Building the Industrial Metaverse

There’s a lot of excitement in the gaming industry about the metaverse creating new social, consumer and even gameplay experiences. But the most profound change won’t be found in NFTs, blockchain games, or within the crypto landscape.

12 June 2023
Richard Edwards

To less fanfare and headlines, in the more understated world of government and enterprise there’ll be a transformative impact on sustainability, the safety and security of communities, and simply managing the overwhelming complexity of the world around us. Here the concepts that people associate with the metaverse are already present. The semantics around it are up for debate, but we are now starting to see the very real impact of technologies such as digital twins, AI, 5G, edge computing and the latest evolution of AR/VR/XR. The effects are varied and diverse, touching all aspects of an organisation, including manufacturing systems, supply chain processes and even training programmes – all housed under the roof of the “Industrial Metaverse”.

And the stakes are high; wrong decisions can cost billions, risk human lives or threaten the future of the planet. Organisations must provide a duty of care to employees, deliver the business growth that shareholders expect and meet government regulatory targets. All against a backdrop of macro turbulence that hasn’t existed for over 50 years.

Predictive Digital Twins

Digital twins in their most rudimentary guise have existed for several decades in one form or another, serving as a virtual replica of an industrial system or process. However, it would be misleading to still think of them in these terms.

The digital twin that provides the bedrock upon which the industrial metaverse is built, goes a step beyond, providing predictive modelling, analysis and insight. Users will be able to interact in near-real time, experiment with possibilities and understand the implications of their actions. Such tools will leverage powerful simulation technology, AI and open architectures to run vast, complex what-is vs. what-if analysis on anything from pattern of life to smart city design. 

Making it a Reality

Early forays have shown the potential. BMW’s metaverse manufacturing plant gave insight into the latest industrial digital twins and metaverse experiences by recreating a fully operational factory floor before it was constructed in real life. Issues and risks can be identified and resolved virtually, before they happen in real-life. Last year, Red 6 showed a very different type of use case: carrying out an in-air refuelling training exercise using a VR simulation. 

However, the complexity of such systems is not trivial. Take a fully functioning airport as an example: providing photorealistic and physically correct models, as well as mapping the labyrinthine detail and activities (including flight data) is an incredibly complex and resource intensive activity. To run an interactive simulation at such a scale requires millions of complex and intelligent entities, with potentially thousands of end-users. It comes at a cost of great computational power.

The more these digital twins become interconnected so does the underlying simulation become increasingly intensive. To continue the above example, imagine not just one airport, but perhaps those across an entire country. It would require a distributed simulation across multiple locations to a geographically dispersed end-users – some of whom will need access to data and analytics in real-time. It would be reliant not just on a single centralised simulation, but be split across multiple local edge data centres.

And this complexity is compounded if one takes into account that different simulators have different capacities to render and consume data. Without a central orchestration function the simulators can fall out of sync, and the simulation fails.

The Industrial Metaverse of the Future

Technology has advanced to a point where advanced modelling, distributed simulation, AI and high fidelity visualisations are converging to overcome these technical barriers. Providing a cohesive and precise representation of the current state of an organisation, they also enable 3D what-if scenario analysis: the next-generation of digital twins and the cornerstone of the industrial metaverse.

Fundamentally the benefits are at a higher organisational level than a singular process or system. Strategic decision making will be augmented, as we leverage insight into the far reaching consequences of our actions with accuracy, across complex systems such as supply chains, travel networks and even entire cities. To find out more, get in touch.