In 1760, the industrial revolution changed the way humans interacted with the world around them. Through the power of heating water into steam, machines and mechanical structures were able to bear heavier loads and work faster. This age grew transportation with the invention of the steam engine, leading to trains and railway networks appearing and connecting the United States.
The year 1870 saw the onset of the second industrial revolution, which took these ideas even further. This allowed the mechanics of factories to grow sufficiently enough to function on a bigger scale, and therefore mass produces their intended output. The second industrial revolution was powered, quite literally, by scientific breakthroughs that allowed mankind to harness electricity. The result of this innovation was a rapid increase in technology, and a need for new sources of energy—namely oils and fossil fuels to superheat water into steam, and later power the mechanism that drives mass production itself.
Into the Modern Eras
The digital age is what is considered to be the third industrial revolution, as computers and similar technology become more relied upon. However, unlike what common misconceptions dictate, this era actually began as early as the 1950s and carried on through to the “space race” and the creation of the early World Wide Web. Automation grew from the third industrial revolution as well as Information Technology (IT) practices that are considered mainstream today.
With the fourth industrial revolution, the next step is being taken into the world that fuses automation and cyber activity. Robots are becoming more sophisticated and the Internet of Things provides new opportunities in artificial intelligence and working through sensors. The fourth industrial revolution is not necessarily in the future—in fact, it has already begun.
Beginning in 2011, the fourth industrial revolution is otherwise known as Industry 4.0.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution/Industry 4.0
The industry 4.0 definition goes beyond the innovations behind AI’s and accessing the internet. Instead, it focuses on the relationship between the Internet of Things (IoT) and the various old and new technology that are at hand. Through the IoT, devices and mechanisms not only work independently (automation) but with each other too. They are connected together and able to communicate through the IoT, helping to establish a more symbiotic relationship between the company, the methodology, and productivity.
Smart factories are becoming a standard concept of this synergy. Though their mandate is primarily in mass production, by having machines that are able to collect the data of supply levels, resources, and inventories; the factory knows what the consumer requires more of and how possible it is with what they have. All of the machines are connected and able to communicate with each other. A smart factory massively reduces the possibility of wastage, since demand is constantly met and the interconnectivity of the devices means that the production process is much more streamlined.
Communication and Connection
Whether it’s a simple communication between refurbished tablets to establish stock levels or a GPS tracker in the shipping and distribution vehicles, the IoT provides connectivity between multiple aspects of the business. Of the former, the more digital technology that is instilled into the smart factories and processes, the bigger the demand for devices that can operate with and within the Internet of Things—specifically the bubble of connectivity that all of the business operates in. Therefore, it might be worth looking ordering a refurbished tablet or several in order to ensure that costs and demands are both met.
For connectivity to be possible, there needs to be a consistent and strong data management system in place. Companies such as Silver Creek Software specialize in installing devices that connect across the production floor. Also, Mia Solutions create algorithms that help a business to gather and analyze the data that they need and work to come up with achievable growth. They can also project what works from the data, and thus install smart manufacturing practices meaning that the production will respond directly to the needs of the management.
Essentially, industry 4.0 is based around Data Visualization (the gathering and sorting of massive amounts of data from a range of sources, but namely the consumer), Predictive Analysis (what the data is saying and what can be done to maximize its lessons), and Data Science (how to best capture and use the so-called “big data”).
There is a suggestion that industry 4.0 will eliminate the need for the human element, and that robots can do the same thing that factory workers were. Yet nothing can be further from the truth. Just as the steam engine brought railway workers and the internet brought web designers, industry 4.0 will see a need for data scientists. The impact of this is obvious, a revolution in the workforce of the industry is taking place.