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Today, the internet is a disparate collection of sites, apps and platforms. Because they are separate from one another, they lack interoperability and data portability. So, despite huge advances made through digital transformation, this current model will eventually constrain businesses. In fact, 95% of executives surveyed for the 2022 Accenture Technology Vision report believe that future digital platforms will need to offer unified experiences, enabling interoperability of customers’ data across different platforms and spaces.
However, thanks to two emerging concepts, a new form of internet is emerging that will transcend these limitations: 1) the metaverse continuum, an evolution of the internet that enables people to participate in a persistent shared experience across real-world and virtual realms, and 2) Web3, or emerging efforts to build a “distributed” layer to the internet via technologies such as blockchain and tokenization.
Taken together, these are showing us the next generation of the internet — one that moves beyond the fragmented interaction of today 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 Web3 will become critical components of how enterprises orchestrate their digital strategies. The online footprints that companies have built over the past decade will be reimagined, from which services are sold and which 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 road. Meanwhile, Web3 technologies will create a data layer than enables veracity, trust and even scarcity. This new internet will be more human-centric and exponentially more valuable.
Now is the time for companies to decide the role that 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 merely watching how it unfolds?
Signs of change
Shifts in the digital world over the past 18 months have made it clear that a “wait and see” approach will soon become “look — it already happened.” In fact, enterprises are already thinking about the digital world differently and are capturing new value.
For example, BMW recently built digital twins of 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 stations and their individual work-order instructions.
The digital twins are used to train robots to navigate factories, bring together designers from across the globe for experiments, and perform training simulations for individual tasks. Employees can also use the environment to push software updates, monitor individual cells for disruptions, assign new “missions” to the robots on the floor and even teleoperate machines for individual tasks.
A good example of Web3 innovation comes from Inrupt, creator of Solid, lets users 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 given tasks. In common with all Web3 technologies, Solid creates a transaction and trust layer across the web by making different parties the arbiters of their own data.
In digital, technology adoption and related services often snowball. After all, it took just 15 years from the launch of the first iPhone to a world with 6.6 billion smartphones. The internet of tomorrow will be the internet of today before you know it.
Actions to take now
Business leaders should start exploring the potential of new products and services today, while training their executives on the technologies that will soon be foundational 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 that 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, enterprises must have the infrastructure to share applications widely and securely. That means rebuilding applications in the cloud with microservice architectures and APIs to be easily usable by, and shareable with, others. These steps should be taken today, even if the end state of the metaverse remains uncertain.
- Focus on skills: For the metaverse, enterprises will require 3D artists, game designers and experts in the platforms built. Companies chasing Web3 opportunities will need experience with multiple blockchains. They will need to build relationships with different consortiums, find partners to go to market with and build new business and operating models. Fortunately, the increasing sophistication and democratization of immersive design tools is making it easier than ever to start experimenting with these technologies.
- Find partners: Forming new partnerships and ensuring your organization can participate in future collaborations is also critical. Consortiums and industry standards bodies will be important, enabling greater interoperability between companies and making it easier to deliver cross-platform experiences or to jointly collaborate on an experience. By agreeing to a common framework when a technology is in its infancy, businesses can set themselves up to provide more compatible services to future shared consumers.
The metaverse and Web3 are momentous technology shifts, simultaneously working to eliminate the friction that exists between today’s many digital platforms and to reinvent how data moves and is used across digital experiences. As they create a new internet, they will drive new lines of business, new ways of working and new means of interaction between businesses and people. For many organizations, now is the first and best opportunity they have ever had to architect a new kind of digital world.
Marc Carrel-Billiard is the global lead of Accenture Technology Innovation. He oversees all research and development activities of Accenture and leads the delivery of the firm’s annual Technology Vision.
Michael Biltz is managing director of Accenture technology vision at Accenture Labs.