The Industrial Metaverse: What Is It and How Will it Shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
The industrial metaverse might seem like something from an advanced, sci-fi universe far in the future, but the building blocks of this concept are already present and functioning today. The early stages of a digital ecosystem, which will blend the real and virtual worlds, can already been seen across industries like architecture, transportation, and manufacturing. Thought leaders like the World Economic Forum and Forbes are already calling this shift “the fourth industrial revolution,” foreshadowing its large-scale impact on both business and everyday life.
Read on to discover what the industrial metaverse is, understand benefits and potential challenges, and learn about tools that can help you quickly adapt to this forward-thinking technology.
What Is the Industrial Metaverse?
The industrial metaverse is a sophisticated melding of our physical world and a dynamic digital world made up of technology like digital twins, game engines, virtual reality software, AI, and other tools. This digital replica mirrors and takes in information from the everyday systems around us, from supply chains to subway routes, allowing us to test them and predict how they will function.
The industrial metaverse allows teams and decision-makers to use digital data and information to solve real-world problems, facilitating a consistent, symbiotic dialogue.
Building Blocks of the Industrial Metaverse
Though the industrial metaverse is a big-picture concept, it’s made up of several smaller, more specific tools that work together to bring this technological universe to life. In insights from 2023, IT research institute Forrester identified key industrial metaverse components:
- Digital twins: The most important component of the industrial metaverse – digital twins – are digital replicas of real-world objects, from cars to stadiums. A sensor placed on the physical object communicates data to the replica. For example, a sensor on a car would convey information about what driving is like in different weather conditions or at different speeds. Digital twins are becoming increasingly common, but an industrial metaverse would take them to a new level, with millions of digital twins operating in tandem across the globe.
- Internet of Things (IoT): Internet of Things technology powers sensors, processors, and other connective software, allowing information to be sent between devices, including digital twins, and the cloud. In an industrial metaverse, IoT would help facilitate communication between the digital and real world, driving a constant flow of real-time data.
- Wired and wireless connectivity: Along with IoT, wired and wireless connectivity are essential for connecting devices, industries, and people within a metaverse. One example of this is 5G technology.
- Game engines: Unreal Engine, Unity, and other game engines are used for more than video game development. The industrial metaverse would build upon and benefit from these varied use cases, like architects sketching out building plans in a game engine or tech workers using a game engine to develop apps. With game engines, these ideas can be fully and sophisticatedly rendered before production.
- Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR): Augmented and virtual reality already play a significant role in industries like retail, automotive, healthcare, and more. In an industrial metaverse landscape, employees could be trained or meet with clients in virtual reality, cutting down on the costs and environmental impact of business travel. Industries with inherent risks and danger could also keep their workers safer – for example, virtual reality could be explored as a tool for training firefighters or engineers who work with dangerous machinery.
- AI and machine learning: A 2023 report from MIT Technology Review forecasts several AI use cases for the industrial metaverse. AI will enhance production systems and quality control, helping to plan and run virtual production factories and program robots.
- Cloud and edge computing: For the industrial metaverse to function, it will need low-latency, high-bandwidth computing in the cloud.
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Positive Impact of the Industrial Metaverse
A fully realized industrial metaverse would have several benefits for businesses and the overall population. This fourth industrial revolution will reshape many aspects of our lives. Here are some potential advantages:
- Increased revenue and cost savings: According to 2023 research from the IT Professional journal and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the industrial metaverse is predicted to help businesses save an estimated $330 million by 2025. These savings would be largely driven by reduced training and office costs, a faster get-to-market rate due to more efficient product testing and manufacturing workflows, and boosted productivity.
- Heightened productivity: The fourth industrial revolution will optimize work processes and build more resilient manufacturing and supply chains. The technology behind the industrial metaverse will reduce some of workers’ more routine, tedious tasks, freeing them up to devote more time to crucial work and conduct it faster.
- Enhanced customer service and user experiences: The industrial metaverse will build upon the ways that technology has already improved the customer experience, revolutionizing and heightening today’s virtual reality retail experiences. It could also lead to improved experiences in virtual healthcare, virtual education, and other fields.
- Increased autonomy and flexibility for workers: In the last few years, we’ve already seen the shift to more remote and distributed teams – as well as dialogue about the benefits and freedom this has given to workers. The industrial metaverse will make this type of remote collaboration even more possible, effective, and sustainable. In addition to improving the existing remote workforce, the industrial metaverse will make it possible for wider swaths of the population to choose the environment and schedule that works best for them. Upwork’s latest Future Workforce Report, which surveyed more than 1,000 hiring managers, surmised that 73% of all departments across companies will employ remote workers by 2028.
