May 28, 2018 at 6:45 pm #2125
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is the fourth major industrial era since the initial Industrial Revolution of the mid-late eighteenth century. 4IR is characterized by a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological disciplines. It is marked by emerging breakthroughs, including robotics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, cyber-physical systems, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and autonomous transportation.
The Manufacturers’ Organisation http://www.eef.org.uk
4IR is the current extension of waves of development, commencing with the First Industrial Revolution in England in the mid/late eighteenth century based on steam powered industry and railways that transformed communities from agrarian and rural to industrial and urban.
The Second Industrial Revolution began around 1870, and continued to the beginning of the First Word War in 1914. This was a period of growth for established industries and expansion of new entrants including steel, oil and electricity that powered lighting and mass production of vehicles, home appliances, typewriters and telephones.
The Third Industrial Revolution brought information, communications, computing, nanotechnology, digital manufacturing and improvements across a wide range including sola power conversion, battery storage and localised power. Has the Third Industrial Revolution ended, probably not has the Fourth Industrial Revolution commenced? Absolutely yes and we are part of it!
4IR technologies cut across digital, physical and biological domains; think Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), self-driving vehicles, augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), and bio-tech including gene editing tools, or nanotechnology.
We really just are at the beginning of the 4IR. That means we are not too late to do our best to make sure this industrial revolution, unlike its predecessors, is a sustainable one.
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2017 Sustainable Development Impact Summit identified seven examples of the opportunities for sustainability in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
1. Proliferation of AI. The convergence of machine learning, big data and hardware advances speeding up computations (graphical processing units – GPUs – and soon deep learning chips) have brought AI from “in vitro” into everyday life. Because of AI, the 4IR is an intelligence and productivity revolution.
We are going to add AI to more and more things every year, and the AI itself is going to get smarter every year. This smartness can optimize material use, optimize energy use and optimize whole human systems – from energy and transport grids, to cities and industrial value chains. We also want AI to think differently from humans, not just think faster, so that together humans and AI can solve our most difficult scientific problems. Think about the power this creates for weather and natural catastrophe prediction, biomimicry science or advanced material science for clean energy generation.
2. Roll out of automation. Automation will replace many of the tasks that we have previously done, but it will also create whole new categories of tasks and services that we will soon realize we can’t live without. For the environment, there are many opportunities from cleaner and optimized mobility solutions, to energy and waste efficient robotics in industrial processes. But we will need to make sure the increase in productivity that automation delivers does not have a rebound effect on other areas like vehicle use, road congestion or unsustainable natural resource extraction (e.g. AI-powered drone fishing fleets).
3. Increased tracking and monitoring, from the myriad of smart devices, wearables, sensors, meters and the IoT that links this growing network of billions of devices all up. Location and spatial services are a hot area for tech investors and entrepreneurs. But how can this revolutionize transparency and accountability, real time, around how companies, governments and individuals behave with our water, forests, air, precious minerals, wildlife and oceans?
4. More sharing. Homes, offices, rides, are all examples that have been successfully shared, but what can we share that isn’t being shared now? There is going to be a lot more disruption in this space to come. But what are the sharing business models our environment needs most? How do we maximize sharing solutions to minimize consumption-related waste, and life cycle energy, materials and water use?
5. More decentralisation enabled by 4IR technologies including IoT, AI, blockchain and 3D printing. Many decentralised solutions can have significant environmental as well as inclusivity benefits. For example, peer to peer renewable energy grids with intelligent virtual power plants or decentralized manufacturing with 3D printing reducing greenhouse gas emissions from distribution.
6. More collaboration, and on a scale and with a speed we haven’t experienced before. We don’t have all the tools for this yet but open APIs and open source movements will be key, along with technologies like blockchain that enable transparency and trusted transactions for collaboration. How can we focus this on environmental goals – from problem-solving amongst diverse expert groups, to local community action and environmental movements?
7. More experiences – the internet of information is going to move to one of experiences as augmented, mixed and virtual reality come of age. Those in the industry believe this whole area is a few years away from exploding. Technologists are working on the final ingredients to increase resolution, field of view, improve hand tracking and deeper immersion, as well as solutions for affordability. As the technology improves to enable an increasingly intimate social experience, the business case to fly for face to face meetings erodes and the impact on mobility more broadly could be huge. The European Patent Office (EPO) reports that in the last three years, the number of European patent applications related to smart connected objects and, thus, to the cyber-physical space of Industrial IoT and related technologies in an Industry 4.0 and manufacturing technologies context has increased by an impressive 54 percent.
Industrialisation has led to many of the world’s current environmental problems. For example, climate change, unsafe levels of air pollution, the depletion of fishing stocks, toxins in rivers and soils, overflowing levels of waste on land and in the ocean, loss of biodiversity, and deforestation can all be traced to industrialisation. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) gathers pace, innovations are becoming faster, more efficient, and more widely accessible than before. Technology is also becoming increasingly connected; in particular, we are seeing a merging of digital, physical and biological realms. New technologies are enabling societal shifts by affecting economics, values, identities and possibilities for future generations. We have a unique opportunity to harness this Fourth Industrial Revolution – and the societal shifts it triggers – to help fix environmental issues and to redesign how we manage our shared global environment. The 4IR could, however, also exacerbate existing threats to environmental security or create entirely new risks that will need to be considered and managed.
June 7, 2018 at 12:01 pm #2146
A very informative article, Tingting! I’m the editor of What’s New in Electronics and I’d be interested in featuring in our magazine and website. How would I go about getting approval for that?
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