“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an adage in multiple languages meaning that complex and sometimes multiple ideas can be conveyed by a single still image….” (Source:-Wikipedia). However, the upcoming slowly emerging metaverse, which is on the horizon today, should certainly not be seen as a single still image, nor will the picture contained within it be restricted to just a thousand words.
Technological advancements that provide this level of step-change are mostly never attributed to one single thing, but rather to combinations of them coming together at specific points in time. At that stage they provide corporations with a greater opportunity to drive competitive advantage and value creation.
Precursor to the Metaverse
Even without the metaverse, today’s period of digital enablement has also been driven by a recent step-change in ERP software design, thereby providing both a powerful conduit of change for today, as well as preparation for those changes coming tomorrow. This is primarily due to the fact that modern day ERP software development can now leverage both the previous advancements made in hardware design, as well as other parallel changes within other complementary software technologies.
Specifically, with this in mind, two fundamental technical challenges faced by corporations have now been solved to drive them forwards. The first is the ability to deploy very specific user-defined ultra-granular business flows that are able to process contextual actionable workflows @anytime @anywhere (supported only by relevant reporting), across applications and ecosystems.
The second is the availability of compute power, which is both about raw power capability but more importantly the optimisation of the underlying ERP software process to leverage the advantages of today’s processors, particularly when undertaking compute hungry transformations across multiple ERP applications.
What do modern day processes look like? Holistically they can be described as Your Mobile Apps + Your Unique Digitally Enabled Processes (DEP) (that have a detailed flow structure as explained below) + Your API’s + Your Applications (new and old). These all come together to produce results with higher levels of data quality and compliance.
Physical World meets Digital World
The metaverse is still at a nascent stage and has no formal definition, but it will surely see the fusing of both our digital and physical worlds. In fact, many of the building blocks already exist, and are being leveraged in some form or other to power user experiences. It will be real-time, global, with no language barriers, plus it will be extremely immersive and meaningful, as well as being powerful in facilitating “user agency”.
One Single Metaverse
Is there likely to be a single metaverse with just a single provider? No, this will be a future term like the internet where users will grasp what is being referred to (i.e. the basic commonality described above) , but it is more likely that each of us will have a preferred one, and that interoperability will exist between them.
Access to it will be leveraged by smart glasses, mobiles, tablets and computers. However, as one examines the metaverse one can see that it means different things to different people, possibly explaining why no definition yet exists for it.
Migrating to the Metaverse
As XR (Virtual Reality – VR, Artificial Reality – AR, Mixed Reality – MR = XR) evolves, it would not be unrealistic to assume that your existing processes be migrated to support this latest technology set, very much in the same way that you can add artificial intelligence (AI) or other latest tech to them today.
Above, we holistically described a modern day process but did not explain what was contained within a DEP, only that it works at an ultra-granular level, is highly flexible, and is a key factor in being able to add metaverse components or AI, today or tomorrow, to your new or existing ERP processes.
Your Unique Digitally Enabled Processes (DEP) can be defined with more colour at granular level i.e. as being from data collection , through all required data transformations / enrichments to contextual actionable reporting / visualisations + workflows @anywhere @anytime + computational simulations within a process.
API’s can be incorporated @anywhere to other applications or ecosystems and might include Open Banking API’s, or your unique business orientated algorithms (AI), or your required metaverse components.
The above then creates a flexible digitally enabled process (DEP) for both qualitative and / or quantitative processes, that is future- proofed by virtue of being so granular, noting that specific algorithms developed by leading third parties, such as Google, can also be incorporated as well.
Five Senses and Metaverse Processes
As an example of future proofing consider the five senses of touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. There are two angles here, the first being what you as a user could experience from these five senses in the metaverse, and the second is how IoT devices might leverage these same senses, which then subsequently become information inputs displayed in some shape or form to power your ongoing metaverse experiences.
Ultimately, how these will be integrated into the metaverse remains to be seen, and any results may simply end up being displayed graphically with / without sound. Some user cases are obvious but not all. For example, considering these one by one:-
- Touch in early forms will be available through the use of haptics.
- Sight “experiences” can be achieved to some extent by adding a Google Machine Learning API e.g. the Vision API or equivalent.
- One form of API is already familiar to us in the form of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant. Another example would be sound sensors.
- Smell can already be experienced to a very limited extent in 4D theme parks alongside motion, vibration, water spray, smoke, wind, temperature strobe lights etc. Note also that Google and others have created early working R&D based algorithms for smell.
- Taste seems a long way off, but to some extent it is fully intertwined with smell. It will take something like future Mars missions to drive critical breakthroughs in making “highly nutritious mundane looking easily stored food- squares” look palatable enough to eat.
