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Summer / Autumn 2019 Opportunity Issue Articles

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Are you ready to grab the opportunity?

For some years now academics, industry leaders and think tanks have been using the term the Fourth Industrial Revolution or ‘Industry 4.0/4IR’ to talk about the all-encompassing cyber-physical future of technology, business and society. But what is it and why is it on the radar of so many businesses, leaders and thinkers?

In layman’s terms, it’s the future and / or current
blending and blurring of technology across industries; disrupting almost every known business model, process and relationship.

A multitude of technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), additive / digital manufacturing (3D printing), advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles, sophisticated sensors, biotechnology, nanotechnology and blockchain, are already working together harmoniously to manufacture new innovative products, make decisions and change how society works. But let’s have a history lesson and go back a little to find out why it’s called the ‘Fourth’.

The First Industrial Revolution: Mechanisation Rural Shift - 1750s

This was a shift from manual rural labour to mechanised factory work. With the invent of steam power, more efficient access to coal and other inventions, manufacturing was supercharged. Eventually almost all daily life was impacted by new products and processes.

The Second Industrial Revolution: Mass Manufacturing - 1850s

Electricity started to augment and replace water and steam as the primary power source in factories. With improvements in materials and processes, the assembly line emerged and interchangeable parts, and with them mass production.

The Third Industrial Revolution: Computerisation - 1960s

Advances in technology after WW2 saw the age of computing and automation. Factories were employing robots and early CNC machines to make things in numbers and at a level of precision never seen before. Machines could run for longer and new products could be turned around much quicker.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: ‘Cyber-Physical’ - Now

With the unprecedented power of instant connectivity, data, sensors, analytics and algorithms, we are already on the journey to technological revolution. We’re using many of these technologies in isolation; using AI to spot cancer, implemented IoT and analytics to transform the UK rail network, flying drones to map crops, 3D printing organs and much more. But what makes this revolution challenging to understand, and tricky to implement, is that it’s a journey not a destination.

The dream is to have all these technologies working together harmoniously, revealing new efficiencies, better ways of working and create disruptive new business models.

It’s worth remembering there are businesses all over the world still making the jump from revolutions two to three, let alone four, things will take time. But we do have to prepare ourselves for the future.

All businesses large and small must take a good look at the technology landscape around them internally and externally and invest time in understanding where they are on this journey. It might be investing in a few sensors for a machine to record temperature or it could be a full infrastructure overhaul, a little action is better than none.

“Contrary to previous industrial revolutions, this one is evolving at an exponential rather than linear pace. It is not only changing the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of doing things, but also ‘who’ we are.” Klaus Schwab World Economic Forum Founder

Anthony Pryke is Barclays Eagle Lab Ecosystem Manager T: 07775 554349 E: anthony.pryke@barclays.com

Sue Wilcock