No one can own the metaverse: we need collaboration to build it
There’s been a lot of hype – and confusion – about the metaverse.
What is it?
When is it coming?
Who will own it?
As the people who build the physical infrastructure to make digital experiences come to life, we have been researching the underlying technologies of the metaverse for more than a decade at Nokia Bell Labs.
Our experts believe that the metaverse’s emergence won’t be dependent on a single device or item of hardware. Rather, it will be the coming together – and evolution – of complementary technologies, including cloud and edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, the Internet of Things, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and digital twins.
Our view at Nokia is that the metaverse will evolve out of two broader trends towards digital-physical fusion and human augmentation. And that by 2030, every physical thing that makes sense to connect will be connected. We believe that the metaverse will eventually come to touch every facet of our working and social lives, so much so that no one company can design and build all the elements required.
No one will be able to own the metaverse. We need collaboration to build it and to ensure it achieves its full potential. And just to complicate matters, there won’t be one metaverse. There will be three main metaverses: Consumer, Enterprise and Industrial.
While most of the attention has been on gaming and entertainment within the Consumer metaverse, it is the Enterprise and Industrial metaverses where the real value lies, and where we have the opportunity to create and scale solutions to the big global challenges like energy, climate, productivity, growth, and inclusion.
Let me illustrate the differences between the metaverses with the help of the Brooklyn Bridge. Every time I pass over that New York landmark, I marvel at the feat of engineering involved. But how would you approach the design, construction, and maintenance of the bridge if you were starting out today?
It’s already possible to create a digital twin – a fully virtualized 3D representation – of the physical bridge down to the last detail. This would allow you to plot the life cycle of the bridge from the beginning to 50 or even 100 years in the future.
You can forecast traffic flows from Monday morning through to Sunday evening. You can model what would happen if you replaced a vehicle lane with a cycle lane, or even two or three cycle lanes. You can also predict what would happen to the bridge if a once-in-a-century hurricane struck the city.
The Enterprise metaverse would enable you to bring together all the various players, wherever they’re based in the world, to see and interact with this virtual bridge for immersive collaboration and co-designing.
Large sections of the bridge would be prefabricated, off-site, in factories using AI-powered, autonomous systems operating within the Industrial metaverse. The Industrial metaverse would also enable the construction crews to work faster and safer through remote-controlled robots and exoskeletons, with the benefit of AR and VR tools and real-time data on changing environmental conditions.
The 19th-century Brooklyn Bridge took 14 years to build, and at least 20 people died building it.
In the 21st-century, it could be completed in less than a third of the time, and the target would be for zero fatalities.
Once the bridge is built, the metaverse would also help with maintenance. What if we could put sensors in every cable, at every stress point, so the authorities had real-time data on traffic, weather, load bearing, and corrosion?
It would enable them to detect issues and fix faults faster. Targeted, predictive maintenance to save lives.
And with more advances in robotics and drone technology, you won’t have to put a human up a rope to fix a fault, eventually you’ll be able to do it all remotely.
Every action in the digital world will have an effect in the physical world – and vice versa. That is the destination point for all three metaverses.
But to get there we need both the technology and the right business approach. At Nokia, we’re already laying the foundations with future-ready networks that can meet the performance needs of the metaverse – and a digital world more broadly – without compromising on security or reliability. And we’re looking to build a collaborative advantage by bringing multiple players into a digital ecosystem where we can create more solutions and more value for all involved.
As the world went from 3G to 4G, we saw tech start-ups founded in garages go on to become some of the most valuable companies in the world. But as we move from the 5G age into the 6G era, as digitalization comes to every industry, and digital-physical fusion touches every facet of our lives, no one company can hope to create, or own, all the elements required.
No one can own the metaverse: we need collaboration to build it.