The metaverse, a real tool to transform the sector?

The metaverse is not reserved for video games, social networks or the Web3: it also has many industrial applications and already the first use cases.

However, 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.

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The industrial world has long been accustomed to working with 3D models, particularly in areas such as luxury craftsmanship, which increasingly shapes its products virtually before producing them. These technologies now find applications throughout the life cycle of a product, from the design phase – with PLM solutions – to maintenance and after-sales. With the industrial metaverse, the integration of technologies and 3D data is now further pushed …

From the digital twin to the metaverse …

Digital twins – digital duplicates of a product, a production line, an operator, a factory, or all four at once – are the first building blocks of the industrial metaverse. Connected to the real world, these tools are particularly useful for accelerating product design, simulating different configurations, anticipating changes in production lines, shortening production cycles or gaining 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. Thus an uninformed spectator can no longer distinguish between a 3D sequence and a filmed sequence, this realism of the virtual universe allows to involve all the interlocutors. These faithful virtual representations also allow the training of artificial intelligence in hypothetical simulated situations in the digital twin, helping in particular to improve autonomous robotics by improving plant supervision and its safety.

So having a digital model or a digital twin isn’t enough to make a metaverse. To do this, a collaborative approach must be adopted, opening it to all the company’s stakeholders – subcontractors, suppliers, partners, even customers – but also to the various internal trades, even if it requires the breaking of many silos.

Traceability and sharing of value

With an ecosystem vision, the industrial metaverse is presented as a means to share company data in a secure and traceable way to facilitate the design, production and maintenance of products. For many manufacturers, the development of the metaverse offers the opportunity to create a true platform for exchange and collaboration, in order to improve operational efficiency.

By integrating the Web3 and blockchain logic, this collaborative space also provides answers to the challenges of traceability and sharing of value among stakeholders, making it possible to improve, or even monetize, the use of everyone’s resources and digital content. A subcontractor or supplier can, for example, integrate the 3D models of the spare parts it produces into its customer’s repository and be rewarded for each use of them, thanks to the possibilities offered by NFTs. These new capabilities are a powerful accelerator for the adoption of additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

Connectivity with the production line

Connectivity with the supply chain is also fundamental, which allows you to upload real production data to the metaverse, to use the digital twin to identify optimizations but above all, in the event of an alert on the physical supply chain, to simulate the different scenarios in the virtual world before apply the changes to the physical chain.

In this way, the realistic virtual representation mentioned above can be directly increased by a visualization of the different metrics and their impacts on the production chain with an anticipated representation of the consequences of these KPI evolutions.

Go beyond the POC and POV phase

The aviation industry and carmakers – such as BMW, with Nvidia and its Omniverse solutions – have already made good progress in this reflection, digitizing their processes and bringing their ecosystem of partners together around the same digital platform. However, the industrialization of this type of approach still encounters many obstacles and too often the experiments remain at the POC (proof of concept) or POV (proof of value) stage.

However, very quickly, the question of the industrialization of the production of digital assets will arise within companies, which will lead to the creation of real production chains of digital products. The interest? Provide content to industrial metaverses, but also to the general public.

This scaling will require connecting the metaverse to the IS (information system), the heart of the business, by communicating together historically compartmentalized data sources, such as computer-aided design (CAD) and product lifecycle (PLM) data.

Finally, like any emerging technology, the metaverse has many promises that need to be confirmed. Therefore, without adequate answers on the questions of choice of metaverse, architecture and relations with IS, identity and security and finally an adequate legislative framework, its use in an industrial context risks being limited.

The task is complex, but it is the condition to be fulfilled to establish a true digital continuity of these services.

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