2022 - The Year Things Go Meta

Autonomous Buildings
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  • Lendlease Podium
In the second half of 2021, the concept of the metaverse briefly nudged pandemic headlines to second rung and dominated screens, boardrooms and memes. While the hype was all encompassing, there was a loose depth of understanding on how this new iteration of digital engagement would work and how it will impact business. Essentially, it encapsulates the next wave of web immersion and that galaxy is vast, including Augmented Reality /Virtual Reality, crypto, blockchain, AI, privacy tech, autonomy and digital twins.
In the second half of 2021, the concept of the metaverse briefly nudged pandemic headlines to second rung and dominated screens, boardrooms and memes. While the hype was all encompassing, there was a loose depth of understanding on how this new iteration of digital engagement would work and how it will impact business. Essentially, it encapsulates the next wave of web immersion and that galaxy is vast, including Augmented Reality /Virtual Reality, crypto, blockchain, AI, privacy tech, autonomy and digital twins.

In 2022, big tech are unleashing their metaverse strategies, already Microsoft has described its US$68.7 billion takeover of gaming studio Activision Blizzard as a way of making “building blocks for the metaverse” and is busy building the “enterprise metaverse”. Facebook, of course made its big brand pivot to Meta in October ahead of plans to be a ‘metaverse’ company. Tellingly, industries that are not directly related to the creation of the metaverse, like law and wealth management are already providing guidance and legal directives.

Whichever way the Metaverse develops commercially, it is an evolving digital interface that allows for a new vision and platform for businesses to take control of their data and digital assets. That new landscape opens the door to innovation that can transform and interplay with day to day life on a digital scale that we have not experienced before. Let’s take a glimpse at how this plays out in the year ahead.


Digital Twins and Future Cities
The concept of Digital Twins became a thriving solution for the property sector in 2021. Lendlease Digital CEO Bill Ruh describes digital twins as a virtual replica of an asset, processes and the way in which people interact with that asset. Now in 2022 the infrastructure of the virtual world will increasingly become twinned with our physical reality using the tools of augmented reality, AI and data.

“Through the leadership of the digital twin consortium, we are bringing together leaders across industry, academia and government to create consistent standards and a framework to adoption,” Ruh states.

Virtual Method, CEO & Co-Founder, David Francis predicts that 2022 will be the tipping point for the move towards cities being both physical and virtual and interwoven seamlessly.

“We will be creating better reasons to visit, work-in and reside-in cities. Buildings will quickly advance from purely physical places and will rather be drivers of the fight against climate-change. They will be supercharged with technology tools and by visiting a workplace built by an advanced AEC industry-leader, every worker will be more connected with the wider world,” Francis forecasts.

Indeed, the combination of both digital and sustainability imperatives will also serve to set a new standard for the sector. Accenture, Products Managing Director, Dominic McHugh, suggests, “leaders will develop full lifecycle management, enhanced by simulation technologies -including 3D modelling and digital twins-to improve the sustainable design of assets and the quality of manufactured products. ” He adds that embracing digital technology and the digital twin paradigm will help in the planning development and visualisation of a range of issues including transportation efforts / alternatives; choosing a good location to minimise impacts (using topography, sunlight, shade, wind); using alternative low carbon materials (wood, recycled materials); being an energy “prosumer” – generating its own energy and anticipating green lifecycle (waste management, energy efficiency).

Francis also explains that there will be many Metaverses driven by many different entities that may be placed-upon a single, real-world building or district. He adds that we will need regulation of these new Metaverse tools - most especially around visual data-privacy. “The lack of understanding around this today causes companies to give away so much private data, because they don’t yet understand how it is useful. So we will absolutely need governance of this virtual space.”

Digitising, Mobilising and Data
As digitisation sweeps through the property sector, data will be the key enabler for innovation at all levels. “Collecting and analysing big data is enabling real estate market players to make more informed and data driven decisions, especially when it comes to investing in, and managing properties,” says Accenture’s McHugh. He adds that the advent of 5G broadband will be life-essential for most to cater for asset users and as well as the building’s digital needs.

