‘Industrial metaverse’ heralds new era in automation
Siemens has launched an open industrial platform that, it says, will make digital transformation easier, faster and scalable. The Xcelerator platform includes IoT (Internet of Things) enabled hardware, software and digital services from Siemens, and from more than 50 certified third parties. Siemens plans to transform its entire portfolio of hardware and software to become modular, cloud-connected and built on standard application programming interfaces (APIs).
A core element in the platform is a digital twin technology that not only simulates industrial operations but can show what is happening on production lines in real time with photorealistic quality.
The new “industrial metaverse” platform will be supported by an “ecosystem” of partners, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and SAP. Offerings from Siemens and the third-party suppliers will be open, interoperable and flexible, and be delivered on a pay-as-you-go basis. Siemens is planning to expand the partnerships to include companies of all sizes and to create a marketplace for compatible products and services.
The Xcelerator platform will connect mechanical, electrical and software elements across products and production processes, supporting the convergence of IT and OT.
“Siemens Xcelerator will make it easier than ever before for companies to navigate digital transformation – faster and at scale,” says Siemens’ president and CEO, Roland Busch. “By combining the real and the digital worlds across operational and information technology, we empower customers and partners to boost productivity, competitiveness and scale up innovations.”
He adds that his company’s portfolio will be “transformed towards more open applications, with more cloud-based and as-a-service solutions and IoT-enabled hardware that can be constantly upgraded”.
Users will be offered capabilities such as predictive maintenance as a service. “You will pay only for what you need, when you need it,” Busch explains.
A key partner in the venture is the AI and graphics specialist Nvidia. The two companies plan to link Siemens’ physics-based digital models with Nvidia’s Omniverse 3D design and collaboration platform, resulting in physically accurate, AI-enabled real-time simulations. The partners predict that AI-driven digital twin technology will take industrial automation to a new level.
Omniverse is a simulated virtual-world engine that, Nvidia claims, allows live digital twins to be generated with full fidelity for the first time. It believes that combining Omniverse with Xcelerator will accelerate the use of digital twins to improve processes and boost productivity.
“Photorealistic, physics-based digital twins embedded in the industrial metaverse offer enormous potential to transform our economies and industries by providing a virtual world where people can interact and collaborate to solve real-world problems,” says Busch. “Through this partnership, we will make the industrial metaverse a reality for companies of all sizes.”
Partners in the industrial metaverse: Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang with Siemens CEO Roland Busch
Nvidia’s founder and CEO, Jensen Huang, hails the industrial metaverse as “a gigantic technology breakthrough. We have taken digital transformation and given it a giant leap forward. We can now operate factories virtually, using simulation, not animation.
“Siemens and Nvidia share a common vision that the industrial metaverse will drive digital transformation,” Huang adds. “This is just the first step in our joint effort to make this vision real for our customers and all parts of the global manufacturing industry.”
Siemens plans to integrate its industrial IoT portfolio and call it Industrial Operations X, which will bring together solutions and applications from sensors to the edge and the cloud, IoT as-a-service, low-code development, as well as a collection of ready-to-use apps. The platform will enable data from the real world of automation to be fused with the digital world of IT.
Elements of the industrial metaverse have already been trialled in several projects including:
• Siemens’ own Amberg electronics factory in Germany where output has been raised by more than 140% by applying technologies such as AI and predictive maintenance;
• Govia Thameslink’s London train services where digital technologies are being used to collect four billion data points per year, boosting the capacity of the network which dates back to Victorian times, and implementing predictive maintenance techniques that allow problems to solved before failures occur, thus cutting maintenance costs by up to 15%;
• the Norwegian power company Elvia which is using cloud technologies to rethink its grid to accommodate the large numbers of electric vehicles that are changing load patterns on the network.
Siemens describes the launch of Xcelerator as “the logical next step” in its digital strategy. Last year, the company’s digital revenues were worth €5.6bn, and it is targeting a 10% annual growth rate for its digital activities. The launch is also part of a corporate move towards as-a-service offerings.
“This is the logical next step in the implementation of our digitalisation strategy to enable even faster innovation and value creation,” says Busch. “Siemens Xcelerator brings the power of our focused technology company together with a thriving ecosystem of technology partners. We are joining together to simplify digital transformation so that customers of all sizes can benefit at speed and scale.”
In addition to its use in automation, the new platform will also be applied to other areas in which Siemens operates, including building services, transport systems and power networks. Siemens recently announced plans to buy the US asset and maintenance management software business, Brightly Software. This acquisition will become a core element of Siemens’ Xcelerator for buildings portfolio.
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