By Josué Ramírez

Regional Director IDCA

Recently, we started hearing about the metaverse, for those who are not very familiar with this term, it is essentially a virtual world that we can access thanks to the technological progress of the last few decades. This concept was first used in 1992 by the American novelist Neal Stephenson, who proposed the convergence of the real world and the digital world.

To get to the current state of the metaverse, there was a transition over the last 20 years, early on, we saw these advancements in video games where 2D graphics evolved to 3D graphics. Then, augmented reality glasses emerged that allowed us to immerse ourselves in a completely virtual environment.

The idea of the metaverse was conceived through the video game Second Life, released in 2003 with the use of Avatars, which is how people represent themselves in the metaverse. A myriad of ideas were introduced to use the metaverse, from video games to flight simulators, guided tours, virtual stores, training, education and more.

Some of these new metaverse functionalities can help avoid some real-life risks, such as flight simulations for pilots, training in high-risk professions, or surgical practices. Several institutions have begun to lay the foundations of this virtual universe, including Meta, Microsoft, Google, Apple and Samsung, as well as some video game and artificial intelligence companies and financial companies.

Derived from the creation of the metaverse, other tools have emerged, such as NFT (non-fungible tokens), which are assets that once created cannot be modified. These assets can be traded, change ownership and have a control system through blockchain that allows users to know the origin of the NFT and changes of ownership. They have become very important, since through them it is possible to use virtual commerce, where a person can have virtual properties or objects that also possess economic value in the real world.

Data processing

The technological infrastructure that supports the metaverse must be robust enough for an avatar, simulations or other objects to achieve great graphic detail with high resolution as in real life.

This processing takes place in data centers, where it is not only necessary to install hundreds or thousands of servers so that these virtual platforms can exist, but also other infrastructure, such as communications equipment, security, storage, high-speed connectivity with physical and wireless connectivity, and high-speed transmission and low latency. This infrastructure requires a large consumption of resources, including electricity.

The metaverse is tomorrow's technology that cannot be based on yesterday's infrastructure. A trend has already been created and now it is up to us to move forward, be disruptive and create the necessary platforms so that this virtual universe has the omnipresence and latency necessary to make a functional economy.

While it is true, the metaverse may be the next great platform after mobile devices, it is necessary to adapt the current computing and data storage infrastructure. Otherwise, the user experience when transacting, sharing knowledge and interacting with other people in the digital environment would be unstable and unreliable.

The sophisticated mechanisms of virtual experiences require the processing of the large volume of data; therefore, we will require Edge infrastructures that respond to the demand required for the metaverse to work properly. It is estimated that we will require 1000 times the current computing power to meet the metaverse needs.

How does the metaverse relate to sustainability?

These projects involve a large consumption of electricity and it is necessary to implement strategies so that the energy used in the data centers comes from renewable and low-carbon energy sources.

Currently, data centers consume 2% of total energy globally, and this percentage is projected to increase in the coming years, as there is exponential growth in many regions of the world, including Latin America, where new data centers are projected and are being built, mainly at hyperscale.

In Mexico alone, projections see new data centers of more than 600MW of consumption by 2025. To give an idea of the size of these projects, this is more than double the energy consumption used by existing data centers in Mexico.

To reduce carbon emissions, the implementation of these projects needs to contemplate energy efficiency strategies, use technology that helps reduce energy consumption, implement low-consumption computer systems and create a sustainable waste management strategy that ensures that the equipment that is replaced has an adequate recycling system to reduce the polluting effects they cause.

Additionally, the source of energy generation must come from renewable or natural sources to avoid the consumption of energy from fossil fuels that increase carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

Currently, the global goal is to achieve a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 in order to keep the planet's temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. What does this mean? In 2010, an initiative for a sustainable future emerged and the UN has called on nations, through the Paris Agreement, to join this plan to try to reduce global warming and its consequences.

I would like to make a couple of clarifications on the terms carbon neutral and net zero, which have been used a lot in recent years but which can generate a bit of confusion. While both seek an improvement in environmental sustainability, carbon neutrality refers to how we produce and consume energy based on fossil fuels and seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and their impact on the environment.

Net zero, on the other hand, not only includes carbon dioxide, but also other greenhouse gases, such as methane and sulfur dioxide. It seeks to have a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere and the amount we eliminate.

However, it is necessary that all these metaverse and complex hyperscale projects that are being installed worldwide contemplate in their designs, implementation and operation strategies that can meet these sustainability commitments so that they become part of the search for carbon neutrality and net zero.

Ingenium and IDCA work together to contribute to the technology industry and improve the experience and performance of the metaverse through the knowledge that our professionals have. If you have doubts, you can contact us and we will gladly advise you.