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Corporate24 ottobre, 2022

Enterprise solutions and the metaverse

The metaverse is on the horizon, affecting industries as diverse as healthcare, tax and accounting, law, fashion, and entertainment. According to McKinsey, in the first five months of 2022 alone, more than $120 billion have been invested in building out metaverse technology and infrastructure. Early forms of enterprise solutions within the metaverse are already on the market, and Citi has estimated a market between $8-13 trillion by 2030. Thus, now is the time to start thinking about how this new wave of online interaction can benefit your business. 

The metaverse — sometimes called Web3 — represents the next evolution of the internet. In a Web3 environment, solutions and services will be much more fluid, individual, and decentralized, with people buying and selling goods and services, creating and enforcing contracts, and interacting with peers and customers in virtual environments, with huge implications for trust, user experience, data privacy, and cybersecurity.  

Discover a few of the key concepts and issues B2B business leaders should have on their radar when considering how to engage with and while exploring the next evolution of the internet. 

Augmented & virtual reality (AR/VR)

Some people scoff at virtual reality (VR), perhaps remembering the experience of Second Life, an early virtual world launched in 2003 that never gained widespread traction, but that view falls short of the vast potential and current investment levels businesses are pouring into this space- to the tune of $209.2 billion, according to Tulane University.  

"Second Life was an interesting social experiment that didn't have a compelling goal state," said Alex Tyrrell, Senior Vice President of Advanced Technology at Wolters Kluwer. "There was no real commercial model to drive value and sustained investment. The metaverse is different as it offers new ways to connect, discover, and contribute to an overall experience in decentralized yet verifiable ways." 

What’s the main difference between AR and VR? While both bridge our digital and physical worlds, AR expands our physical world through our devices (e.g. smartphone, camera, projector) versus the creation of an entirely computer generated simulation of an alternate world in VR. On a technical level, the combination of cloud servers, broadband internet, sensors, and 5G wireless networks are now capable of delivering a far more realistic and immersive experience than possible nearly two decades ago. Therefore, both are becoming increasingly accessible - take the examples of AR within the museum industry, simulation within nursing education, or VR for EHS safety training, and the increasing consumer availability of VR headsets, which have become slimmer, more comfortable, and more affordable. With this thinking in mind, applications that enable virtual learning, customer collaboration, commerce, and other B2B use cases literally bring a whole new dimension into view.  

Blockchain: a digital ledger 

Blockchain is another core metaverse technology that will have a broad impact. In fact, business directory Crunchbase lists more than 13,000 companies that are building blockchain-based products and services. Here at Wolters Kluwer, we’ve released a Blockchain-based bank confirmation solution, CCH Axcess Validate, for external auditors, that uses a patented Blockchain-based algorithm to exchange requests and replies between the parties, providing a certified audit trail showing proof of all interactions and identities of the involved parties. 

Although known mainly as the underpinning of cryptocurrencies, blockchain has many other uses. Firstly, it's a secure, anonymous, distributed database that can enable direct transactions between buyers and sellers without intermediaries like real estate agents, mortgage brokers, and banks. It also allows identity to become a form of currency so customers can buy and sell products and services based, in part, on the information they choose to disclose. Need an example? Read about one of the “world’s first web3 nonprofits.”  

COVID-19 has played a role in accelerating blockchain development, too. The pandemic forced knowledge workers to find new ways to collaborate, prospect, sell, and even socialize without commutes, airplanes, or physical proximity. Many people will never return to the office full time, so enabling interactions and workflows in new ways will be a core functionality of enterprise solutions in the metaverse. 

Digital Twins

In some ways, the metaverse is already here. For example, in a real estate context, architects, space planners, and interior designers are using VR to walk through computerized renderings of structures, make adjustments, and test layouts. Doctors are now performing surgeries from thousands of miles away by directing on-site assistants or even manipulating robotic tools directly. Teenagers are comfortable engaging with each other in 3D games, and purchasing and modeling clothes on their avatars. 

Companies in manufacturing and construction businesses are using "digital twins," which are computer-generated models that exactly match the characteristics of physical ones. They let architects and designers build and test everything from motorcycles to power plants. They can test the impact of their decisions on computerized twins instantly and at nearly no cost. "Digital twins instantly double productivity," Tyrrell said. This has significant implications for the future of the user-customer experience for business and developers. 

Once a computerized model of an object or place is created, it can be shared, copied, and opened to anyone. That means that instead of getting on a plane and flying to Beijing to inspect office space, an executive can walk through an exact digital replica and interact with the local agent in real time, even if they're thousands of miles apart. "One important aspect of the metaverse is creating a detailed replication of the physical world in 3D," Tyrrell said. 

Evolving user experiences 

The metaverse has the potential to fundamentally change key relationships- between customers, brands, employees and the like. The pandemic revealed that videoconference sessions with customers can be nearly as valuable as face-to-face meetings. In the metaverse, salespeople will "meet" customers in their virtual offices, give sales presentations, and demonstrate products. 

Customers are already attending conferences in cyberspace and interacting with exhibitors and other attendees as if they were physically inside a convention center. Simulation classrooms already emulate their real-world counterparts, with students raising their hands to speak to the instructor and collaborating screen-to-screen in small groups. Prospective home buyers can already walk-through virtual replicas of properties for sale and even test different furniture layouts and color schemes. It's even conceivable that the customary round of golf with the customer could be conducted in cyberspace. Advertising will also become more customized and immersive. 

The future is now 

Although it will take time for the metaverse to evolve, Tyrrell recommends becoming familiar with these underlying technologies like AR and VR, blockchain, and replicated digital systems (or a digital twin) now. You might even consider conducting some low-impact tasks like staff meetings and training sessions using VR. "Look at where it can be used in your business," he said. "If you're in advertising, retail, or content development, pay particular attention." 

With blockchain, an easy way to experiment is to register some digital assets you own — such as product documentation and sales collateral — as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). You can then experiment with granting permissions, transferring ownership, and even selling them on an NFT exchange. This will help you understand how metaverse enterprise solutions built on blockchain can enable secure transactions involving digital properties. 

Lastly, follow what companies are doing (like collaborations between Meta, Microsoft and Accenture), as some have made huge investments in the metaverse enterprise space and updates appear almost daily. 

The arrival of the metaverse is more likely to be a gradual transformation than a big bang. "It's not clear that it will disrupt businesses entirely anytime soon, but for certain functions, such as training and 

meetings, this will be a new channel to engage with," Tyrrell said. "Ultimately, if you have no presence at all or haven't developed a strategy, that could be a challenge." 


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