The Fourth Industrial Revolution // Digital Disruption… Won’t Affect Me?…

by Aug 31, 2017Digital Marketing, Strategy Planning0 comments

The Fourth Industrial Revolution // Digital Disruption… Won’t Affect Me…?


We are living in a digitally disruptive era. The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is changing the way that we interact and how companies do business. In this tumultuous time of the Internet of Things, we really do need to… Disrupt. Or. Watch things get disrupted.

So what does it have to do with me? It won’t affect me; I can hear the cogs of your mind ticking, so to speak. Well, the wheels in the minds of prehistoric cavemen were probably turning back at the invention of the wheel too.

As the wheel changed the course of humanity, so will digital, cyber-physical systems set us on a new trajectory.

Before we look at where we are and start making predictions of the future, let’s start by looking at the past [Infographic Summary]:

Pre-history Before 3500 BC, humanity developed by protecting primal needs for food, warmth and security of person by inventing tools, discovering on-demand fire and crafting weapons.

Throughout History After 3500 BC, humankind advanced by developing processes to create human autonomy, starting with the invention of the wheel in 3500 BC. Many other inventions since the wheel, take us to the start of industrialisation, beginning with the steam engine from coal fuels, as well as the invention of other energy resources. Ultimately, the start of the mechanisation of processes to reduce labour, or industrialisation, started with the first mechanical loom.

Here are the 4 dispensations of the Industrial Revolution Timeline:

Industry 1.0 Mechanisation 1784 AD

The first mechanical loom was designed in 1784 by Edmund Cartwright and was built in 1785 which revolutionised the textiles industry through the industrialisation of weaving and effectively the first factory; the start to the mechanisation of other industries.

Industry 2.0 Mass Production 1870 AD

Also termed the Technological Revolution, started with the development of mechanisation with interchangeable parts to produce assembly lines in the machine tool industry, largely attributed to automobile manufacturer Henry Ford in 1870. Characteristic of this era are inventions including: the telegraph, the telephone and electricity; which ushered in globalisation and the First World War… and the Second World War, changing human history and redefining geopolitical boundaries.

Industry 3.0 Automation 1969 AD

On the eve of 1969, Dick Morley, the “father of automation”, invented the first Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) which changed the trajectory of production to take a turn to automated systems, from assembly lines for mass production which still required human interaction to standalone, automated, mechanical systems. The PLC opened the door to fully mechanized systems and is responsible for the invention of robots. Along with automation and the invention of robots came early microprocessors to make computers and telecommunications open to the general public which started with the invention of the internet, the “World Wide Web”, attributed to Tim Berners-Lee in 1989.

Industry 4.0 Machine Learning // Internet of Things (IoT)

We are now experiencing automation to the nth degree with automated machines, able to communicate with each other as cyber-physical systems.

Industry 4.0 is the next industrial revolution and it extends much further than industry (The Industrial Internet). It extends to many applications for Internet connected devices; more commonly termed the Internet of Things (IoT). This term was invented by Kevin Ashton in 1999 around RFID technology and tags / “things” and the Internet… hence Internet of Things. Although birthed at the turn of the 21st Century, the term, coined by Kevin Ashton, gained traction a decade later as IoT technology, applications and use cases became more ubiquitous.

An accurate definition of the Internet of Things is provided by IoT Analytics: Sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects are linked through wired and wireless networks, often using the same Internet Protocol (IP) that connects the Internet.

This new era will certainly change the status quo and is also synonymous with terms such as “digital disruption”.

Future Projections include many advancements including computers with the ability to perform functions through rationalisation from predictive analytics: Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning. Machine Learning enables cyber-physical systems to adapt together as unified systems; creating intelligent environments, joined together to redefine geopolitical boundaries, extending to the possibility of redefining economies.

Technology is changing rapidly and it is imperative for companies to be ahead of the curve.

If you are not familiar with terms like “digital disruption”, “IoT (Internet of Things)”, “AI (Artificial Intelligence)”, “Automation”, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, etc. you have not missed the proverbial boat. However, if there is no urgency to consider the implications of this new, digitally disruptive era, there is the risk of watching the boat sail by as others develop new strategies and align their strategic goals with the technology curve.

By being proactive and developing a digital strategy, not only will the risk component of disruption be managed, but companies will also open opportunities to pioneer new revenue streams.

