Business

The dawn of the fourth industrial revolution

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I have come across a few articles and blogs recently about a new kind of industrial revolution that is quietly gathering pace — and starting to make its mark in some industries already. This new revolution, which has been referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, will be led by smart technologies, such as those that have already given us connected cars, smart homes, smart factories, and so on. However, I want to pen some thoughts in this blog about what (I think) will actually fuel those smart technologies and devices: artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Revolutions past

Before I dive more deeply into the topic, here’s a quick recap of the previous industrial revolutions, in case you are struggling to bring them to mind. The first industrial revolution began in Britain in the late 18th century, with mechanization of the textile industry. The second industrial revolution came in the early 20th century, when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line and ushered in the age of mass production. The third industrial revolution is under way today, as manufacturing goes digital with production technologies such as 3-d printing.

AI, IoT and the fourth industrial revolution

The third, digital revolution has paved the way for the fourth one, which will see smart technologies, and smart devices and products at work. I believe that what will underpin the next generation of smart technology and products will be AI and IoT. IoT will connect human and non-human entities to enable the smart management of products, to improve efficiency and, more importantly, create new business models and improve our quality of life. AI, on the other hand, will reduce the burden of decision-making by executing some decisions on our behalf.

Data matters

AI and IoT have something in common, which is key to commercialization of the fourth industrial revolution. That common factor is data. It is data — its usage and interpretation — that will differentiate the various players that will claim a stake in the market and bring these technologies out from R&D labs to our homes, offices and day-to-day lives. In fact, I see a third pillar that will drive this revolution besides AI and IoT — that is, big data analytics. The companies that invest in these three pillars are likely to be the prime movers in this coming round of industrial revolution.

Learn more

To learn about IBM IoT capabilities and solutions, visit http://www.ibm.com/internet-of-things/

To learn more about engineering for smart products, visit www.ibm.com/continuousengineering

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