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Enterprise and industrial metaverses exceeding expectations

Across use cases, particularly industrial and enterprise, early metaverse adopters report benefits more often than companies still in the planning phase, with capex reduction and sustainability showing largest difference

The industrial metaverse has been one of the key trends of 2023, and a study by Nokia and EY has found that companies that have already deployed use cases in this area are reporting more benefits than those still in the planning phase expect, most notably in capital expenditure (capex) reduction, sustainability and safety improvement.

The metaverse at work study examined the current state of the enterprise and industrial metaverses, surveying 860 business leaders across six countries – the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany, Japan and South Korea – to show how the industrial metaverse, particularly, is expected to deliver on and beyond expectations. It looked at four industry sectors: automotive; industrial goods and manufacturing; transportation, supply chain and logistics; and power and utilities.

The report noted that the enterprise metaverse is driven by demand for better digital collaboration and communication tools and said it would envelop the core productivity applications that make businesses function and allow for the next generation of virtual connections. It also characterised the industrial metaverse by physical-digital fusion and human augmentation focused on industrial applications. This includes digital representations of physical industrial environments, systems, processes, assets and spaces that participants can control, monitor and interact with.

Ultimately, the findings showed that companies believe in the power of the metaverse and that metaverse technologies are here to stay. It revealed that just 2% of respondents see the metaverse as a buzzword or a fad, while 58% of companies with future metaverse plans have already deployed or piloted at least one metaverse-related use case. Nearly all (94%) of those yet to begin their metaverse journey plan to do so in the next two years.

Companies also said the industrial metaverse was creating “substantial” business value. On average, 80% of those that have already implemented metaverse use cases believed they would have a significant or transformational impact on the way they do business. Nearly all (96%) respondents saw how, by mixing physical and virtual use cases, the metaverse could bring additional innovative capabilities that will allow them to accelerate the deployment, adoption and monetisation of Industry 4.0 for their business.

Looking at key regions, the study revealed the US (65%), UK (64%) and Brazil (63%) were currently leading the way when it comes to having deployed or piloted at least one industrial or enterprise metaverse use case. The average in Germany was 53%, while Asia-Pacific is less advanced (Japan, 49%; South Korea, 49%). 

Asked which use cases they most expected to deliver transformative value, enterprises saw the highest potential in the use of extended reality (XR) for training to onboard and upskill the workforce, while three out of the four industries surveyed chose the use of virtual research and development to enhance product design and processes.

When deploying metaverse use cases, companies highlighted how they appreciated the need for sufficient infrastructure and robust analytical capabilities. Respondents placed highest importance on the key technical enablers that are truly foundational to meeting the demands of such use cases – cloud computing (72%), artificial intelligence and machine learning (70%), and network connectivity including private 5G/6G (70%), fibre broadband (68%) and public 5G/6G (67%).

Given the need for further technical expertise in-house, at this stage enterprises are relying on a range of partners to close capability gaps and deploy use cases, the report added.

“The industrial and enterprise metaverses are here – this study shows the clear appetite for these technologies such as extended reality and digital twins to achieve business goals,” said Vincent Douin, executive director of business consulting and business transformation at Ernst & Young. “We are already seeing many organisations going above and beyond the planning stages and recognising tangible benefits from their initial implementations.”

Thierry Klein, president of Bell Labs solutions research at Nokia, added: “It is great to see that companies clearly believe in the power of the metaverse for business value creation in both enterprise and industrial use cases. This strongly aligns with our vision, informed by more than eight years of research at Nokia Bell Labs, that the industrial metaverse is an extension of Industry 4.0. Consequently, those who have already implemented mission-critical communications networks for Industry 4.0 are now well placed to experience the benefits of the metaverse that clearly some companies are already seeing.”

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