An article published by advisory firm, KPMG, outlines in part how “Innovation convergence unlocks new paradigms” with a quote from Richard Hanley:

“The disruptive technologies trending as game-changers have already made a huge impact across the technology sector ecosystem and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. The adoption of new technologies such as IoT and AI is complex. Tremendous opportunities exist for companies that can successfully integrate these disruptive technologies to create unique customer value propositions and new ways to compete.” The changing landscape of disruptive technologies 2017 (Part 2) – Richard Hanley, Advisory Leader, Technology, Media and Telecommunications, KPMG/techinnovation in the U.S.

Commercial Real Estate Management firm, JLL, outlines how companies will unlock new sources of growth through the implementation of disruptive technologies in Commercial Office spaces and how new technologies will disrupt the workforce.

“Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, neuromorphic computing and other technologies will enable companies to reinvent their business models and unlock new sources of growth.” Jones Lang LaSelle, The Future of Work, 2017

The focal point in all the industrial revolutions and the advancement of technology, has always and always will, point to people.

Humanity is at the heart of industrialisation and how technological advancement effects society should form the foundation for the adoption of IoT. Our digitally disruptive era will best be navigated by focusing on people. In developing a digital strategy, the first person perspective is the best start: how advancement effects a single person, the communities in which people live and work together and greater communities in segments like intelligent buildings, joined to form Smart Cities.

When leaders of organisations have a people-first approach in defining their digital strategy, we will enable humanity to achieve sustainable growth for future generations. Accenture Strategy outlines how important it is for companies to have a digital strategy or at the very least, a proactive approach to digital disruption.

“Because of this consciousness [The Fourth Industrial Revolution], and the increase in knowledge and information available to them [workforce], leaders can work proactively to address the complex equation they’re facing. There may never have been a better opportunity to get ahead of this issue. And never a greater risk of inaction.” Accenture Strategy, Harnessing Revolution, 2017

Failure to act could lead to business no longer being viable. There are already many examples to offer.

The main objective here is to create a sense of urgency for business leaders to consider technological advancement in the light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to not be caught off guard and be the next example of not adapting to change and being agile enough to forecast evolving customer demands.

Brand value is dictated by the consumer. Customer Experience is vital to building brand value and new technology enables organisations to better understand current trends.

“Customers are doing it [IoT Adoption] for different reasons – response to competitive pressures, new revenue streams, customer demand, market disruption, operational savings. In most cases, IoT will play a major role. Infact, a large number of customers stated that their transformation and digitisation strategies will rise and fall with successful adoption and implementation of some form of IoT.” Security = Risk, People. Orchestration & Automation, 2017

The Australian outlook on the impact of innovation is optimistic, although still only at an adoptive stage compared to international peers as outlined in PwC’s article on how digital can drive the change for expanding Australia’s economy:

“Australia is at an inflection point. There is a lot of positive thinking around innovation and some exciting initiatives are emerging. However, as a country our knowledge and implementation of innovation is still maturing. Learning from our international counterparts we have the opportunity to grow our nation and excel through innovation.’’ Expanding Australia’s Economy: How digital can drive the change – Kate Eriksson, Principal, PwC’s Digital Change

The adoption of digital and implementation of new technologies including IoT, Automation, Big Data and other cloud software for projected growth in the Australian economy is expected to contribute $140 to $250b by 2015 according to McKinsey Global Institute; Digital Australia Seizing Opportunity from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The projected growth of digital spans various industry verticals with key implications in healthcare, the public sector, utilities, finance, retail, mining, design & construction and technology.

Today, digital is changing the way that people interact and how companies need to adapt to put people first to succeed in our digitally disruptive era.

Ultimately, navigating the unknown of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will separate the settlers, the survivors and the pioneers.

Organisations who not only manage the immediate risk of failure of inaction but look ahead to the value creation capabilities of digital, will secure the future of their business and their people.

If you have not considered the implications of how our digitally disruptive era will affect your business, now is the time to act and put a strategic, “future-ready blueprint” in place. Disrupt. Anticipate disruption. Or watch things get disrupted.

About the Author:

Russell Cook

Russell is the Founder and Principal of Matte Black Brand Agency. He is an avid enthusiast of the Internet of Things (IoT) with a firm belief that digital disruption is very quickly changing the way that people interact and the way that companies do business.

As an Advisor to IoTSec in the Smart Communities/Cities arena, he is passionate about the implications of the IoT and how this new industry affects people, the environments in which we work or live and its overarching impact for Smart Cities and Connected Communities.