We sat down with Mark Sage, Executive Director of the AR for Enterprise Alliance (AREA), and Dan Isaacs, GM and CTO at the Digital Twin Consortium, CSO at the Object Management Group (OMG) - to get their thoughts on the past, present and future of the industrial metaverse and digital twin technology.
Both the Digital Twin Consortium and AREA are programs of The Object Management Group (OMG) - an international, membership-driven, not-for-profit technology standards consortium.
OMG Technology standards are driven by vendors, end-users, academic institutions and government agencies. OMG Task Forces develop enterprise integration standards for a wide range of technologies and an even wider range of industries.
What is the industrial metaverse, and why should enterprises care?
Mark: Whilst it's a term that's being used a lot, the industrial metaverse, I'm a big fan of really just being able to solve real business problems.
When companies identify problems, they are using a combination of AI, IoT, and AR to successfully solve them, and as a result are using the term “industrial metaverse”.
It is difficult to find a clear definition of what the “industrial metaverse” is.
So actually to me, if you just go back to the fundamentals of solving real business problems and utilizing these technologies, then you can call it the industrial metaverse.
It's different for different companies as well.
Some companies will be focusing on the IoT or AI. So it doesn't have to be a combination of those. It could be those in individual technologies, but as long as they're solving a real business problem and it benefits that company, you could happily put the term industrial metaverse around it.
What problems can it solve?
Mark: It’s all about putting digital content on top of the real world.
So there's a few key use cases that have, have come to the fore. The first one being remote assistance, driven by covid.
In the covid times, if you look at manufacturing environments, they weren't allowed to have people on site, or only a limited amount of staff.
If something went wrong, something broke down, or if someone wasn't quite sure of what to do, they could still use AR and speak to any expert in the world, who could actually show them what the problem is and how to overcome it.
The expert would use an AR overlay, using digital content, to show them what to do. The overlay could be a set of instructions, a video, a photo, or almost anything.
Another growing use case is virtual collaboration, be it in AR or VR. Bringing together teams throughout the world to work together simultaneously.
Another big focus area is virtual training, being able to train your staff with the latest information, most relevant and contextual information available to that trainer or that person whenever they need it.
It's much more engaging, and it's a fun way to learn.
Another theme for immersive technology training is if you consider the current workforce, especially in heavier industry type companies, there is a lot of people coming towards the end of their careers. Which is a lot of knowledge leaving when this happens.
Companies are trying to encourage / bring the next generation of workers into their environment, and younger people have been brought up using immersive technology.
So if you don't start to use immersive technology, other companies may have a lead over you and be able to attract the younger workforce.
Dan: This highlights the point of the need for training the next generation workforce of the future while the subject matter experts with their 30 plus years experience are looking towards the next stages of their career.
Mark: Capturing information (e.g. how to best complete a task) is another advantage of immersive technology you can use now.
In some organizations, they're very happy to use this technology. In other ones, it takes a little bit more work.
The people that have done tasks for such a long period of time and they know these little nuances or little things that the instruction manuals don't say or other people don't do.
Not only are they training the staff, they're getting that information from these workers that have been doing it for a while, really making the process as effective as possible.
Dan: To your point Mark, training data is now accessible to the new workforce that's coming on board.
And they've been able to realize that and can experience it.
And I think back to your original first question, it is about the experience. It is the immersion that the enterprise class Metaverse provides where you effectively can step into any scenario.
So think about a manufacturing facility. You can actually step into there and it really gives you peripheral vision.
You can turn around, look, see and understand in a way that is really accustomed to the way we learn things visually.
So you're out of that two-dimensional representation, and now you're actually in a more immersive experience.
We have members that are delivering digital twins to their end customers.
So a statement of work is we developed X, here is the virtual representation and they have a complete metaverse where they can plug the digital twin in and virtually look at it in an operating environment.
When will the adoption of the industrial metaverse become make or break for businesses?
Mark: I think there's a combination of things that need to happen to really explode its use and for it to become “mainstream”.
