Partnerships drive the industrial metaverse
The metaverse may be on the downward side of its hype cycle but it’s real, here to stay – especially in the industrial and enterprise space – and reveals the human connections driving the exponential potential of networks. We take a look at what our recent ‘Metaverse at work’ research shows about the sheer variety of partnerships necessary to make it all happen.
To colleagues in London, Simon looks like he’s holed up in a breakout space, wearing a VR headset, with an expression of painful concentration on his face. But to Simon, the office has completely disappeared. He’s deep underground in a mine, in Australia, testing gangways, and investigating hazards that could mean the difference between life and death for those workers physically on site.
If the consumer metaverse is personified by gaming kids who live out whole virtual worlds online, professionals, like Simon, naturally become the face of its industrial and enterprise counterpart. Yet individuals like Simon are just the tip of the iceberg.
And while he may be the only one – literally – at the coalface in VR, working alongside him are raft of dedicated professionals making the experience work for everyone.
A complete ecosystem of players
In Simon’s world there could be a team inside the mine adding sensors to the rock face. There could be colleagues in Germany using data insights from the sensors, processed via machine learning, and presented on laptop monitors. And there could be more colleagues in the US using AR to ensure a different element of worker safety from a central operational nerve centre.
Yet even this multi-disciplinary group of highly skilled professionals is just a tiny fraction of the complex, interrelated web of players, technology partners and specialist experts who make up today’s enterprise and industrial metaverse.
Our recent ‘Metaverse at work’ research, in partnership with EY, revealed a number of surprising things about the way the metaverse is really being used across industries today. Firstly, it is – increasingly – being deployed across industry. And secondly – and most critically – it requires a very large, diverse network of important partners to work well.
In fact, out of a list of 11 potential deployment partners included in the survey, respondents found it hard to select any that truly stood out because they were all so important.
The research showed that on average two partners – “Big tech” and “Industrial equipment and technology” – made joint first place in importance for deployment. At a statistically negligent percentage point behind, three partners – “New XR/metaverse platforms” and “Industrial software & applications” and “Network/networking equipment” – came in second place.
This makes it impossible to underestimate the necessity of having a wide network of partnerships to deploy the industrial and enterprise metaverse. Across industry big tech companies along with providers of the right industrial equipment may be critical, but skilled practitioners in networking along with the platforms, applications and talent to run industrial software and XR are – unsurprisingly – of almost equal importance.
Foundational tech relies on collaborative skill
Respondents of this research also place a great deal of importance on those “enabling technologies” which tend to rely heavily on collaboration. The report describes these as truly “foundational to meeting the demands of most enterprise and industrial use cases”.
So, while no technology solution is ever ‘one and done’ and it rarely hinges on the tech itself – and always requires some collective manpower – this is especially true of the top enabling technologies called out by our survey respondents.
In fact, all three top technologies highlighted – cloud computing, AI, and private networks – need high levels of internal skill and external collaboration to work effectively. For example, to make AI work in practice requires a good flow of data, joined up data practices and responsible processes. It is certainly not the case of popping a box in the corner and going home.
The future metaverse is a network of networked excellence
Our metaverse at work research was conducted just as the business metaverse started to embed itself across industry. And these early days show only the start of an interconnected journey drawing players from many walks of business and technology to realize the exponential potential of networks.
“Partnerships are critical,” stressed Carlijn Williams, Head of Marketing Enterprise Campus Edge, Nokia at a recent LinkedIn event we ran around the research. “In the cradle of innovation, no one can do everything alone, and every venture has its own core competence,” she added.
So, if we return to our first example in London, beneath his VR headset, Simon starts to furrow his brow. Inside his virtual mine world, the rocky path ahead is beginning to judder and recede.
It could be a data issue, maybe there are information collection problems with the sensors in Australia and the space has not been digitally twinned correctly. It could be a connectivity issue, perhaps there’s a latency issue. Or it could be a platform issue, it’s possible the provider is experiencing its own difficulties.
Whatever the reason, Simon knows he has a full of army of expert support to help. This spans from those on the ground inside the mine checking the sensors, to data professionals in Germany going back to the source files, to third party partners – who are true partners in this early universe – ready to troubleshoot and provide real support.
Enterprise technology has never been a solo business – it has always required collaboration – but this has never been truer than in the brave new world of the industrial metaverse.
The metaverse at work surveyed 860 business leaders in the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany, Japan, and South Korea across four key industries: automotive, industrial goods and manufacturing, transportation, supply chain and logistics, and power and utilities. Conducted by EY teams in collaboration with Nokia, there are five reports available for download, covering the global findings along with one for each industry.