Why the Industrial Metaverse is closer than you think

Keynote address by Roland Busch, President and CEO of Siemens AG, from the launch of Siemens Xcelerator – our open digital business platform.

Today we want to talk about speed; how we can accelerate digital transformation; and how we can do this with you and for you - our customers and partners.

During the pandemic, many organizations turned to technology to keep their operations up and running.

When supply chains broke, assembly lines came to a standstill. Digital technologies gave us transparency; we knew where we had available components and capacities. For example, when we didn’t have the parts in Amberg to make a specific version of our Simatic Controllers, we shifted production to Chengdu instead. Digital technologies enabled us to deliver when others couldn‘t.

Technology also saved lives. Some companies were able to adapt production lines to make medical ventilators – and they did it within weeks. Or they ramped up the production of Covid vaccines in just a few months. When we combine the real and the digital worlds, we can achieve new levels of flexibility and we can bring products to market faster. Teams can collaborate from anywhere, saving time and travel costs. The very same digital technologies that saved lives during the pandemic can give firms a competitive advantage today.

 

But for all its promises, digital transformation is hard. It can be difficult to move beyond proof of concept. It can be difficult to deploy and integrate solutions. It can be difficult to integrate legacy systems and to fuse data silos. And it can be difficult to scale up. But when it works, it unlocks huge potential. Here is an example:

Mars Curiosity Rover

For a decade now, the Mars Curiosity Rover has been collecting samples and recording images of the red planet. NASA uses only the most advanced technologies for their missions since failure is not an option. That’s one of the reasons why their engineers used a digital twin from Siemens. This allowed them to simulate the extreme environment on Mars – lots of rocks, storms, freezing temperatures. The most critical part was the landing. But they were able to test the Rover virtually, until they got it right.

Whether your mission is to explore Mars, to increase flexibility of your factory or electricity grid, if you want to reduce time to market or achieve net zero: it is our mission to make your digital transformation as easy as possible. We want to put the technology in your hands. We know there has to be a better way, than how we’ve been doing things up until now.  

That’s why we decided to make a fundamental change. We asked ourselves: What if our hardware was already IoT enabled and all you had to do was plug and play? What if applications were open and interoperable, so you weren’t locked into the solutions of one company? And what if there was a platform that enabled all of this? The change starts today.

Accelerating the digital transformation

We are launching Siemens Xcelerator – our open digital business platform. It will accelerate the digital transformation for you - our customers, our partners - and everyone in our growing ecosystem. It marks a step change in how you can use our technologies and in the way we work together. 

Our business platform has three pillars. The first is a portfolio of IoT enabled hardware, software and services. The second is a growing ecosystem. And the third is a marketplace that will evolve over time. 

Siemens Xcelerator is a commitment. A commitment to openness and simplicity. We’re committing to making all our digital portfolio modular, cloud connected and interoperable; it will work with standard APIs, so it will fit in with any other applications you have. We will make it easier for you to try things out – you can pay as you go and use our software-as-a-service.

But Siemens Xcelerator is not only about software. The curated portfolio also includes hardware and services; they all complement one another and work well together. Also, Siemens Xcelerator is more than just a commitment: today, you will learn what is already available. And the portfolio will grow, step by step, and include more and more offerings over time. Some of them will actually be from our partners. Because no company can do it alone.

More than 50 companies have already been certified. This means their offerings can be found in the Siemens Xcelerator marketplace, next to ours. There are the big players which you might expect, like Accenture, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and SAP. And there are smaller ones with smart ideas and solutions. Siemens Xcelerator is also a commitment to collaboration. And it will allow you to accelerate your digital transformation.

But no matter how fast we run, and how much we accelerate, digital transformation simply doesn’t stop. We see the next wave of disruption coming already and it is called the metaverse. 

Some describe it as the next iteration of the internet - a virtual world which is always on, a world where people can meet, work, play and shop. When it comes to the Industrial Metaverse, we can see some of the concrete benefits that it could bring. Already today, we use many of the technologies that will define the metaverse: among them 5G, AI, edge technologies and digital twins.

 

I will give you a few concrete examples – they have one thing in common: they combine the real and the digital worlds. Because when we combine the real and the digital worlds, the real world works much better. When we combine the real and the digital worlds, we can reach new levels of productivity and sustainability. When we combine the real and the digital worlds, we can change the way we live.

Siemensstadt, Berlin & Thameslink rail line, London

In Berlin, we are using digital twin technology to create a city district which will be both 100% CO2-neutral and 100% barrier-free. We call it Siemensstadt „Square,”. Together with our partner, Bentley Systems, we started out by creating a holistic digital twin. This twin not only uses data on the shapes of the buildings and the street layout; but also, this twin will use data on power usage and transport in real time. As people start to use it and call it their home, the district can optimize itself and become more efficient and livable every day.  