Obviously there's the hardware. So the wearable devices could be improved by having a better battery life, field of view and weight.
Now again, I just want to emphasize there are use cases that are already using the Hololens or the Magic Leap devices.
We know technology improvements move really quickly. I think the companies themselves, that whole digital transformation journey, anything from the content, being able to access the systems and content to even more trivial issues such as the availability of connectivity / wifi).
There are other factors and challenges such as security and safety, as companies develop their digital transformation strategy, there are a number of areas that need to be improved.
Security is always an issue. We're doing a lot at the AREA to help demystify and create Security Maturity models.
And I think finally there's the whole organization itself, the stakeholders and staff. For Immersive Technology to become mainstream when they feel confident in it and so that they can successfully deliver it.
So a lot of work goes on in these projects around convincing the stakeholders to invest in the technology, while also working with the end users who are going to be using the tools.
Dan: It's a great point you bring up that the infrastructure does not support the level or the degree and ease of use for the demand at this point in time.
I think the compute is also another aspect when addressing latency in terms of managing large amounts of data.
And then this ties in with the sustainability aspect. What is the power consumption? If every home has this, how do the data centers sustain support for the increased demand?
Those are all big areas that need focus and to say when this is going to become critical, I've heard analysts say anywhere from 2030 onwards.
I've also heard analysts say maybe even sooner than that, but there's no question that it has already started, and we're already seeing this in different applications.
How is digital twinning connected to this and what can it provide businesses?
Dan: Digital twins have been around for a long time. The whole concept was brought together by Dr. Michael Grieves in his pivotal paper on Product Lifecycle Management. It brought understanding in the context of modeling, simulation and virtualizing of a physical entity or process This is where he brought out the fundamental elements of a digital twin.
Based on the Digital Twin Consortium’s definition, Whether the virtualization is a model, or simulation of a entity or some type of process, data needs to be synchronized at a given frequency along with ensuring the requisite level of fidelity. It could be a building, a plane or any type of physical asset or process. In the last few years digital twins and enabling technology has developed further, seeing significant growth with a greater level of detail, data and insight available.
With the level of precision and accuracy necessary to ensure that, when I look at the model, does it truly represent what's happening and what those conditions are.
The digital twin provides a closed loop. One part of the loop is realized by synchronizing the data from the real world entity/process to the virtualization and/or model. Actual insight can be determined from this, the other part of the loop is realized through the action taken on the real-world entity/process. Examples of actions taken can include controlling the operational state of the physical entity to optimize performance or performing modifications to processes to avoid unplanned downtime or a catastrophic failure.
And to answer your question, digital twins take a holistic approach, using the data from the real world entity/process- providing “real-time” event intelligence and situational awareness, to then simulate / predict the future which can include opportunities for optimization and continuous improvement.
One of the benefits of becoming a member of our consortium is that you’re tied in with other members that are looking at the same or similar things from a different perspective, such as using alternative resources versus current approaches for power generation, distribution, alternative methods for transmission, and even consumption. With a dozen working groups representing many different industry verticals, our Members, Regional Branches and Liaisons provide an extensive ecosystem that is continually expanding and evolving.
Imagine you could predict these scenarios in advance…that can literally change the world…
By example, we have one of our members looking at flood management and another looking at management of infectious diseases.
So in Singapore, for example, imagine you can now build this and understand that in the context of real world scenarios, based on real world data, when these tsunamis come in, what does that floodplain look like? And how is the flood water going to disperse itself in these types of scenarios? Or when a viral outbreak across multiple patients occurs, what does the dispersion look like in the hospital ward and how can it be contained given different scenarios?
And from that, what is the actionable insight that can be taken to avoid catastrophic flooding or a major breakout in a hospital?
With these complex systems, there is a significant amount of data generated, different types from disparate sources, at different rates, but many times less is more - understanding the signal to noise ratio, finding that needle in a haystack -that is actionable insight.
Digital twins enable this and much more.