The Fourth Industrial Revolution


The first industrial revolution spanned from about 1760 to around 1840, triggered by the construction of railroads and the invention of the steam engine and ushered in mechanical production. The second industrial revolution, starting in the late 19th century made mass production possible, fostered by the advent of electricity and the assembly line. The third industrial revolution began in 1960’s, with the digital revolution and the development of semiconductors, mainframe computing, personal computing and the internet.

The fourth industrial revolution began at the turn on this century, with ubiquitous and mobile internet, smaller more powerful and cheaper sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning. “Industry 4.0” coined at the Hannover Fair in 2011 describes how global value chains will be revolutionized by smart factories where virtual and physical systems of manufacturing globally cooperate with each other in a flexible way.

The on-demand economy raises the fundamental question: What is worth owing – the platform or the underlying asset? Uber, the world’s largest taxi company owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer has no inventory. Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate.

Surveys show that people expect specific tipping points to occur by 2025. The chart below identifies the top 10 tipping points that those surveyed believe will be in place by 2025. Being prepared to understand the impact and being ready to respond in your business is critical.

  1. 10% of people will be wearing clothes connected to the internet 2%
  2. 90% of people will have unlimited and free (advertising supported) storage 0%
  3. 1 Trillion sensors will be connected to the internet 2%
  4. The first robotic pharmacist will be in use in the US 5%
  5. 10% of reading glasses will be connected to the internet 6%
  6. 80% of people will have a digital presence on the internet 4%
  7. The first 3D printed car will be in production 1%
  8. The first government will replace its census with big-data sources 9%
  9. The first implantable mobile phone will be available commercially 7%
  10. 5% of consumer products will be printed in 3D 7%

As you come to understand more about the fourth industrial revolution what impact will it have on your business? I look forward to some interesting discussions.