In July 2023, Siemens invested €500m in a new technology campus in Erlangen, Germany to help develop its vision of the industrial metaverse. The company intends to create a blueprint for the future — a real-time, photorealistic virtual representation of the world, where AI helps to create the next generation of high-tech, flexible and sustainable manufacturing technologies. However, is that really all that new?
Haven’t we been talking about, and even using, digital twins, extended and augmented reality, blockchain and virtual commissioning for more than a decade? Maybe so, but what sets Siemens’ initiative apart are the ambitious goals it aims to achieve within the industrial digital realm.
According to a new report released by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, the NAM’s digital transformation division, and Deloitte, 92% of manufacturing executives say they are experimenting with or implementing at least one metaverse-related use case.
However, there are concerns about integrating existing technologies and systems when developing the industrial metaverse. Here, data preparation and transformation within complex workflows often present as major hurdles.
This comes as no surprise. Companies are already grappling with integrating systems across multiple plants, let alone the advent of industrial metaverse initiatives, which is heightening the demand and complexity of integrating both similar and disparate technologies.
Simply put, for the metaverse to become the next iteration of the internet, it must be interoperable. That is to say, the virtual worlds that constitute the metaverse must be able to freely exchange data, enabling seamless connections between people, processes, data and systems.
Picture a high-tech factory using digital twins for not only replicating equipment but for predictive maintenance purposes too. AI could analyse data from the sensors on physical machinery and virtual counterparts, and when AI detects a potential issue, it would automatically schedule maintenance.
A way that supports industry collaboration is open source. This is a software model where the source code of a program is made available to the public, which would allow companies to contribute towards developing interoperable options, ensuring the metaverse’s infrastructure is accessible and adaptable.
For instance, developers could build upon existing functionality, introduce new features and integrate emerging technologies. These could, for example, include AI, blockchain and spatial computing.
With that in mind, the possibilities are truly endless. However, the metaverse is not a reality yet, and we’ve been talking about these technologies since the term metaverse was coined in 1992, by author Neal Stephenson.
While we can get excited by the whole thing, especially in the industrial realm, manufacturers must look after and upgrade their current processes in the meantime. To start this process, establishing a trusted industrial equipment supplier is a crucial first step.
Be it for the monitoring of current equipment or wanting to build accurate digital twins, receiving parts like Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) can help manufacturers save on costs, increase efficiency and reduce downtime.
By sourcing parts, such as Foxmere’s PLCs, manufacturers can lay the foundations for the metaverse future. And by doing so, they will initiate the process of gathering and effectively managing data from their equipment, serving as a means to bridging the physical and digital realms of the industrial landscape.