The Metaverse IRL: Virtual Prototyping Powers Industry 4.0 Transformation 

Industry 4.0 allows businesses to innovate freely and iterate infinitely across bridged metaverse environments.

This, as the fourth industrial revolution spurs an unprecedented technological transformation that is eroding the lines that once delineated the physical and digital worlds.

Powered by a confluence of emergent, next-generation capabilities, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), edge computing, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), advanced real-time connectivity, and other still-nascent, future-fit advances; industrial capabilities are being revolutionized across nearly every internal and external operational process touchpoint.

The metaverse represents a combinatorial technology, making its all-encompassing potential too big to ignore, even as many of the trees in its proverbial forest are still planting their roots.

In the metaverse’s 3D environment, every asset, process, and person within and related to an enterprise can be replicated virtually—and connected in such a way that they can communicate in real time, creating a rich and robust data set to inform real-world decisions.

PYMNTS has previously covered the exciting implications this holds for sectors like healthcare.

For industries like the manufacturing and automotive businesses, which have historically relied on tangibly physical prototypes and to-scale models, or the time-intensive and expensive wind-tunnel testing leveraged by aviation businesses and others, the industrial metaverse represents the dawn of a new era.

If properly leveraged, the industrial metaverse might remove the phrase “back to the drawing board” from the common lexicon.

Optimizing Everything 

The idea of a “digital twin” was born at NASA in the 1960s as a way for scientists and researchers to optimize the Apollo mission without risk to astronaut lives or tax-payer-funded space shuttles.

Today, the application of so-called digital twins empowers industrial actors to shift their traditional prototyping activities into fully virtual worlds, where immersive, repeatable simulations can be run iteratively with little added cost to achieve the best outcomes.

This removes the time-intensive guesswork and capital investment traditionally involved in testing new products or piloting operations in real-world environments.

It allows for internal teams to make more intelligent decisions by providing a flexible sandbox environment where industrial actors can experiment, iterate, and validate hypotheses by leveraging a continuous feedback loop of real-time information enabled by network communication and cloud technologies.

As PYMNTS reported, German national railway operator Deutsche Bahn is building an industrial metaverse of its entire 20,500-mile rail network to achieve best-in-class efficiency and provide actionable, real-time transparency over operations.

The rail operator is building its digital twin using the Nvidia and Siemens industrial metaverse platform.

Near-zero latency is critical to industrial metaverse applications. Advanced internet of things (IoT) sensors, AI, ML, and edge computing tools are key to feeding relevant data from the physical world into virtual environments and back again, as real-world parameters are updated based on metaverse simulations.

The breakthroughs discovered and lessons uncovered in the industrial metaverse will rely on robust network capabilities that can collect, interpret, and respond to vast and complex data sets in real time, accurately predicting how objects or processes might function as fully realized physical entities.

A virtual-first approach that takes advantage of VR headsets and other immersive, mixed-reality hardware tools will separately allow for global businesses to take a truly collaborative approach to their manufacturing and development processes, giving organizational leaders unprecedented access into operational facilities that may be spread across the world.

New Vectors of Capability

The industrial metaverse is tailor made for industries involving physical assets and factory operations, such as manufacturing, logistics and transportation.

Or even beer. As PYMNTS reported late last year (Oct. 2022), Anheuser-Busch InBev is working with Microsoft to create digital twins of its breweries to monitor its breweries and provide its brewmasters with real-time insight into chemical and fermentation processes.

The beverage company’s metaverse system uses AI and machine learning to watch for bottlenecks in its canning and bottling operations, schedule maintenance for minimal downtime, and can even let front-line employees with AR headsets collaborate with technicians to fix problems within physical plants as they occur.

Modern production is global and brings a host of challenges, not the least of which is operational sustainability. The industrial metaverse opens up critical windows into far-reaching supply chains. It can help organizations ensure that their products are not being built with components that harm the environment or use enslaved persons and child labor.

Out of sight should not mean out of mind, and digital worlds based on real-time data will allow corporations to better understand their sprawling supply chains and vendor networks through track-and-trace tools that provide holistic manufacturing oversight.

As regulatory scrutiny grows and sustainability becomes top of mind for consumers, the industrial metaverse will empower companies to properly ensure that their products are being built to standards that meet human rights and environmental laws.

Cyber security will also be mission-critical to the success and widespread adoption of the industrial metaverse, with organizations uploading key factory blueprints and product trials that may be attractive targets to bad actors and competitors with ill intent.

While the physical and virtual worlds’ borders grow increasingly porous, it will be more important than ever for organizations to ensure that their digital IP remains airtight.

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