Redefining the physical world through the metaverse – what’s new for 2022?

by FM Media
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What’s going to happen with the anywhere workplace, digital twins, AI and the metaverse in 2022? Vivian Pan peers into the crystal ball.

Increasingly, people want to choose where and when they work, and they look to the workplace – wherever that may be – to deliver much more in the way of services and amenities. Every day technology is pushing the boundaries of what physical workplaces can deliver for organisations. All of which means that facilities management is transforming from an asset, building and structure-centred activity to one that focuses on people and performance. 

In the current context of disruption and inconsistency, there’s relentless pressure on organisations to innovate, and the workplace has a vital role to play: supporting collaboration and boosting creativity. Australian organisations are embracing a future fit for technology-first strategies, laying the foundations for competing on the world stage: building loyalty among customers and tackling barriers to entry that historically restricted global access. 

Here are a few 2022 predictions for Australian business managers and technology-first facilities executives: 

Digital twins hit the mainstream – welcome to the metaverse

In 2022, we will see digital twin technology increasingly fall into the hands of consumers, as anyone with access to a smart phone can not only capture a physical space but immerse themselves within it entirely – enter the metaverse. For FMs, the logistics and layout of the building can be taught and understood more quickly with digital twins, as the information will be visual and clear when they learn the layout. This will continue into 2022. 

In Gartner’s latest IoT implementation survey, only 13 percent of respondents claim to already use digital twins, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) are either in the process of establishing the technology or plan to do so in the next year. This rapid growth in adoption is largely due to extensive education by technology vendors, leading to digital twins becoming part of enterprise digital strategies.

While true integration of digital twins is still relatively complicated, the ability to integrate with each other will be a differentiating factor in the future, as physical assets diminish.

The rise and rise of the ‘anywhere workplace’

As vaccination rates rise, workplaces are gradually opening. Across the Asia-Pacific region, only 40 percent of businesses are planning on making anywhere-work permanent, compared to 70 percent globally. Firms need a work strategy that balances employee expectations with the feasibility of hybrid work approaches.

Hybrid working here to stay for 2022 and beyond, with the adoption of digital communication tools continuing to expand. Digital tools aimed at scaling collaboration are set to transform the workplace in the new year as more distributed teams embrace new ways to communicate. 

As the distance between different partners in the business ecosystem expands, the digital twin makes your location irrelevant, giving you a chance to access up to date data no matter where you are. Reducing on-site visits using digital twins can save your business time, money and meet any social distancing requirements. 

A much-loved relic of the pandemic era, remote working, will be taken to the next level in 2022, with digital twin technologies making ‘virtual offices’ a reality. 

Foot traffic turns virtual for Aussie retailers

As the Australian retail industry saw a year where spending had slumped to a 28-year low – with research showing a drop of 50 percent in foot traffic on peak days. With the metaverse taking the retail sector by storm, we will be seeing more Aussie retailers jumping on the bandwagon, using digital twins to offer a virtual shopping experience. 

While retailers can somewhat offset reduced foot traffic in physical stores by boosting investments in online acquisition, this effort will require reallocating of funds from offline media to digital channels. We are entering the world of ‘phygital’ – combining physical and digital touchpoints, where there is not a physical world or digital world, but rather a completely connected one. Those retailers trumping competition are adapting their strategies to account for this shift in consumer behaviour – compensating for those consumers that prefer brick-and-mortal shopping, as well as those that purchase online. 

The COVID-19 physical distancing measures and resulting recession work against all three in-store value drivers – foot traffic, time in shop and consumer confidence. The challenges facing the retail industry are not new, COVID-19 has simply accelerated and amplified cracks in the walls that were already visible. Instead of a short bump with a return to pre-pandemic shopping patterns, retail locations will adapt to a new status quo throughout 2022, where shoppers expect a blended online and offline experience.

Insurers tackle fires, floods with AI

The arrival of La Niña for Australia’s 2021-’22 summer has quite literally rained on the parade of sun lovers across the country, not least for Aussie insurers who are now braced for a flurry of flood related claims. With automation already affecting the insurance industry in the areas of underwriting, claims and broking, substantial changes to the industry are certainly set to take hold in 2022. 

We can expect insurers to embrace digital twin technology to house historical data and ensure accurate rebates when disaster strikes, not only saving time and money but also helping people get back to their lives as quickly as possible. With the introduction of modern technologies like digital twins, claims that traditionally took days are now taking just hours thanks to AI. 

AI can build predictive models for expense management, high value losses, reserving, settlement, litigation, and fraudulent claims by using complex algorithms. These algorithms compare information provided by customers to make appropriate recommendations for each risk scenario. Whereas humans are unable to offer 24-hour support, AI systems like chat bots, can process concerns that are either typed or spoken from customers and provide personalised service.

The insurance industry has not always been viewed as an ‘early adopter’ of new technologies, however the combination of a new way of thinking and the development of AI has enormous potential to completely transform customer experiences within the insurance industry.

The future of work in the metaverse

The metaverse has, and will continue to, impact — if not completely redefine — the way people work. No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has already been the biggest test for the corporate world, shifting work and employees to remote collaboration, blurring the lines between real and virtual personas. 

While the shift toward digital ways of working has become the new standard, the metaverse will only accelerate this trend. The metaverse might be another buzzword in the multitude of trends in the tech world, but unlike many others, it has its roots in society already. With COVID-19 forcing to immerse themselves into the digital world, the metaverse is no longer fictional – it has arrived and it is here to stay. 

Vivian Pan is vice president of international marketing, APAC and EMEA, at Matterport

Photo by James Langley on Unsplash

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