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How do you get into the metaverse?

Peter Weckesser

If you’re wondering what ChatGPT—OpenAI’s revolutionary artificial intelligence (AI) language model—says in response to this question, here it is:
“To ‘get into’ the metaverse, you would need to use a device such as a computer, smartphone, or virtual reality headset to access and interact with the virtual environment. This could involve downloading an application or accessing a website that allows you to enter the metaverse.”


How does it know? Well, it doesn’t know, but it’s using the over 570GB of data—300 billion words—it’s been trained on to generate a pretty good answer. The answer gets a bit trickier however if you’re looking to explore the metaverse’s potential business or industrial applications.


During my recent visit to Davos for the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Annual Meeting, I had a chance to see an application of the metaverse as part of WEF’s Global Collaboration Village—a digital collaboration space Schneider Electric is helping to shape as its Founding Partner. It was a visually stunning experience. My impression is that by tapping into the technological capabilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it can complement and enrich WEF’s real-world interactions in a new, exciting way.


Leaving the demo and returning to the physical space in Davos made me think: What are business and industry applications of the metaverse?


Let’s get down to business


Today, business is all about data: collecting, storing, transforming, and analyzing it to gain insights—to make decisions. Just like how ChatGPT requires massive amounts of data to create human-like language, businesses need data to augment human decision-making.


From machine and building performance to energy and emissions, data is the crucial link between the physical and digital worlds. It’s also the key to solving efficiency and sustainability challenges that are now more urgent than ever. If the metaverse is meant to transform businesses and industries,
it must be built on solid data foundations
.


In one of our Innovation Talks last year, Caspar Herzberg and I discussed how Schneider Electric and AVEVA are converging data platforms with shared services and connectors for common systems. Our ambition is to enable a single, unified data repository for operations, processes, assets, energy, and carbon emissions, based on industry standards with an open and agnostic approach.


Why? Because a unified approach to data and software is essential to equip our enterprise customers across sectors with mission-critical capabilities: visibility, real-time awareness, and unprecedented intelligence across the lifecycle.


The twins have grown up


Digital transformation started with connecting physical assets via IoT and edge controls. Its disruptive potential has proven to carry operational and energy efficiency across all levels of an enterprise. When we introduce powerful software capabilities and start leveraging the generated data, we can create virtual representations of the real world by combining simulation, augmented reality (AR), data sharing, and visualization all at once. The resulting digital twins can now be created not only for single products, but for entire buildings, processes and enterprise-level domains.


I believe that these true-to-life, data-fueled models of energy, building, and industrial operations are the cornerstone of what we can call the enterprise metaverse.


More than meets the eye


While I was in Davos, I engaged my social media followers to crowdsource potential industrial applications of the metaverse. I’ve received some very interesting ideas in return, including virtual product showrooms, training applications for future jobs, collaborative engineering and simulation, and augmenting the work of operators and service professionals with real-time, data-rich, 3D experiences.


It seems that all these and many more possible applications have something in common: they are all about bringing together technologies to address challenges of the physical world, by giving real people the means to learn, collaborate, act, and essentially create value through a virtual, digitally augmented space. Much of this can be done with current technologies that are maturing at an unbelievable pace.


The power of virtual connection


At Schneider Electric, we are combining the ongoing advancements in connectivity, cloud and edge computing, AR, and AI with the comprehensive capabilities of our software portfolio. All of these serve an essential purpose—to enable step-changes for our customers in how they design, build, operate, and maintain their assets. There is a lot at stake here: these digitally empowered transformations are imperative to achieve energy and resource efficiency at scale.


I think it’s that powerful connection between the virtual and real worlds that makes the metaverse so captivating. It’s also the reason IoT connectivity, data platforms and software are essential building blocks of a metaverse that can be used for energy management and industrial automation. Without them, we’re just playing games.

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