Gone are the days where water wheels and steam engines were the primary source of power. Electricity took over and led the world from the first industrial revolution to the second. This new found power source, electricity, meant that systems could be improved and processes accelerated, paving the way for mass production. However, the establishment of the third revolution saw the influx of disruptive technologies, namely computerization and automation.
This brought about historic changes, more evident in the sector of manufacturing. With processes digitized, it meant that machines had an impressive level of speed and precision that had never been seen before. Many received the third industrial revolution with open arms while others wrestled with feelings of doubt, fear and scepticism. The fourth industrial revolution is well underway and its reception is much like the one before it.
But is industry 4.0 something to be feared? Should existing enterprises be sceptical or doubtful and plagued with unease? Or is it exactly what industries need to lead us to a more productive and effective future, to help save the dire state humanity finds itself in.
Before we unpack the endless possibilities that could come with Industry 4.0, lets elaborate on the basic concepts that define this movement.
What is industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 is the current age of digital transformation that mainly encompasses the optimization of computer systems and automation. It involves cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing and cognitive computing to name a few. Before you head to google to try and figure out exactly what these concepts mean, let’s briefly unpack them before we take this any further.
Cyber-physical systems are mechanisms that integrate computer-based algorithms with the internet and physical processes. More simply, a computer-based algorithm is the logic written in software of how the computer will produce an output from a given input. A step by step process to achieve what is intended.
The internet of things (IoT) on the other hand simply refers to a network of devices embedded with electronics and software that gives them the ability to send and receive data via the internet. A practical and appealing example of this concept would be in home automation. Where, via the internet, you could control entertainment, security, lighting and climate in your home. Imagine the possibility of being able to start the washing machine from work, switch on the lights if you're running late and turn up the heater on your way home to arrive to a perfectly snug room. With IoT, this and so much more will soon be the norm.
The next concept is cloud computing, something that many of us are familiar with and make use of on a regular basis. It entails the use of a network of servers via the internet and allows one to store, manage and process data without having it saved on your personal computer. G Suite by Google is one such example.
Lastly, cognitive computing. The main objective of cognitive computing is to simulate the human mind and its thought processes into a computerized model. They incorporate reasoning, natural language processing, speech-recognition, computer-human interactions and the likes. An example of cognitive computing is seen in the IOS virtual assistant, Siri. Our good friend Siri uses machine learning, speech recognition and a natural-language interface to answer questions and afterwards even recommend a coffee shop near your workplace. Google assistant and Alexa by Amazon are other examples of virtual assistants, giving us a glimpse into a future aided by Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Without a doubt, AI is at the center of the current trend in automation. The intelligence demonstrated by machines is increasing exponentially. The cognitive abilities of bots are starting to mimic, with greater precision, the intelligence of natural human beings. And this is the main reason why many people feel intimidated and even afraid of being left behind. Many fear being replaced by an intelligent agent with a meticulous attention to detail and an invariable work output.
Governments and Learning Institutions have also decided to jump on the bandwagon and surf the second wave of technological disruption. The UAE made history recently by being the first national state to appoint a State Minister of Artificial Intelligence. Numerous Universities around the globe now offer degrees in Artificial Intelligence and are starting to pivot their curriculum's around this concept. An adjustment that needs to be made by many nations and companies around the world.
Things are moving, and they are moving fast.
But you don’t have to be left behind. As an industry, a company and even an individual, you can make active changes to remodel your business or industry that will help you survive and, better yet, thrive in this age of digital transformation.
According to innovator and creative thinker Dion Chang of Flux Trends, the industries in the ‘eye of the storm’ are manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, automotive and many other interrelated sectors. They question and challenge the organisational structures in company’s who are trying to pivot with their existing skill set. They further go on to propose that new skills should be adopted if companies intend on surviving this revolution.
We couldn’t agree more. If a hotel business wants to keep their lights on while so called disruptors like Airbnb are on the market, they need to change. The same holds true for taxi or shuttle services in a time when Uber can get to your front door faster than greased lightning. It is obvious that things are changing.
The only other thing more certain than death is change. Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”. As those with a passion for healthcare and seeing lives changed or, for that matter, saved, we need to embrace the shift. If we want to leave a lasting footprint and contribute towards a better tomorrow, we need to embrace technological advances and integrate them in our day to day activities.
The possibilities are endless, and the benefits more so.
Let’s use the industry 4.0 as the launchpad to truly revolutionize the future of healthcare.