From technical realization to safe operation, how far is the engineer version of “Metaverse” from us?

Can digital twins take us to the Metaverse?

After “Metaverse” became popular by Meta (formerly Facebook), which has 3.58 billion monthly active users, Microsoft, Nvidia, Tencent, ByteDance and other Chinese and foreign technology giants have also entered the game one after another.

The big guys’ descriptions of the bright prospects of the Metaverse attracted worldwide attention and discussion, but also caused some misunderstandings. They believed that the Metaverse was just a virtual world similar to “Top Player One” and “Fortress Night”, and the real world. Little relevance.

In fact, since the concept of “Metaverse” was proposed in 1992, people have never stopped exploring both theories and commercialization. Tsinghua University’s “Metacosm Development Research Report 2020-2021” summarizes the explorations of all parties and defines the metaverse as follows:

“Metaverse is a new type of Internet application and social form that integrates multiple new technologies. It provides an immersive experience based on extended reality technology, generates a mirror image of the real world based on digital twin technology, and builds an economy based on blockchain technology. The system closely integrates the virtual world and the real world in the economic system, social system, and identity system, and allows each user to perform content production and world editing.”

From technical realization to safe operation, how far is the engineer version of "Metaverse" from us?

The reality and the virtual world blend with each other, and ultimately surpass the real world . It is the core of the Metaverse. To build this world, a lot of technical means are needed to support it. As the Internet of Things that connects virtual and reality, what can be done for the Metaverse, and what are the hidden worries?

Hidden worries in the engineer’s version of “Metaverse”

Regardless of whether the Metaverse is realized by virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or mixed reality (MR), the first thing that needs to be simulation is the ability to bring the user’s vision, hearing, taste, touch and other comprehensive senses. Realistic experience.

The richer the props in the virtual space, the more realistic the sensory experience, which means the more abundant data sources are needed. Digital twin technology can project the rich data of the physical world to the virtual world, and is considered to be one of the mature and efficient methods for constructing the Metaverse world.

The digital twin can not only use the real-time data collected by the rich Internet of Things sensor devices to build simulation mirrors of basic scenes such as houses, cars, and props in the virtual space through digital mapping, but also through real-time monitoring, simulation simulation, XR interaction, etc. Effective governance of the real world.

Take city management as an example. In 2019, Huawei cooperated with the management committee of a certain urban area in China to use Internet of Things equipment, 5G, AI, GIS, QR code and other technologies to digitally identify the physical facilities in the urban area through digital twins. Technology to map the 370 square kilometers of digital images and 110,000 square meters of BIM building simulation model to the city panoramic platform, through drones, unmanned trucks, AR equipment, intelligent inspection robots, and high-altitude surveillance cameras And other equipment monitors the city in real time.

For problems in urban areas, on-site managers will wear AR glasses to deal with them. The information from various sensors in the city will be transmitted to the AR glasses through the Internet of Things and 5G networks. When viewing different objects, the corresponding information will be automatically displayed. .

On the panoramic platform, AI is used to analyze, simulate, evaluate and reason about real-time data, images, simulation models, etc., to realize automatic early warning and prediction of urban traffic accidents, natural disasters, and violations of laws and regulations.

Although the digital twin has been born for more than 30 years, it has been used in many scenarios such as intelligent manufacturing, telemedicine, and autonomous driving simulation training. It is called the “engineer’s Metaverse”, but the Internet of Things is a digital twin fusion of virtual and real The key to this, “Intelligent Relativity” sees that China’s Internet of Things market is still in its infancy stage of development. High-end sensors rely on overseas markets, and key technologies need to be broken through.

According to statistics from the Internet Association of China and GMSA, in 2020, the scale of my country’s Internet of Things market will reach 1.7 trillion, an increase of 13.3% year-on-year; the number of Internet of Things device connections will exceed 4 billion, an increase of 17.5% year-on-year, and it is expected to grow to 8 billion in 2025.

The Internet of Things market can be divided into three stages of “connection-perception-intelligence”. Although my country’s Internet of Things market is huge and the number of device connections is growing rapidly, it is still in the transitional stage from “connection” to “perception”.

As the nerve endings and data source of the Internet of Things, sensors are gradually developing in the direction of small and intelligent MEMS sensors. Although my country has basically achieved self-sufficiency in the middle and low-end markets, high-end sensors and chips still rely on overseas markets.

According to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and CCID Consulting, in 2020, about 60% of my country’s mid-to-high-end sensitive components and sensors will depend on imports, and about 80% of core sensor chips will depend on imports. Among them, my country’s demand for MEMS sensors accounts for about a quarter of the world, but five overseas companies, including Broadcom, Bosch, and STMicroelectronics, account for about 80% of the global market share.

