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Today, the internet is a disparate collection of sites, apps, and platforms. Because they are separate from each other, they lack interoperability and data portability. So despite the tremendous progress made through digital transformation, this current model will ultimately limit businesses. In fact, 95 percent of executives surveyed for the Accenture Technology Vision 2022 report believe future digital platforms will need to deliver unified experiences, enabling interoperability of customer data across platforms and spaces.
However, thanks to two emerging concepts, a new form of the internet is emerging that will transcend these limitations: 1) the metaverse continuum, an evolution of the internet that allows people to participate in a persistent shared experience across the real world and realms virtual, and 2) Web3, or emerging efforts to build a distributed layer on the internet via technologies such as blockchain and tokenization.
Taken together, these are showing us the next generation of the internet that moves beyond today’s fragmented interaction into a new world of contiguous immersive experiences.
Put simply, the digital world is in the early stages of an evolution and eventually the metaverse and the Web3 will become core components of how companies orchestrate their digital strategies. The online footprints that companies have built over the past decade will be reinvented, from what services are sold and what data is accessible to how advertising is conducted and content generated.
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With the metaverse, the internet will be rebuilt as a persistent 3D environment, imbued with a sense of place, where moving from work to a social platform is as simple as crossing the street. Meanwhile, Web3 technologies will create a layer of data that will enable truthfulness, trust, and even scarcity. This new internet will be more human-centric and exponentially more valuable.
Now is the time for companies to decide what role they will play in the future of the Internet. Do they want to be part of the wave that creates this future, or will they be content to just watch how it unfolds?
Signs of change
Changes in the digital world over the past 18 months have made it clear that a wait-and-see approach will soon become watching has already happened. In fact, companies are already thinking about the digital world in a different way and are acquiring new value.
For example, BMW recently built digital twins from 31 different factories. The models use real-time data to create a photo-realistic 3D environment that recreates everything from the machines on the floor to the people populating the workstations and their individual work order instructions.
Digital twins are used to train robots to navigate factories, bring together designers from around the world for experiments, and run training simulations for individual tasks. Employees can also use the environment to push software updates, monitor individual cells for disruptions, assign new missions to robots on the floor, and even teleoperate machines for individual tasks.
A good example of Web3 innovation comes from Inrupt, creator of Solid, which allows users to control their data and store it in Personal Online Data Stores (Pods). Large organizations and governments can now build websites or applications that interact with pods and, with people’s permission, access the data they need for certain tasks. In common with all Web3 technologies, Solid creates a transaction and level of trust across the Web by making different parties the arbiters of their own data.
In digital, the adoption of technology and related services often snowballs. After all, it’s only been 15 years since the first iPhone launched in a world of 6.6 billion smartphones. Tomorrow’s Internet will be today’s Internet before you know it.
Actions to take now
Business leaders should start exploring the potential of new products and services today, educating their executives on technologies that will soon be critical to their business. As metaverse and Web3 technologies continue to mature, the companies prepared and willing to experiment with new platforms and data structures will be the ones to define the next generation of digital business. There are several factors to consider:
- Invest in the cloud: The metaverse that emerges will be defined by the services and platforms it encompasses. To even have a presence, companies must have the infrastructure in place to share applications broadly and securely. This means rebuilding applications in the cloud with microservice architectures and APIs to be easily usable and shareable with others. These steps should be accomplished today, although the final state of the metaverse remains uncertain.
- Focus on skills: For the metaverse, businesses will require 3D artists, game designers, and experts in built platforms. Businesses chasing Web3 opportunities will need experience with multiple blockchains. They will need to build relationships with different consortia, find partners to go to market with, and build new business and operating models. Fortunately, the growing sophistication and democratization of immersive design tools is making it easier than ever to start experimenting with these technologies.
- Find partners: Building new partnerships and ensuring your organization can participate in future collaborations is also key. Industry consortia and standard-setting bodies will be important, enabling greater interoperability between companies and making it easier for them to deliver cross-platform experiences or collaborate jointly on an experience. By accepting a common framework when a technology is in its infancy, companies can organize themselves to provide more compatible services to future shared consumers.
The metaverse and the Web3 are momentous technological shifters, working simultaneously to eliminate the friction that exists between today’s many digital platforms and to reinvent the way data moves and is used in digital experiences. By creating a new Internet, they will drive new lines of business, new ways of working, and new means of interaction between companies and people. For many organizations, this is the first and best opportunity they’ve ever had to engineer a new kind of digital world.
Marc Carrel-Billiard is the global leader of Accenture Technology Innovation. He oversees all of Accenture’s research and development activities and leads the delivery of the company’s annual Technology Vision.
Michael Biltz is managing director of Accenture’s technology vision at Accenture Labs.
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