- Greater sustainability: Through the use of digital twins, the industrial metaverse will assist with the transition to a more circular economy – one where parts and products can be reused, recycled, and reincorporated into more sustainable manufacturing ecosystems. This technology makes it simpler and faster to test different designs to see which most cut down on waste and carbon emissions. A study from Accenture predicted these advanced tools could lead to a 7.5 gross ton reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. Already, digital twins are being used to develop eco-friendly electric cars, wind turbines, and the first solar airplane.
Potential Challenges of Adapting to the Industrial Metaverse
Despite its many benefits, there are some potential challenges that could hinder the quick development and embrace of the industrial metaverse and the fourth industrial revolution it would spur. To adapt the forward-thinking technology of the industrial metaverse, businesses need to understand and work to overcome these pain points:
- Security concerns: The complex, interconnected technology of the industrial metaverse leaves it more vulnerable to potential security concerns and loopholes. Companies will have to be extra vigilant to address this, educating their employees on security best practices and investing in secure tools.
- Fear of the unknown: As with previous shifts to more advanced technology, the fourth industrial revolution may lead to a transitional period of anxiety and distrust. Specifically, employees may be worried about jobs being automated or replaced. To assuage these concerns, leaders should have open discussions about the role of AI and similar developments in their industry. Highlight the ways in which these tools can eliminate busy work and preserve more time in the day for critical creative and dev tasks.
- Large files and graphics: When working with industrial metaverse tech – especially digital twins, game engines, and virtual reality software – teams will have to manage large files of multiple types. To address this, teams should ensure they have the tools they need to work at scale.
- Time and money spent transitioning: Though the industrial metaverse is predicted to drive cost savings in the long-term, companies need to make upfront investments in new technology and in employee training.
The industry-leading security features of Helix Core version control can help you manage some of these challenges by clearly defining permissions and making development workflows visible. In these ways, the tool enhances security and helps team members understand their crucial roles as business evolves.
Examples of the Emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution
Early seeds of the fourth industrial metaverse can be seen in how digital twins have been revolutionized for a variety of industries, including automotive, gaming, healthcare, and manufacturing. Here are a few notable examples:
- Aerospace company Boeing used digital twins to predict the performance of different components. This led to a 40% improvement rate in first-time quality and saved development time and money. They also used Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to achieve the ideal cargo load balance.
- Amazon also uses digital twins to model their more than 200 fulfillment centers and increase productivity. This helps them make decisions about warehouse design, adjust their workflows, and identify opportunities for AI assistance.
- Automotive companies like Porsche, BMW, and more are developing the cars of the future with digital twins. Now companies can build all kinds of prototypes without added expense. Playing out every scenario with these models helps test safety requirements and build vehicles that can react without a driver present.
What’s Next? Timeline for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
A Pew Research Center survey of 624 policy developers, researchers, and business executives found that 54% of these experts foresee the industrial metaverse being fully realized and functioning by 2040. On the other hand, almost half predicted the industrial metaverse will not yet be operational, marking a stark, nearly evenly split divide.
Another 2023 study, this one led by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Leadership Council (MLC), predicted that the industrial metaverse will come out of the already large-scale transitions to “smart” factories, or factories powered in part by digital twins, AI, and robotic tech. The MLC identified forward-thinking companies and industry leaders they refer to as “pacesetters” as being instrumental in propelling this fourth industrial revolution. The study identified that these pacesetters are already working on an average of eight or more industrial metaverse initiatives.
Get Helix Core and Be at the Forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Wanting to be an early adapter of industrial metaverse technology? Version control is a necessary part of establishing its foundation.
Version control tracks changes to a file or set of files over time, so you don’t have to manage file versions manually or with custom scripts. It also retains a comprehensive history of your code and other files, allowing you to return to a previous version of a project if necessary. Additionally, a version control system enables team members to work on the same project simultaneously and from anywhere.
In particular, teams working on complex projects and with large files will find version control crucial. The size and scale of the files that make up digital twins, virtual reality creations, game engines, and other industrial metaverse tech raise the demand for a reliable, industry-leading tool. Helix Core is already the leading version control for teams working with digital twins and on globally distributed teams. Plus, it integrates seamlessly with game engines, VR software, and other industrial metaverse tech.