately be the business environment from which all new products, services and customer experiences will be envisioned, designed and tested, and where the physical world will be governed. It’s time to start putting the strategy, infrastructure and governance building blocks into place at your company.
ISG is helping enterprises understand, appreciate and strategize how they can prepare for Web3 and the industrial metaverse. Contact us to talk about next steps.