QA & the Metaverse #1 – Sustainability

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“The Metaverse” – together with ‘NFT’ and ‘Web3.0’, easily some of the most (over-) hyped buzzwords of 2022. While I could attempt to shape my own definition of the metaverse, there are sources outside of this blog that without a doubt will provide a better understanding of what ‘the metaverse’ is, like this summary by Gartner.

However, I cannot start my blog series on “QA & the metaverse” without a few thoughts on the concept. When hearing the term ‘metaverse’, there are usually a few interpretations that pop up, depending on who you talk to:

  • Many people think of Ready Player Ones ‘the Oasis’ or ‘Second Life’, a digital reality where possibilities are only limited by our imagination
  • Some think of Meta (former Facebook) and everything they are doing in the digital space
  • A few will link the metaverse to virtual or augmented reality (VR/AR), holding virtual meetings, or playing VR games
  • Other still, just think of popular buzzwords such as NFT’s, web3.0, blockchain, etc. without necessarily having the faintest idea what the metaverse is all about

In my opinion, at the moment the metaverse does not exist – yet.  What exists are the technologies and building blocks for something that could potentially become a metaverse in the future. The concept is currently often (mis-) used as a portmanteau for everything that remotely touches the bullet points above, and there is – to date – no single, clear-cut definition of what THE metaverse actually is or entails.

Regardless of your own understanding or definition of the metaverse however, it is certain that there will be unique (IT) challenges linked to it. One of these challenges will be Quality Assurance, and making sure that any project, application, service, or other IT product within the metaverse, will work as expected.
Key QA attributes for the metaverse will be:

  • Usability
  • Compatibility
  • Security
  • Performance
  • Accessibility
  • Functionality
  • Immersion
  • Sustainability

Throughout this blog series, I will dive into more detail on each of these quality attributes – because although these quality attributes are not unique to the metaverse, there will be unique challenges and elements to consider.

That being said, an opening blog with lots of promises and zero content would hardly be worth the name, no? So, let’s dive into one of the hottest quality attributes of this decade: sustainability.

The concept of a (personal) carbon footprint has been around since 2005, first introduced in the corporate world and later popularized for consumers. Where production companies and heavy industry have long realised their environmental impact and responsibility, more and more tech and IT companies are becoming increasingly aware of their own contribution to CO² emissions and climate change. For example, the amount of electricity used to mine for Bitcoins has exploded over the past 5 years, as per the CCAF data. The number of gigawatts being consumed daily for digital mining, exceeds the power usage of small to medium sized countries.

Although there are no smoking chimneys or industrial waste pipes in sight while dealing with technology, there is a so-called ‘digital carbon footprint’ that comes into play.

A digital carbon footprint is the CO2 emissions resulting from the production, use and data transfer of digital devices and infrastructure (1)

The internet has been around for a few decades now, but never has there been such an explosion in the need for additional infrastructure as the last few years. As consumers, we have a seemingly endless supply  of entertainment with Instagram, Facebook, Netflix, 4K streaming, cloud gaming, etc. Every minute, about 500 hours of video material is uploaded to YouTube. All digital assets we are using are becoming significantly larger, heavier, and more demanding.

This in turn means the infrastructure needs to follow suit: data centers, fibre networks, 4 and 5G, more powerful hardware, new types of peripherals, etc. All of these significantly add to our digital carbon footprint.

With the advent of the metaverse, these requirements will only become more demanding:

  • What used to be pictures and videos are now becoming digital worlds and 3D rendered spaces
  • What used to be simple front-end/back-end applications are now becoming API economies, integrating a whole landscape of applications and services
  • What used to be basic business functions are now become complex AI models

In a time where climate change and environmental awareness are of the highest priority for individuals, companies and countries, sustainability as a quality criterium is no longer a differentiator but a must to consider.

As quality analysts and engineers, it is no longer enough to check whether an application or service meets the requirements. We must ask different questions:

  • How sustainable is the solution?
  • Which design or architecture is the least environmentally impacting?
  • Which algorithm will require less computing time?
  • Which programming language is the most energy efficient?
  • What are the most eco-friendly crypto currencies we will allow?
  • Can we rethink the user interface, so we need less or different peripherals?

It has always been part of our role to be the critical eye or the devils advocate as QA professionals – and as the metaverse grows, we will need to expand our vision beyond the existing paradigms and reconsider how we look at traditional quality attributes.

PS: for any companies wondering how they are doing in terms of digital carbon footprint – we have you covered with our Carbon Accounting service.

(1)https://www.capgemini.com/gb-en/2021/12/are-you-aware-of-your-digital-carbon-footprint/

Steve De Smet

About

Steve is a strong advocate of Quality Engineering throughout all phases of the SDLC. With almost a decade of background in Digital Assurance & Quality Engineering, he has gathered experience through various roles within the craft: Test analyst, Test Manager, Program Quality Manager, etc. Steve has fulfilled these roles across multiple domains of the Retail sector, including Mobile, Digital, In-store Operations, Supply Chain, Marketing, Warehousing, etc., making him an SME in the field. Additionally, Steve is head of the Belgian Software Engineering Certification Board, guiding and coaching others on their learning journey. Steve is driven, dedicated, and always eager to learn – all while bringing a healthy dose of fun and enthusiasm to the table. Passionate about technology, innovation – and video games.

More on Steve De Smet.

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