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Enterprises and Industrial Metaverses: Exceeding Expectations

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The year 2023 has witnessed the meteoric ascent of the industrial metaverse, emerging as a defining trend of our time. A collaborative research endeavor by Nokia and EY has unveiled profound insights, shedding light on the significant gains realised by companies that have ventured into the metaverse realm. These gains are most pronounced in terms of reducing capital expenditure (capex), enhancing sustainability, and fortifying safety measures.
Termed "The Metaverse at Work," this comprehensive study meticulously scrutinized the current landscape of enterprise and industrial metaverses, engaging 860 business leaders across six nations: the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and South Korea. It offers a comprehensive overview of the anticipated strides of the industrial metaverse, with a particular emphasis on its potential to transcend expectations. The study was focused on four core industry sectors: automotive, industrial goods and manufacturing, transportation, supply chain, and logistics, as well as power and utilities.
The report cogently underscores the genesis of the enterprise metaverse, fuelled by an escalating demand for superior digital collaboration and communication tools. It envisions an all-encompassing integration of core productivity applications that underpin business operations, ushering in a new era of next-generation virtual connectivity. In contrast, the industrial metaverse is characterised by the fusion of physical and digital realms, with a sharp focus on human augmentation in industrial applications. This entails creating digital representations of physical industrial landscapes, systems, processes, assets, and spaces that empower participants to exert control, oversee, and interact.

Inescapably, the findings resoundingly affirm the unwavering faith of companies in the transformative potential of the metaverse. Metaverse technologies have firmly entrenched themselves in the business landscape, with only a mere 2% of respondents regarding the metaverse as a mere buzzword or ephemeral trend. Remarkably, 58% of companies with future metaverse plans have already embarked on deploying or piloting at least one metaverse-related use case. Moreover, a resounding 94% of those yet to embark on their metaverse journey have concrete plans to do so within the next two years.

Businesses are unified in their assertion that the industrial metaverse yields substantial business value. On average, 80% of those who have already integrated metaverse use cases into their operations believe that these innovations will have a significant or transformational impact on their business processes. A resounding 96% of respondents recognise the potential of the metaverse, with its fusion of physical and virtual dimensions, to usher in innovative capabilities, thereby expediting the deployment, adoption, and monetisation of Industry 4.0.

An examination of key regions reveals that the United States (65%), the United Kingdom (64%), and Brazil (63%) lead the vanguard in deploying or piloting industrial and enterprise metaverse use cases. Germany, on average, stands at 53%, while the Asia-Pacific region, represented by Japan (49%) and South Korea (49%), demonstrates somewhat lesser advancement in this domain.

As for the use cases expected to deliver transformative value, enterprises identify extended reality (XR) for training as holding the greatest potential for onboarding and upskilling their workforce. Furthermore, three out of the four industries surveyed unequivocally favour the deployment of virtual research and development to enhance product design and processes.
In the process of deploying metaverse use cases, companies underscore the imperative need for robust infrastructure and analytical capabilities. Respondents have collectively prioritised key technical enablers, which are foundational to meeting the demands of such use cases. These enablers include cloud computing (72%), artificial intelligence and machine learning (70%), and network connectivity, encompassing private 5G/6G (70%), fibre broadband (68%), and public 5G/6G (67%).

Recognising the vital need for augmented technical expertise in-house, enterprises at this stage are partnering with a diverse array of collaborators to bridge capability gaps and effectively deploy these use cases, as illuminated in the report.

Vincent Douin, Executive Director of Business Consulting and Business Transformation at Ernst & Young, eloquently stated, "The industrial and enterprise metaverses have arrived, and this study unequivocally underscores the burgeoning appetite for transformative technologies such as extended reality and digital twins in achieving strategic business objectives. We are already witnessing numerous organisations move beyond the planning stages and reaping tangible benefits from their initial implementations."

Thierry Klein, President of Bell Labs Solutions Research at Nokia, added, "It is truly heartening to observe that companies unequivocally embrace the transformative potential of the metaverse in creating business value across both enterprise and industrial applications. This alignment strongly resonates with our vision, forged through over eight years of research at Nokia Bell Labs, which posits the industrial metaverse as an extension of Industry 4.0. Those who have already established mission-critical communication networks for Industry 4.0 are now optimally positioned to experience the remarkable benefits of the metaverse, which some forward-thinking companies are already realising."

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