At the end of the 18th century, the invention of the steam engine brought about the first industrial revolution. A century later, the introduction of electricity caused the second revolution. In the 1970s the third revolution happened with the advent of information technology. ‘Industry 4.0’ is characterized by a digital revolution where technologies are woven together in unknown ways. From robotics to artificial intelligence, from 3D printing to nanotechnology. The boundaries separating the physical, digital and biological are beginning to fade.
At the end of January, 2016 the World Economic Forum (WEF) came together in Davos. The main topic was the fourth industrial revolution. The fallout from the meeting awakens contradictory feelings. Technology opens the door to limitless possibilities, but also raises questions. Robots will be of increasing value in our daily lives. Just think of cars that drive themselves, healthcare robots and housekeeping robots. Because of the ‘Internet of Things’ everything is becoming connected, handy if you run out of milk or forget to switch off the lights.
Industry 4.0 is also going to change the energy sector: technological innovations are creating space for sustainable solutions. A circular energy supply – where everyone always enough energy – is achievable. In combination with 3D printing, the food industry is becoming future-proof: more local produce, produced as optimally as possible thanks to high quality technologies and agricultural robots.
What is particularly special is the potential role of the healthcare industry. Interactive pills that are connected to the internet, already exist. Safe to take, they monitor the condition of the body real time; they are in fact a mini laboratory.Designer babies are also coming and genetic manipulation is a subject of ongoing research. These types of development are both understandable and controversial, where will it end?
What, according to the World Economic Forum, will certainly not stop, is the loss of jobs caused by the new revolution. The WEF has calculated that in the coming five years no less than five million (!) jobs will disappear. Particularly the healthcare, energy and the financial sectors will be hit. In IT, however, there will be new jobs. What does that mean?
‘It won't just change what we do, but also who we are.’ – Klaus Schwab, Chairman of the World Economic Forum
Although certain sectors will be hit first, the impact will not be limited to these sectors. Sooner or later almost everyone's life will be affected in some way by Industry 4.0. All the more reason for self-reflection: who am I, what do I stand for and what do I want to achieve? That kind of evaluation is also recommended on a business level: is our core business still relevant in these times? What are our strengths and where do the challenges lie? To what extent can Industry 4.0 generate value for our company? Technology is moving rapidly and if you are not focused on the future, you will eventually get left behind. The world will not wait.
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