Intersection of Physical and Virtual Worlds
Whilst 3D & 4D printing and drone delivery may seem like an adjunct to a metaverse process, they are nevertheless going to become more pivotal in the future as both physical and virtual experiences collide to create exciting value added intersections for e-commerce.
These collisions might actually be progressive. For example, to gain access from the digital to the physical world or vice versa. They may exist in parallel to mimic the real world, or they may simply be used to create unique physical or digital content. An easy out of the box generic example to appreciate this might include the concepts of digital cosmetics, jewellery, and outfits, the latter already being a multi-million dollar business.
Where do Functional Business Domains Fit within the Metaverse
As with digital enablement, corporations will be looking to see how the metaverse can be leveraged alongside the physical world for both their internal and external stakeholders, recognising that metaverse content will potentially be compute and bandwidth hungry i.e. it may impact practical end-user experience levels if done badly. Some quick domain related examples might be:-
Presenting a new highly personalised and engaging new sales experience, ie new type of channel, to drive customer engagement across both the virtual, and physical worlds.
Offering the same digital experience to a broader geographic audience in the language of their choice. This could be the scaling-up of activity to reach larger audiences, or conversely bringing specific audiences together with similar areas of interest irrespective of their location.
Driving value creation. As was described above, the latest step change in technologies (pre-metaverse), provides an opportunity to build ultra- granular processes that work both x-application and x-ecosystem.
Typically today, your valuable reporting insights are hindered by two factors. First, by the fact that the process itself can be labour intensive, and secondly that the resulting workflows / reports are not timely, nor actionable, nor contextual to the right person(s).
Within the metaverse being able to visualise end to end processes to knock out bottlenecks will yield invaluable information, increase productivity and customer satisfaction, with pictures painting a thousand words. This will potentially take visualisations and analytics to new levels of usable detail for every part of every process. From another perspective, support calls will be far more efficient, and interactive.
Leveraging opportunities here to create more interesting core or supporting recruitment processes to provide deeper and differentiated levels of engagement. Office tours, interactive training, collaborative training or virtually meeting colleagues around the world etc.
As per above, there is a lot of value to be gained in having HR views (with full compliance) combined with other detailed information. Another example, this time in the metaverse, is being able to leverage customer facing roles across both physical and virtual worlds.
Providing more granular ESG information. Being able to visualise emission level types in the context of business processes, and similarly for operations being able to review business dynamics or bottlenecks in the context of the # of staff, # of capacity hours cf backlogs etc, which will move productivity and customer experiences forwards. Other examples might be gaining more proactive ongoing visibility (with compliance) for gender pay gaps, diversity considerations etc.
As with all advancements, the metaverse can be used for good and evil, meaning that both sides of a message can be amplified to a level never seen before, both internally and globally in real time i.e. the user agency mentioned above. Not only that, but the metaverse in its most global social form will be a fully immersive and ephemeral environment that will in fact enable more data to be “ambushed” i.e. it will push current legal boundaries.
For example, the combination of biometrics becoming more useful than passwords will be part of that change for privacy. “For context, just 20 minutes of interaction using VR can generate some 2 million unique data sets on users.” Source: Retail in Asia. So that data will have to be protected in the future.
Some points worthy of note come from this. The World Economic Forum is already focused on initiatives regarding future best practices in certain areas. For example, regarding the ethical, key societal, and governance challenges associated with the metaverse, plus they will look more closely into the related issues surrounding privacy, equity inclusion, accessibility, economic opportunity and risks to individuals. Note also that Meta (Facebook), recognising future risks, has established a 4 foot (cc. 1.2m) personal space “fence” for each Avatar on their metaverse platform to prevent / discourage some forms of bad behaviour.
Another observation is that not enough budget allocation is being made to the process level. This is partly down to the fact that corporate ERP software purchases have changed in focus, from being on full blown applications to include more of the end to end processes described above. Going forwards, the types of changes being discussed herein will require budgets to have a broader set of allocations and priorities to ensure success.
Moving forwards, corporations will need to spend more time understanding how the latest technologies described above can drive step-change for value creation, as well as giving extra special attention to data management, specifically around the current and upcoming changes to cybersecurity and privacy regulations.
GaiaPM, a member of the FlexSystem Group, provides international lease and property management software designed to help you drive performance up and costs down. As a global solutions provider in over 38 countries GaiaPM, together with its proven solutions for multi-currency financials, human resources, and operations, is a business software vendor to 1 in 10 Forbes Global 2000 (May 2020), and 1 in 5 Global Fortune 500 (August 2020), operating at the intersection of new digital process and payment technologies, whether on-premise, hybrid or cloud, to provide you with iterative opportunities for value creation.