Technology Record - Issue 27: Winter 2022

THE L A S T WORD How would you define the metaverse? It’s still very much in the nascent stage and there’s no consensus on the best definition. Technically, the metaverse isn’t new; it’s the next generation of the internet and the next step in the virtual world that we’ve been creating for some time with technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented and virtual reality. Many think the metaverse will be a shared virtual environment for gaming, whereas others believe it will be a space for shopping, socialising, banking, enterprise communication, collaborative projects, education, and much more. What opportunities does the metaverse offer for enterprises? The metaverse could potentially transform the way we live and work, likely in ways we haven’t even conceived of yet. Initially, businesses will head in different directions – for example, some will use the metaverse to improve the customer experience, while others will prioritise enhancing employee communication and collaboration. However, jumping all-in too quickly without a strategy will be detrimental to their success. Instead, enterprises should explore how the metaverse can be used to improve one area of business and then gradually move on to others. Some firms will succeed and become the leaders that shape the future of the metaverse; others will fail, reassess their strategies and eventually become followers. What are the biggest risks of the metaverse and how can businesses protect both users and their data? There are legitimate concerns about the safety and mental well-being of users, possible identity theft, private data being leaked, and much more. The biggest priority will be for firms to ensure they’re implementing the most effective antivirus software and other security capabilities. They will also have to consider employee training and ethical use policies. Gartner predicts 25 per cent of the global population will log into the metaverse for at least one hour per day by 2026. When do you expect it to become universal? When the first smartphones came out, we had a few hundred applications and they were mainly for entertainment, but now we have millions for everything from digital banking to news, enterprise communication, home security and monitoring our health. The metaverse will follow the same trajectory; it will start slow and simple with applications for virtual gaming or socialising and as these become successful, firms will explore how the metaverse can be used for other purposes. Some elements of the metaverse will be available within the next five to 10 years, but it will likely be a couple of decades before it becomes ubiquitous like the internet. Eventually, the metaverse will feature in every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Making the most of the metaverse The metaverse is the latest technology buzzword, but what is it and what new challenges and opportunities does it bring for enterprises? Technology industry analyst, columnist and influencer Jeff Kagan shares his insights BY R E B E CCA G I B SON “Eventually, the metaverse will feature in every aspect of our personal and professional lives” 192