12 Gennaio 2023

Discover how Microsoft is innovating in the metaverse for a sustainable, clean energy future

A connected city powered by technology and devices

The familiar phrase “do more with less” has taken on a new and different meaning in recent years. In the past, we often prioritized the ability to do more in less time with fewer resources and people. However, with global economic and geopolitical uncertainties, sustainability concerns, and employment trends such as the increase of remote work and demand for a more digital workforce, the energy sector needs a different approach to address these challenges. By fusing digital twins, augmented reality, the internet of things (IoT), AI, and other technologies, the metaverse can provide an interactive digital space for solving some of the energy industry’s most pressing issues.

Transform your workforce

Attract, train, and retain employees by equipping them with the skills and technologies to drive your transformation into a sustainable energy operator and service provider.

Head of a young woman looking to the left, wearing a Hololens 2 mixed reality device, in a manufacturing environment.

Organizations doing more with less are using digital innovation to transform business outcomes. Transformative innovation isn’t about replacing people with technology or asking them to do more. In a new era, innovators use technology to turn what you already have and do into a superpower.

“Doing more with less doesn’t mean working harder or longer. It means applying technology to amplify what you can do and ultimately what an organization can achieve amid today’s constraints.”Satya Nadella, Microsoft Chairman and CEO.

Innovative energy organizations are leveraging the Microsoft Cloud and the transformative technologies that come with it. The metaverse merges technologies like IoT, AI, and digital twins with augmented and virtual realities to provide immersive, 3D experiences of modeled data. These digital representations are used not only for entertainment but to transform real-world business scenarios in multiple industries. Though the metaverse is in its early stages, there are many examples of foundational building blocks, like the ones I describe below.

Advancing operational excellence

The ability to manipulate 3D digital replicas of the physical world enables virtual product design and improves production and supply chain processes. Engineers and designers can collaborate in a digital space to test new concepts and processes or identify new efficiencies. Equinor, a leader in the energy transition and floating offshore wind business, designs, operates, and maintains wind farms remotely before they’re even built. Wind farm developers face significant challenges including remote, harsh environments, the integration of diverse complex systems, and not least of all transmitting energy from offshore locations. By creating a virtual wind farm, Equinor simplifies and accelerates the design-build process by bringing data sets together and testing wind farm concepts based on digital simulations.

Hear from Equinor’s Executive Vice President and Head of Technology, Digital, and Innovation, Hege Skryseth, about how Equinor is using the industrial metaverse (story starts at 8:28).

Improving workplace safety and productivity

The metaverse isn’t just for engineers and business strategists. Interactive simulations and mixed reality tools can also be used to transform your workforce with improved training, support, and safety for field workers and frontline employees. Approximately 80 percent of employees worldwide do not sit behind a desk to do their jobs, especially in sectors like energy, manufacturing, healthcare, and agriculture.1 This workforce is also historically under-equipped with digital technology, while job roles and skill requirements rapidly evolve as companies struggle to fill even their current positions. Innovative companies are empowering their workforce and ensuring that frontline employees are digitally equipped to acquire new skills, serve customers, and solve problems.

The energy industry has a long history of innovating with Microsoft technologies to improve insights and operations. Energy businesses are already using advanced analytics, connected devices, and AI to make better decisions, monitor diverse operations, and optimize performance. Today, energy leaders are turning to the industrial metaverse to not only increase efficiency and reduce risk but also to accelerate the transition to cleaner energy.

In the power and utilities sector, companies are integrating collaboration software with mixed reality tools to help operational and maintenance workers. For example, German energy firm E.ON is using AI-supported inspection tools to maintain power lines more safely and efficiently. Powered by Microsoft Azure, the virtual inspection tool with drone images helps speed up fault detection and prevent power outages with accurate, predictive maintenance. As more data is collected, the intelligent system continues to improve for a feedback loop that E.ON calls “collaborative AI.” Not only does the technology improve the quality of the inspections, it also increases safety by reducing the need for maintenance workers to physically climb poles to perform visual inspections.

In Japan, Hokkaido Electric Power Company (HEPCO) is transforming the inspection of its thermal power stations with a mixed reality application that leverages the Microsoft Cloud and Microsoft HoloLens 2. HEPCO uses the application to enable real-time collaboration and remote support for patrol inspection operations. In addition to improving the efficiency of inspection over large, remote areas, the solution provides alerts that help workers avoid injury. HEPCO employees equipped with a HoloLens 2 device receive a virtual view of the inspection route. When the worker reaches a site, the mixed reality experience also shows the employee inspection areas along with prior issues for intuitive, easy navigation. The solution will be deployed at multiple thermal power stations to improve inspection processes and help provide a reliable supply of energy across the region. Benefits can include improved operational stability, faster training, and the ability to equip its entire workforce with a more advanced skillset.  

Innovating for a more sustainable future

The energy industry is using Microsoft technologies to do more with less in new ways. Today, the industrial metaverse is creating more opportunities for companies and workers alike and increasing the adoption of greener practices and renewable energy. By enabling energy companies to more efficiently and affordably design new solutions like offshore wind farms, the metaverse helps accelerate the energy transition and our collective path to net zero. With the help of the Microsoft Data Platform and digital twin technology, bp is identifying areas to reduce carbon emissions and model complex new energy solutions. Immersive digital technologies can also help people stay safe and make a bigger impact at workwhether it’s an engineer testing a new design, or a frontline maintenance worker detecting and repairing power lines.

From the earliest days of industrial automation to the modern era of connected devices and edge computing, technology has helped increase operations efficiency and improve productivity, collaboration, and economic growth. Today, technology is more important than ever as we reimagine the world and our roles in more sustainable ways. With the metaverse, energy companies can more efficiently scale data and real-time insights through simulation models and digital twins they have been using for many years. Microsoft, alongside our customers and partners, are innovating together to accelerate the creation and adoption of new, virtual solutions for a cleaner energy future.

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