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The Internet of Things (IoT) is reshaping the world around us. The use of connected devices is making it easier for organizations to enable people to do their jobs better and more safely, and has improved business functions such as asset or customer tracking in industries ranging from construction to advertising.

NTT’s IoT connectivity services already link many sensors, robots, vehicles and other devices to the cloud. And we’re seeing how augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies are making a growing contribution to this revolution.

Solving real-world challenges with augmented and virtual reality

Many of the AR/VR sets that were first marketed to consumers are now sold to enterprise clients. We see this with Microsoft’s HoloLens, Google Glass and a slew of other technologies.

The healthcare industry can be a major beneficiary of this trend. People living in rural areas or less-developed countries often don't have access to decent care. Now, experts from anywhere in the world will be able to give live, step-by-step advice remotely to a medical practitioner who is operating on a patient. This will help provide quality healthcare more widely across the world.

Another example is reducing the time and cost involved in having experts travel to customer sites to resolve issues – a common business model in many industries. In these cases, AR/VR can help by bringing the problem to the expert, rather than the other way around. A smart-elevator system may be too complex for a customer’s own maintenance team to fix or maintain. But the system expert, working remotely, can put on a headset and guide on-site workers in real time via AR to fix an issue.

Digital twins and the metaverse

These use cases for AR/VR lead neatly into the IoT concepts of digital twins and the metaverse.

In a sense, metaverse is a new term, but in the IoT sphere we still talk about digital twins: that is, building a representation of a real thing (such as an office building) in a digital world. The digital twin is used to analyze the effects of changes or problems and to make predictions – the results of which can then be applied in the real world.

While a digital twin refers to a specific and contained environment, such as a building or the engine of an aircraft, the metaverse is a larger virtual space where they all connect.

For example, we could create a 3D representation of an office building based on a range of sensors, enabling us to pinpoint the location of a leaking pipe before damage is done, or to predict a fault in a smart-elevator system based on an automated analysis of meter readings. Such alerts can then lead to timeous interventions by local technicians – sometimes with the assistance of experts via AR/VR from remote locations.

And this is the whole point of IoT: to create an efficient, automated way to monitor your environment, intelligently and in real time, so you can make informed decisions when it matters the most.

Read more about NTT and IoT connectivity and our IoT Services for Sustainability.

Sagi Elster is Senior Director and IoT Go-to-Market Global Lead at NTT.