The world has been in the midst of a digital revolution since the last century. Made possible by a huge array of technologies, such as RFID tagging, automation, robotics, the cloud and machine learning, these developments have been causing a wide-spread increase in purpose-built applications in all fields of trade and industry. From self-driving cars, to remote-controlled drones that deliver packages, and machines that inspect equipment and perform skilled operations, we’re starting to see the evolution of how this technology can impact our lives.
How did we get here?
Previous industrial revolutions liberated humankind from animal power, made mass production possible and brought digital capabilities to billions of people. It all started with the Age of Steam, also known as Industry 1.0. This development brought about mass production. Small-scale industry moved out of people’s homes and took up residence in factories. After that, electricity followed: Industry 2.0. Industrial productivity increased and factories were able to keep working 24/7.
Industry 3.0 was all about technology. Processes were automated and optimized. In this Fourth Industrial Revolution, however, new technologies, such as IoT, AI, and cloud computing are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.
But does this new industrial age represent a revolution or evolution for businesses?
The difference compared to previous industrial revolutions is that Industry 4.0 seems to be unfolding in stages. Because of the ever-changing complexity for businesses to adapt and governments to regulate new technologies, the benefits of Industry 4.0 do not come without challenges. Merging new technologies to deliver optimal production requires businesses to carefully address the following principles:
- Interoperability: machines and computers that are able to share information seamlessly.
- Virtualization: documents that provide insight into physical factory layouts and processes.
- Decentralization: autonomous decision-making by digital systems.
- Modularity: replacement or extension of system modules to improve flexibility.
Opportunities for the service industry
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also coined “Smart Industry,” provides opportunities for service organizations to better respond to changing customer needs and business models. With the use of IoT, cloud and mobile technologies, customers’ services can be optimized to improve efficiency and flexibility. In addition, this evolution has already offered dozens of applications for the proactive use of predictive maintenance that increase connectivity and productivity among service teams.
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