Humanity has constantly been finding new ways to increase & improve productivity. The progress that started with the invention of the wheel millennia ago is still ongoing & can clearly be seen in the improvements made by our species in the field of production. Every time we have a technological breakthrough, our society undergoes an “industrial revolution”.
An industrial revolution can be defined as the implementation of a breakthrough technology, over a period of time which results in increased productivity. In the past, industrial revolutions have been associated with both positive and negative effects on the socio-economic conditions of the society, though in the longer run, these revolutions have had more positive than negative effects. (Why, how, well that topic is out of our scope at the moment, but I may choose to post a video on this sometime in the future).
Historically we have had 3 industrial revolutions that have had an enormous impact on humanity.
First Industrial Revolution: Transition from manpower of mechanical power with the advent of steam and water power.
The Second Industrial Revolution: This era was marked with a huge increase in the reach of railways and the implementation of the telegraph. Industry was extensively electrified and the first production lines began to take shape.
The Third Industrial Revolution: This era is widely accepted to have started post the second great war. Also called the digital revolution, this era has seen increased use of computers in the production arena (along with other facets of human life). Sophisticated software, machine learning, Big data and Artificial Intelligence have brought about a rapid change in the way we engage in production and other allied production related activities.
These is where are currently, right at the cusp of the 3rd and the 4rth revolution.
Industry 4.0 aka 4rth Industrial Revolution
Industry 4.0 or the 4th Industrial Revolution focuses on computers and computer derived automated systems working together with robotic systems while being governed by sophisticated machine learning algorithms. All this with minimal human input.
Industry 4.0 is paving the way to smart factories of the future. Smart factories where all physical processes are monitored and managed by fully automated, decision capable, decentralized computerized systems and information will be shared in real-time over IoT (internet of things).
For any plant to be considered “Industry 4.0”, it must check the following:
- Interoperability: Full duplex communication between individual components (including organic components eg, Human)
- Information Contextualization: Add context to the information via the digital mapping of the physical premise of the location.
- Decision/Execution assistance: The system should enable human operators to take complex decisions. Also, the system should have provisions to automate processes that may be hazardous to humans.
- Decision Making: Systems must be capable of decision making, this is necessary if they are to be autonomous.
Apart from the massive advantages Industry 4.0 brings with it, there are certain caveats that one must be aware of as they are unique to it.
- Data security is a huge part of the entire industry 4.0 endeavor. With so many interconnected components, zero day vulnerabilities are something that just cannot be ignored. Remember Mirai botnet?
- Industry 4.0 is still in the early adopter phase of the bell curve. The costs are high, and the level of reliability/robustness needed are still in the difficult to maintain area.
- Like every other industrial revolution, this too will bring (already visible) loss of “contemporary jobs”. This is probably the most contentious and divisive effect of Industry 4.0 and as such deserves a post on its own.
The potential advantages of industry 4.0 far outweigh the socioeconomic challenges that it is associated with it. In a world where economies are going increasingly global, it has the potential to revolutionize the way consumers across are satiated.
Above all, so many of our future generations will be freed to pursue and discover new professions and opportunities that we currently don’t even have any clue about.
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