In London, Siemens is guaranteeing technical availability of up to 100% for the Thameslink rail line. This is possible because of predictive maintenance: we collect 9 million performance data per week from the fleet and by using AI, we can predict when parts are likely to fail – of course we service and maintain them long before. The outcome: fewer delays and improved customer satisfaction.

Digital native plant, Nanjing

In Nanjing, we have built a digital native plant. Even before we poured the first concrete, we simulated the plant’s performance with a digital twin. In a virtual inspection, we spotted a painting machine without proper ventilation. In the real world this would have a caused a lot of hassle. Yet all it took was a few drag and drops during the design phase o put it in a more suitable spot. And the true benefits of this digital plant? Manufacturing capacity increased by 200% and productivity by 20%.  

For over a decade now, our digital twin technology has been helping customers across all industries to boost their productivity. Today we offer the industry’s most comprehensive, physics-based digital twin. It not only looks like the real thing, it also behaves like the real thing: it represents the exact functions and behaviors from the system in the real world. How does a product behave, if we shake it, heat it up or if we run our software on it? The twin will tell you.

We will now bring digitalization to the next level. Let me give you an idea of what could be possible in the Industrial Metaverse

Imagine your factory in China is slowing down: it produces fewer parts every day, nothing bad, but it adds up. Your team at the factory has no idea why this is happening. To fix this, you bring together a global team: the production engineers in China and the engineers at their sister plant in Mexico, the product designer in South Africa and the company in Germany that made the robots.

They meet and collaborate in the metaverse: they immerse themselves in the digital twin of the plant, which is the perfect mirror image of the real plant. And of course, it is not a still photography. It also mirrors exactly what is happening at the real plant, and in real time: down to the physical behavior of robots.

The team is looking for the problem in the virtual world, first, in the digital twin. They zoom in. They zoom out. They move things around. And to all of them it feels as if they were at the real factory in China, together. In part, that’s because of the photo-realistic visualization. The team decides to travel back in time - in the metaverse - to a point when output had been strong. What has changed since then? Finally, they realize that one robot on the feeder line had missed its latest software update and is out of synch. A rare miss!

Time to fix it. The team updates the software in the digital twin, first: the virtual “problem robot” immediately speeds up and works in synch. Now the team is confident enough to update the software on the real robot at the real plant. Problem solved. This is the moment the real world starts to mirror the digital twin. A closed loop between the real and the digital worlds. 

Of course, the Industrial metaverse will not just help us fix things when they break. It will be a place where engineers, workers, anybody, can experiment and test improvements – try out big new ideas. Also, AI bots will tour our digital twins 24/7, on their own – and come up with innovative ideas to make things better.

The Industrial Metaverse will be a place where we innovate at the speed of software. It will offer enormous potential to transform our economies and industries.

Who will build the metaverse? That’s like asking who built the internet. It’s all of us. That’s why, today, we are announcing a partnership with NVIDIA. A company well known for its high-power computing, visualization and AI-capabilities. Jointly we are going to work towards the “Industrial Metaverse”.

We will connect Siemens Xcelerator and NVIDIA’s Omniverse platforms to create photo realistic, physics-based digital twins. This will give our customers a highly immersive experience and allow them to make decisions in real time and with greater confidence. 

Siemens Xcelerator

To make digital transformation easier, for you and for everyone else, we are building the Siemens Xcelerator business platform. You remember: a comprehensive, curated portfolio, a powerful ecosystem, an evolving marketplace. A defined technical and commercial governance will make it easier for partners to come on board.

But it also has to be easy to use. That’s why the whole Siemens Xcelerator portfolio is designed to connect and to fit into your world. If a Siemens product has the X on it, it means that it follows all of these four principles: interoperable, flexible, open and as-a-Service. Let’s take them one by one.

  • Interoperable: If you combine several applications from Siemens Xcelerator, it will feel like plug and play, because the solutions and technologies can talk, and understand one another.
  • Flexible: Every business environment is unique and has its specific needs. 95% of your landscape might be rather standard - but the remaining 5% can cause a bad headache. When you connect the Siemens Xcelerator portfolio with legacy systems, or with applications from other companies, we promise that those 5% will be manageable: we can even give you tools to make things fit 100%, like Mendix, our low-code platform.
  • Open: You will always be free to use applications or products from other companies, or from the open-source community. And you can connect them with our Siemens Xcelerator offerings. 
  • Finally: Our offerings come as a service. Take the example of predictive maintenance. You might want to know when is the exact moment to service a pump. You could buy components and a software license and build the solution yourself. Or you use one of our Siemens Xcelerator offerings. You pay only for what you need and when you need it, without a big upfront investment.

We’re creating a business platform that has the power to accelerate your digital transformation. To make it easier, faster and more scalable. Its purpose is to create value - for you. For companies of all sizes; in industry, buildings, grids and transport.  

We are building Siemens Xcelerator with you – and for you. Because you want to do more with less. Because you want to disrupt, rather than be disrupted. Because you want to innovate faster. And because you want to accelerate.