While I was at a semiconductor industry conference in Belgium recently, I heard something interesting in the introductory keynote. The speaker covered a lot of ground but kept reiterating that one of the greatest drivers of the chip manufacturing industry — and hardware innovation in general — was the Metaverse. Although none of the presentations throughout the event were about the Metaverse, it kept popping up in slideshows as a motivation for making transistors smaller and network speeds faster.
Why? Because the Metaverse is built on data — lots of it. The amount of data that will be required to run our visions for the Metaverse will be orders of magnitude higher than what we are currently working with, mostly due to the computation needed to have many concurrent users interacting in a real-time rendered 3D environment. This places a huge demand on developing faster network devices, higher capacity storage systems, and more powerful processors.
It also has implications for the enterprise. Organizations have to be prepared to gather, store, and act on larger amounts of data than ever before. This requirement entails ensuring air-tight cybersecurity, user privacy, and adopting the right tools such as AI.
Next Generation of Data Engineering
Artificial intelligence in particular is a backbone on top of which the Metaverse will be built. Meta has already announced the development of a new AI research supercomputer, called the RSC. According to its website: “The work done with RSC will pave the way toward building technologies for the next major computing platform — the Metaverse, where AI-driven applications and products will play an important role.”
In the same way that computer software, like Excel, boomed in the personal computing era and video conferencing, like Zoom, during the pandemic, AI is rapidly becoming a must-have in any enterprise toolkit, regardless of industry.
Some call this the next generation of data engineering. Think about it like this: Supply chain issues that used to stem from geopolitical tensions, ships getting stuck in canals, or labor shortages are all flipped on their head: digital-first, then physical. Products and services exist virtually first, with the option to be translated into physical reality. That means the only bottleneck is data, but at every step of the way, from acquisition to transmission to analysis. Data is the raw material and the finished product.
Gathering Data for Decision Making
In terms of the Metaverse, now is the best time to get started on gathering intelligence, particularly if you’re unsure how your company fits in. Since it’s so incredibly early still, there’s nothing wrong with just exploring and experimenting with lightweight investments, teams, and projects. If a venture works out, great! If not, you’re still ahead of the competition having gained some experience.
For example, Nike launched its platform Nikeland in November 2021. It has reportedly seen more than 7 million users already, allowing users to experience the Nike brand in a unique, personalized way. It was also one of the first brands to offer fashion NFTs in conjunction with RTFKT Studios. Other companies have already partnered and purchased virtual real estate in Metaverse platforms Decentraland and The Sandbox, everyone from Samsung and Atari to Miller Lite and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Additionally, Spotify recently opened Spotify Island in cooperation with Roblox to further engage music fans after seeing the overwhelming success of Metaverse concerts from top artists like Travis Scott and Ariana Grande. Other brands such as Snap, Niantic, and 8th Wall are building tools for brands to leverage mobile and web-based augmented reality to enhance their branding.
Forget about big data. This is the time to gather small data. Focus groups, small project teams, lightweight campaigns, risky experiments run by recent hires or even interns — this is where innovation comes from, and how the future is built. There are some questions you should be asking yourself during this phase:
- What do users engage with most?
- Which kind of worlds or experiences do your existing users or customers prefer?
- How can you capitalize on the new audience you reach by exploring these new channels, one you may not have engaged before?
Finally, as companies face more scrutiny for keeping their data strategies behind closed curtains, I urge you to think about what role you will play in this ‘new generation of data engineering,’ perhaps by considering new forms of data storage empowered by blockchain.
Many argue that financial, transactional, and ownership data can be set on a blockchain to increase transparency, give power to the user, and improve security. Data pipelines can include decentralized methods like Filecoin, IPFS, dApps, and p2p networks in a variety of ways. Especially as data proliferates out of the Metaverse and becomes increasingly personal, users are demanding to be in control of their data, to have data ownership.
Blockchain can also help with data sharing. Transparency and open data flow are key for the user experience in the Metaverse, far more so than in current 2D web pages. This is what Forbes recently calls data portability; it’s another important paradigm to keep in mind as we move forward.
In summary, there are three overarching data trends you have to remember as you transition into the Metaverse: data proliferation, data ownership, and data portability.
But I can’t finish without adding a bonus one: data integrity. I’ll leave others to break this down for you, but don’t forget — build a world you want to live in!
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