As an open platform, 5G is poised to have a direct impact on a spectrum of industries many of which impact the property sector such as smart manufacturing, smart power grids and autonomous buildings. Virtual Method’s Francis adds that the, “new technologies arriving in the next 12 months will make our experience of digitisation safer and will feel ‘more human’.” Enterprise 5G will also accelerate the hybrid resourcing of humans and machines in managing supply chain issues across factories, warehouses and transport systems.

Access to real time, accurate and structured data will be fundamental in 2022 according to Schneider Electric, International Operations, Digital Buildings Real Estate Segment Lead, Antonia Trumbull. “Without it you can count digital twins, virtual reality applications for all of these aspects goodbye. The other data input that is absolutely critical is people data. It is people that shape our built environment and without visibility into how people are using space, again in a real time, accurate and structure way, we won’t be able to apply insights and decision making to these areas.”

Holmes Solutions, EVP – Major Projects, Tim Porter agrees, “industries that have already become digitized have created better access, increased transparency, and greater functionality. This is all fed through data, and the ability to iterate and make better decisions. For so long construction has suffered from the inability to effectively make data-led improvements. Thankfully that is now changing, which creates a greater opportunity to meet our guiding principles in an increasingly sustainable way.”

The Recalibrated Office
The pandemic transformed our working lives in a seismic fashion and very few industries anticipate a return to pre-Covid work dynamics. Technology will be the saviour in the movement into the next phase of a modernised work environment, whether that is from home, the office, global or virtual.

“The impact of work from home (WFH) won’t ever go away,” says McHugh. “To entice people out of their home offices, we need to look at the 30-minute city aspiration to see if it’s still fit for purpose. Access to amenities, services, jobs, leisure options and green spaces will help to foster communities. If we want people to travel back into our cities then we need to look at how we can create experiences and opportunities for connection,” he adds.

Schneider Electric, Digital Buildings, Strategic Business Development, Michael Wood points out that as much as our virtual meetings have enabled flexible working arrangements, it is still incredibly important to maintain human interaction. “By shaping environments that enable seamless transition and that focus on creating spaces enticing face to face collaboration, we will enable the best of both worlds. Covid has driven us into a flexible working world. I believe that these flexible working arrangements won’t change, however by having environments where transitioning from the home office to the work office is going to be incredibly important. People are going to be drawn to places where this transition is seamless and connectivity and the availability of digital tools will enable this transition.”

Again Metaverse technology will be transforming this aspect of our working lives, Virtual Method CXO and C-Founder, Carli Johnston suggests, with the example of AR/VR replacing Zoom/Teams/Webex meetings as one of the number of new ways to collaborate. “We suspect the disruption will come from a huge shift in the value proposition of buildings and places. Creating an emotional connection with places through out-of-the-box thinking and positively and measurably contributing to the world from the place you work or live is revolutionary thinking.”

McHugh agrees stating that this next ‘virtual century’ will challenge traditional ways of place making. “The known tech-enabled trend towards more virtual experiences is rocketing ahead for both employees and customers with people being able to experience places, services and products using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).”

Integrating Innovation- The Challenge Ahead

Accenture reports that many companies planning, developing, and executing construction projects today are investing in new digital architectures and approaches, but only a third of companies are realising improvements in key performance indicators with data-driven digital transformation initiatives. “The main challenge awaiting the property and construction sector is to instil a data-driven culture-starting at leadership level, developing a data-committed mindset and translating this into all parts of the business. Company culture needs to be supported by data-sharing infrastructure and capabilities, data-centric talent, and incentive-based partnerships,” McHugh warns.

Carli Johnston, CXO and Co-Founder of Virtual Method adds that educating the industry about the increasing speed of change in the AR/VR industries and the potential impacts upon their business is also crucial for the year head. “The tools are not as important as the method by which they are implemented however, because the best digital tools in the world are left on the shelf if they aren’t implemented properly. Our goal in 2022 is to increase daily engagement with digital tools across our customers, because when this methodology is done well, the ‘change’ part just happens. Without that careful strategy and hands-on integration plus change management in addition to adoption, it’s all just ‘digital’.”
Innovation Technology Data Science Autonomous Buildings