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The metaverse is a solution struggling to find a firm IoT use case.

How far away is a practical metaverse?

If your eyes glaze over or you cringe every time you hear the word metaverse, don’t worry. You’re not alone. There’s nothing worse than drowning an idea in the hype. And I’m sure a lot of us are old enough to remember Second Life the first time around, a virtual world where people developed unique identities, held jobs, hosted workshops and concerts, and bought and sold goods in their own currency. 

But the metaverse is something even bigger, and it goes hand in hand with IoT in a surprising number of ways. 

Erm, so what is the metaverse?

For a quick recap, the metaverse is a broad collective virtual open space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality. (If you want to dig deep into how we got here, this article offers a neat explanation in plain language). It intersects through various sectors through activities like buying digital land, constructing virtual homes, playing games, and visiting art galleries. Many people consider it to be the next evolution of the internet. But it’s also a buzzword that is constantly shapeshifting in terms of scope, capacity, and possibility.  

So the question is how excited we should get?

Ok, I’m not sure how accurate their to date IoT predictions have been. But still, Gartner predicts that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social media, and entertainment. That’s a fair chunk of time and capacity for new business opportunities. While we’ve seen a focus on the gaming, retail and social elements of the metaverse. People are talking about what could happen, but are pretty quiet when it comes to how or when.  

Let’s be clear, unlike digital twins which have been used for some time in use cases like analysing equipment health through performance data, and designing smart buildings, the metaverse sits firmly in the realm of possibility rather than cold hard use cases. While digital twins mirror existing ecosystems (like city traffic) using data and sensors, metaverses are intended to be immersive, such as through the use of virtual reality, and can operate without a physical asset. If a digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset, then a metaverse doesn’t need to represent any asset except an idea. 

So, where does this leave us? It seems to be somewhere where IoT and the metaverse converge. But truth be told, so far, there’s not that much happening. 

I mean, for example, we are still working on digital twins for use cases such as managing the energy grid, which is subject to vulnerabilities due to severe weather changes like record cold temperature in Texas, and the threat of cyber attacks. In this scenario, energy companies can use digital twin technology to get a data-driven deep dive into real-time data from energy metres, weather sensors, solar panels, wind turbines, battery management systems, and grid software. This information can be analysed to develop ways to stabilise the grid. 

By comparison, when we talk about the metaverse, we’re talking about potential rather than practicalities. A virtual space could be useful for design collaboration, for example, designing electric batteries for cars or architectural layouts of robotic-powered factories, but right now, we’ve barely got started.

 Rest assured, things will come as technology evolves and expands, but until then, we’re not really missing anything. 


Anthony Sayers, Director of IoT Ecosystems & Partners, Davra Connect on LinkedIn

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