What would be the future of logistics in the metaverse?
Published on 5 May 2022
The metaverse - a contraction of meta ("beyond" in ancient Greek) and universe - has the major players in the digital world buzzing. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, sees the metaverse as the future of the Internet. He is so convinced of this that he has made it the focal point and the new identity of his group. At the end of 2021, Facebook changed its name to Meta. Mark Zuckerberg is far from being the only one interested in the metaverse, whose commercial prospects are immense. According to PwC, the metaverse could be worth 1,500 billion dollars by 2030! But what exactly is the metaverse? And what will it concretely change for the logistics world? Discover this game changer with Nicolas Picquerey, Director of Generix Group's Consulting Division.
We've been hearing a lot about the metaverse lately. What is it about?
"It is a 3D virtual world in which everyone can live experiences in real time - work, interact, trade, play... - through an avatar. People sometimes confuse metavers with virtual reality (VR), but metavers is much broader," explains Nicolas Picquerey.
Echoing Nicolas Picquerey's definition, Matthew Ball, a referent in the field, makes this comparison: "VR is a way to evolve in the metaverse. To say that VR is the metaverse is like saying that the mobile internet is an application."
How will the metaverse impact the world of logistics?
"The metaverse opens up a new channel of exchange between brands and customers, making it possible to interact with virtual products, either from the real world or before they materialize.
Thanks to it, we will be able to try furniture in a virtual copy of our home. After a scan of our living rooms, it will be possible to scroll through different models of such sofa or such coffee table that we like. We will also be able to create avatars that are the reflection of our physical being at the moment (t) and make him try on clothes on virtual websites to check the cut, the color and the size and to make sure of our look before buying it.
There are many more things that can be done, because in a virtual world, the field of possibilities is increased. Brands will be able to offer a much wider range of products, to offer customization services. They will be able to test new products with great ease, but also to check the interest of customers without paying all the development and production costs... In concrete terms, customers will be seduced in the "verse", will buy in Bitcoin and will receive "perfect" products at the place of their choice. This multiplication of the offer to meet their needs will necessarily make logistics evolve towards a new model, based on centralized, highly concentrated storage points, capable of producing or finalizing a customization and serving a large area (Europe, America...) very quickly. The bipolarity that is currently balanced between "street" and "web" commerce will see its codes change again with an additional customer relationship channel. This will further accentuate the preparation and delivery of single orders."
Is a purely virtual supply chain possible?
"Absolutely! But just like in the real world, we will have to manage the flows between virtual consumption and virtual production. Let's take the example of a company that produces customized virtual sneakers: to adjust the shoes to the customer's request, human intervention is still necessary today. This means that there can be production congestion, as one person can only customize a finite number of sneakers per day. With intelligence on the systems, we could predict trends, make purchase intent predictions or event pre-sales, and allow the manufacturer to prepare. For example, by producing 80% of semi-finished products in advance, he could be very reactive to the arrival of concrete demand. The finalization of the products can be done by automated numerical control equipment, including personalized packaging."
Does the subject of security also apply to purchased virtual objects?
"Of course. Today, virtual artworks are already secure. Tomorrow, when the market for personalized virtual products becomes more democratic, it will be just as important to secure them. For example, the customer could be offered a virtual warehouse safe where all his products would be secure. To put on his avatar's custom sneakers, the customer would just have to make a request to the virtual warehouse, which would provide him with the desired time, and protect him after use."
Will the management of physical warehouses also be transformed by the metaverse?
"Less than stores, but the principle of modeling a logistics site identically on the metaverse could have many advantages: for example, one could imagine monitoring and predictive work on warehouse activity, but also carrying out some of the operations remotely, by connecting to the metaverse at home or on one's computer workstation. A bit like what surgeons do today when they operate remotely: they put on gloves that allow them to control a robot at the other end of the world. Imagine the work of a forklift operator in a frozen food warehouse, but... from a room at room temperature!"
Do you see any other potential benefits?
"I see at least two. The first is to push the 'digital twin' concept further. Miniaturized cameras placed throughout the warehouse, which not only map the spaces, but also track the movement of goods and personnel or the gestures made... This digital twin, coupled with AI, can find avenues for improvement, optimize the operation of the warehouse, but also challenge the existing."
And the other asset?
"This ultra-faithful modeling of the warehouse could also be interesting for training purposes. For example, a virtual pre-visit of the logistics site could be made, to integrate new employees more quickly or to show sensitive points by virtual actions and therefore without danger. It would also become possible to train remotely on warehouse management jobs (forklift drivers, order pickers, etc.). This is promising, because today it is both costly and time-consuming to train operators, especially since the high seasonality of the activity periodically requires the use of temporary workers. If each future operator can be trained at home, the warehouse manager will be sure to have competent and productive personnel on board from the very first day."
Sources : business.ladn.eu (FR)