Industrial Metaverse Development Accelerates

Feb. 16, 2023
Aveva positions the industrial metaverse as a clear goal of its technology development as more players become active in the space.

Following the completion of its acquisition by Schneider Electric, Aveva is placing a great deal of emphasis on the industrial metaverse as the goal of its plan to create an end-to-end, artificial intelligence-infused software for engineering and operations accessible via one pane of glass. This plan was announced during last fall’s Aveva World event in San Francisco.

Before getting into Aveva’s industrial metaverse vision, a few details about the Schneider Electric acquisition should be clarified to help put Aveva’s announcements into perspective. According to Schneider Electric, the acquisition of Aveva was completed in January 2023, with Schneider Electric acquiring the 41% of shares it did not already own. Schneider Electric had been Aveva’s majority shareholder since 2018. At the time of the acquisition, the share capital of Aveva purchased by Schneider Electric implied an enterprise value of £10.569 billion (~US$12.7 billion). This combination of companies creates an entity that spans multiple aspects of industrial automation hardware and software as well as manufacturing operations.

Another piece of news announced today (February 16, 2023)—following on the acquisition of Aveva by Schneider Electric—is that Peter Herweck, CEO of Aveva, will assume the role of Schneider Electric CEO on May 4, 2023. Caspar Herzberg, currently COO at Aveva, will assume the CEO at Aveva on May 4.

Getting back to Aveva’s metaverse idea, it helps to first understand that the definition of metaverse is changing rapidly. The most common idea that comes to mind when the term metaverse is used stems from its description by Neil Stephenson in his book “Snow Crash”. Stephenson is frequently credited as the originator of the term to describe a universal, immersive virtual world accessed by virtual reality (VR) headsets.

Such immersive VR worlds exist in industry, particularly for workforce training in complex, potentially dangerous industrial environments. But when you hear the term metaverse discussed by automation technology suppliers, it’s not necessarily the immersive, alternate reality environment we so often imagine.

Aveva’s metaverse vision

As described by Herweck, the metaverse is “an always-on world that serves as the backbone of the internet, connecting real factories, machines, data and people in palpable ways.”

The key connectivity point in this vision of the metaverse is the cloud, of course, which is already being used to access systems and data from any device, anywhere, at any time, as well as enabling interaction with co-workers in other parts of the world in real time. With the addition of artificial intelligence in this mix, Herweck says users can “consult historical data, trial new concepts, and forecast potential business outcomes.”

Herweck notes that you can do much of this on your own already, “but it’s much more fun with everyone else on board.” And that’s a critical component to the industrial metaverse vision.

“As we see it at Aveva, businesses will experience the industrial metaverse as a persistent virtual environment allowing live collaboration across teams, agnostic of interface device, open to the full gamut of data sources and delivering role-based access to real-time operations, data streams, and up-to-date engineering data,” says Herweck.

So, rather than the metaverse arising as a new technology, the reality is that it will be more of an expansion of currently existing technologies.

Read more about Aveva's technology plans.

Building it

How this vision will develop remains to be seen, but it’s clear the initial steps have already been built. Now it’s more a matter of adding capabilities and making them viable and valuable enough for the market adopt them. In other words, as fast as the industrial metaverse will develop, it won’t happen overnight.

As described in a recent article in Wired addressing the various definitions of the term metaverse, “advocates from niche startups to tech giants have argued that this lack of coherence [around what defines the metaverse] is because the metaverse is still being built and it's too new to define what it means. The internet existed in the 1970s, for example, but not every idea of what that would eventually look like was true.”

In line with this idea of ongoing development that will ultimately define the industrial metaverse, Herweck says, “metaverse experiences will slowly be introduced into our daily working life as add-ons to existing software.”

Three components that comprise Aveva’s metaverse vision are artificial intelligence-infused data, digital twins, and the experience of being able to seamlessly connect to the metaverse via desktops, mobile devices, and wearables.

As noted earlier, these capabilities already exist, thus the development of an industrial metaverse is not a far-off goal that requires the development of as-yet unknown technologies. It also makes clear that the industrial metaverse is not just the immersive VR world as many tend to imagine it. In fact, Herweck notes that some of the earliest metaverse examples will be in desktop applications at the edge.

Get insights on Schneider Electric's plans around industrial sustainability and digital transformation.

Potential developments

Herweck predicts that 2023 will “likely be marked by radical developments around the metaverse. As more applications are built around this innovative iteration of the internet, businesses will come closer than ever to a truly hybrid reality environment. 2023 will be the year the industrial metaverse truly takes off as multiple companies attempt to assert their position as leaders in the space, offering platforms and technologies to unlock its benefits.”

Some of those benefits include:

  • The ability to load engineering diagrams into a 3D environment for collaboration between design teams and customers to support co-innovation.
  • Creating simulations of new products to improve the design and build to enhance safety, optimize resource use, and improve margins.
  • More easily identify low-carbon operational pathways to deliver significant sustainability improvements.

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