This situation is mainly caused by the late start of the sensor market in my country. There are technical shortcomings in the design, manufacturing, packaging and testing of high-end sensors. There are only breakthroughs in some links and some types of sensors, which restricts the domestic market. Independent production capacity of the market.

With the advancement of the domestic substitution process of semiconductors, leading sensor companies in my country have made some technological breakthroughs in the design and manufacturing process of some sensors such as gas, acoustics, inertia, and pressure, and their market share has gradually increased.

For example, Hanwei Technology’s self-developed gas sensors have a domestic market share of about 70%; Goertek’s series of acoustic sensor products have entered the top three international market share; Ruitron Micron’s infrared thermal imaging chip design and manufacture have independent knowledge property.

In addition, the sensor market does not have a high share in the entire IoT industry chain, and giants are more inclined to lay out “quick money” IoT platforms and application markets.

According to statistics from the Internet of Things Think Tank and China Academy of Information and Communications Technology in 2020, in the Internet of Things industry chain, the value of the platform and application market accounts for about 70%, while the sensor market only accounts for less than 15%. The leading companies in the Internet of Things market mainly come from the fields of industry, network communications and Internet technology. They have a layout in the Internet of Things platform and application market. Only Apple, Ali, and iFLYTEK are involved in sensor technology.Internet giants rely on the advantages of “cloud side end” and scene traffic, and have a high market share on the B-side and C-side.

It is not just the hidden worries of technology and the market. As an important entry point for network attacks, the low protection level of sensor equipment will also threaten the safe operation of digital twin application scenarios.

Cybersecurity is a bigger threat

Although there are shortcomings in the sensor field, my country’s digital twin market is still in rapid development.

According to IDC data, the global digital twin market in 2020 will be approximately US$5.22 billion, a year-on-year increase of 33.50%; my country’s market size will be approximately US$2.1 billion, a year-on-year increase of 30.4%. Not only is the growth rate fast, my country accounts for nearly half of the more than 1,000 cities in the world that propose to use digital twins and other technologies for smart management.

At the same time, security problems caused by immature technology have also begun to emerge. In 2020, the China Electronics Standardization Institute pointed out in a survey report that the current digital twin has technical bottlenecks in data, basic knowledge base, multi-system integration, and Unicom operations. The resulting network security and system control security issues are An important factor restricting future development.

Although network security is a common problem in the Internet field, “Intelligent Relativity” believes that digital twins face cyber attacks from both virtual and real worlds. The low level of protection of networks and sensing devices will severely restrict the stable development of digital twins.

According to Akama statistics, DDoS attacks of about 50 Gbps in the first half of this year have exceeded the total number of attacks in the entire year of 2019. Among them, the sensor equipment simulated by Kaspersky Lab was attacked more than 1.5 billion times in the first half of the year, which is twice the number of the same period in 2020. Kaspersky believes that the main reason is the rapid growth of the number of IoT devices and the overconfidence of manufacturers.

One of the manifestations of this “confidence” is insufficient attention to the security deployment of sensor equipment. At present, sensor equipment mainly uses authentication and encryption mechanisms to prevent tags and nodes from being illegally accessed. However, due to the low level of security, the equipment lacks physical protection. , Information can still be stolen through high-performance external devices, and the device can even be fully controlled.

IDC surveyed more than 5 million sensing devices in many smart hospitals in the United States in 2020 and found that 86% of the hospitals deployed more than 10 types of PDA recalled devices; 75% of the devices had problems with illegal deployment.

Not only the sensing equipment, but also the low level of security protection at the network level. As one of the earliest companies using digital twin technology, the Tesla Gigafactory experienced a “low-level” cyber attack by hackers this year.

In March of this year, a Swiss hacker organization invaded 150,000 cameras owned by the US security company Verkada in order to prove that the cameras are vulnerable. These cameras are mainly installed in schools, hospitals, prisons, police stations and other places. Many of the stolen videos came from the Shanghai Tesla Super Factory. Hackers only obtained the root permissions of the cameras after hacking into the company’s network, and then “taken down” these cameras.

Sensing devices have not only sensors, but also controllers. If the sensing and control equipment of many production equipment in the factory are invaded, the consequences will be disastrous.

Not only the digital twin, but the blockchain, which is the core economic system of Metaverse, is also a key target of cyber attacks. It faces threats such as DDoS attacks, dust attacks, and 51% computing power attacks. According to Atlas VPN statistics, hackers from 2009 to 2019 Approximately USD 13.6 billion in encrypted assets was stolen through 330 blockchain-related attacks.

From the current Internet applications to the future Metaverse, as the underlying technology advances, the means of cyber attacks are also upgrading. Players who enter the Metaverse must not underestimate security protection while overcoming technical problems and exploring business models.

*The pictures in this article are all from the Internet

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