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Star-Trekking Across the Metaverse

The only way to do that will be by mass ingestion of the data coming from the Internet of Things (IoT). Only with this data will you be able to create a rich and meaningful environment. The next need after “seeing” will be “interacting,” meaning that the data not only needs to be represented in a meaningful way but also must be responsive. Given the fear companies have of releasing control of physical assets to a remote operator, what would it mean to release control to someone residing in the metaverse?  

So, while doing my research into the metaverse, it occurred to me that a pyramid similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could also apply to the metaverse. On the lowest level, equal to the physiological needs of humans in the real world, you can imagine the needs a digital infrastructure in the metaverse has: tools for ingestion of and access to data and infrastructure to store, analyze,  and enrich data. Just as in the real world, before any meaningful interactions can be achieved, security needs to be guaranteed—and that needs to happen before humans can achieve their full potential in the metaverse (including creative activities).

The Metaverse Pyramid of Needs

With all the attention on exciting possibilities of the metaverse, you could overlook the infrastructure that will be needed for the heavy lifting. It would have to be optimized for transferring and storing data. To make the metaverse attractive, not only would historical data need to be available to facilitate context and depth in any interaction, but it would also have to be highly accurate. This would mean that real-time data ingestion and analytics would be paramount. 

This will put pressure on data centers and could present a real opportunity for graphene-based chipsets to make a breakthrough. After all, to make use cases in the metaverse possible and counter the demand for increased compute power, building super-efficient data centers has to become a top priority.

Besides radical innovations in the infrastructure, major innovations in the software stack will be needed too. This brings me to standards: Open standards that everyone can adopt would provide a level playing field and ensure interoperability to some degree. This again could be a make-or-break factor  for the metaverse. The metaverse, similar to the beginning of the internet, would most likely have to support various different standards depending on the usage. Remember the Gopher and Usenet internet protocols? In the end, one common standard will prevail. Similar to the way that HTTP made the adoption of the worldwide web possible, the metaverse also must find its own standards. This will be easier said than done, as most companies will hear the siren’s song of a chance to establish universal dominance in the metaverse space.

Event-Driven World

In addition to standards, I can imagine two more topics of relevance. In order for the metaverse to be on par with the real world, it has to be event-driven in nature so that every significant change of state can be signaled and responded to by the interested audience. This will probably give rise to a whole breed of startups that will push the event-driven tools further and introduce new paradigms such as event sourcing.

Semantics will also be extremely important, together with context. In a siloed world where you control your data, you know the intent of that data and define the meaning of the data at the time stored. However, data in the metaverse is likely to be highly distributed. In a world where you are depending on your ecosystem for data, you really need to understand the meaning of the data exchanged with you, meaning that a lingua franca might be necessary to interpret formats and measurements correctly.

This might sound abstract. So, let me provide an example of an initiative that is now emerging in the IoT space.

First IO-Link

This is an initiative that tries to solve the lingua franca on the sensor level. The idea is that a sensor manufacturer posts all relevant data on the sensor in the open standard format called IO-Link. If you pick an IoT platform that supports IO-Link, hooking up the sensor to the platform becomes easy-peasy. The only thing the platform has to do is inspect the right IO-Link document, called an IODD, and configure itself accordingly. This can go all the way from onboarding the sensor to automatically creating the right dashboards.

Similarly, why not define objects in the metaverse in a similar way? The universal scene description of Pixar is a good example.  

And with that, we are rising slowly on our Maslow pyramid, getting to the point of security and trust. We didn’t do a very good job with the internet, and, 2 decades later, we are still stop-gapping security breaches. (The internet was unlikely to have been designed with security in mind.)

What’s Ahead for IoT

Currently, the way we mostly address trust on the internet is with gated access. We are used to “partitioned” access to websites, governed by separate clickwrap or browsewrap terms and conditions. As that approach does not lend itself to seamlessness in the metaverse, technology would need to provide the solution. For example, self-?executing smart contracts on a metaverse blockchain might very well be plausible.

That, together with some hard-learned lessons on how to protect your data in modern infrastructure (digital certification with PKI infrastructure), might allow the metaverse to put safeguards in place with minimal footprint.

Contrary to the universe, the metaverse will not be created with a big bang (although that would be the event of the century), but if the scaffolding comes off, then this will give rise to a whole new array of solutions and unlimited creativity.

Where consumers will go for games and entertainment, businesses will probably explore virtual reality meetings for enhanced collaboration—creating Zoom-on-steroids to bring training to the next level with fully simulated environments.

The metaverse, long seen as a futuristic dream, is quickly becoming a reality. What it will become remains to be seen. Or in the actual words of Spock: “It is not life as we know or understand it. Yet, it is obviously alive, it exists.”

Wishing you happy star-trekking across the metaverse.  

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