Technology and business go hand in hand, and never has that been more obvious than when the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns hit, necessitating that millions of people around the world lean even more heavily on technology to continue to work through it as normal, albeit as remotely, as possible.
Since the pandemic, many companies have either moved to fully remote or a hybrid working model, so it’s clear that that reliance on technology is going to continue, and increase. It’s clear that the advancements in technology will become even more important to Irish businesses moving forward: according to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2022, 89 per cent of business leaders believe “that emerging technologies are now enabling their organisation to emerge with a broader and more ambitious vision for the future”.
According to Accenture, the metaverse is “a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models poised to revolutionise life and enterprise in the next decade”.
The metaverse should be seen as the next evolution of the internet and a continuum of technologies— David Kirwan
The metaverse applies to all aspects of business, “from consumer to worker and across the enterprise; from reality to virtual and back; from 2D to 3D; and from cloud and artificial intelligence to extended reality, blockchain, digital twins, edge technologies and beyond”.
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David Kirwan, head of technology, Accenture in Ireland, says that many people will think of virtual reality (VR) headsets when they think of the metaverse, but this is wrong. “It should be seen as the next evolution of the internet and a continuum of technologies that allow the virtual/digital worlds and the real world to merge closer with more streamlined interactions.”
While 80 per cent of Irish respondents to the Technology Vision survey believe that the next generation of the web – Web3 and the metaverse – will fundamentally change how businesses interact with customers online, only 26 per cent believe it will have a transformational impact compared with 42 per cent globally. Additionally, only 19 per cent of Irish respondents trust that artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to improve their lives and experiences, as opposed with 42 per cent globally, and 15 per cent trust how it is being implemented, compared with 35 per cent globally.
The danger is that companies will be overly cynical or sceptical and think that this is not for them— David Kirwan
According to Kirwan, these figures show that companies have work to do to demystify how AI is being used and remove this level of distrust or concern.
Kirwan explains how the metaverse will affect Irish businesses – and why they should embrace it. “Companies need to pay attention to this or risk being left behind,” he says. “The danger is that companies will be overly cynical or sceptical and think that this is not for them.”
“This could be seen as similar to companies asking themselves ‘do we need a website?’ 25 years ago. It seems strange to even think that people thought like that, but they did. So, I think that companies need to approach it with a similar mindset – not exploring the metaverse does not mean that your business will disappear overnight, but it does mean that you may be ignoring new opportunities.”
Medb Corcoran, Ireland lead for Accenture Labs, describes one of the projects her team worked on that used AI-generated data to reflect the physical world.
“My team based in The Dock, Accenture’s global R&D and Innovation Centre, recently worked as part of a global Accenture team on a project with the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Our aim was to define a framework to operationalise principles of fairness, ethics, accountability and transparency to guide financial services companies.
“To aid adoption, specific-use cases were shown as illustrations of how to apply the framework. The financial services companies did not want to use real data for these use cases, for customers’ privacy and for competitive reasons.”
The team was faced with a dilemma – “How can we create data that is close enough to the real use case data to meaningfully illustrate the application of the framework, but different enough to protect the privacy of the individuals in the real data?”
Our aim was to define a framework to operationalise principles of fairness, ethics, accountability and transparency to guide financial services companies— Medb Corcoran
They developed an AI tool to generate and validate data from a real, seed portfolio. This was used to build a model with accuracy in line with marketplace benchmarks. When run on the original data, it had fairness ‘scenarios’ baked in, and could not be used to identify any individuals in the seed portfolio it was generated from.
The team is now using the same technology to generate synthetic patient records for rare diseases, when there is insufficient data to develop robust predictive models, showing how versatile and applicable this AI-enabled technology is, and the many applications it can have both for business and other industries.
“A key step will be to ensure that your technology stack can support these new technologies – so companies should start taking steps now to address and put the right technical foundations in place,” says Kirwan. “The important components will be the cloud because most/all of this will be enabled by the cloud, and then microservices and APIs that will be shareable and reusable by others.”
Will Irish businesses will embrace the technologies coming down the line? Kirwan says the jury is still out. “The metaverse is a big deal and the next generation of the internet.” As often happens in the technology world, “the hype is likely to exceed the reality for a while, but this should not turn businesses off and prevent them from taking steps now to experiment and prepare for this next wave of change and opportunity”.
He says the survey does indicate a healthy level of hype scepticism and hopes that this does not prevent companies from beginning to explore this new space. “Nobody wants to be remembered as the CIO that questioned whether they needed a website. This is a similar moment in time.”
Read more about Accenture’s Technology Vision 2022
Disclaimer: This document is intended for general informational purposes only, does not take into account the reader’s specific circumstances, may not reflect the most current developments, and is not intended to provide advice on specific circumstances