Web 2.0, Windows 3.11, Industry 4.0. Versioning is everywhere – prevalent across dozens of sectors, and in some cases, a clever marketing tactic to make you spend more money on more things (I’m looking at you, iPhone 13).
But Industry 4.0 (and everything before it) is different. The four ‘versions’ of industry, rather than being incremental steps or minor updates, are actually pretty significant moments in time – pivotal shifts in the industrial sector that mark a change in how collective nations are utilising technology, materials and processes. Let’s start back in the 16th century to set a little context.
The First Industrial Revolution
This may be the one you learned about in school – it certainly was for me. The industrial revolution as we most commonly know it is the transition from hands-on, manual production to machine manufacturing. This is a relatively long period of time, as steam power and water power started to trickle out across industries.
The Second Industrial Revolution
Better known as the Technological Revolution, this is the period of time between 1871 and 1914, and covers the mass rollout of rail and telegraph networks. This mobilisation of people, communications and electricity was a significant boost to manufacturing and in-turn, the economy (despite an initial surge of unemployment due to factory workers being replaced by machines).
The Third Industrial Revolution
The digital revolution – a time now steeped in inescapable nostalgia. The late 20th century saw the introduction of supercomputers, the Z1, and a whole host of improved methods or processing and communication. Powered by the introduction and mass production of microelectronics, this was the start of a whole new world of personal computers, games consoles and electronic music devices.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution – Industry 4.0
The term originated from Germany, and is often shortened to I4.0 or just I4, which sounds more like a BMW to me than anything else. Industry 4.0 is a more formalised collection of ideals and is actually a working group too, headed by Robert Bosch GmbH.
The principles of Industry 4.0 are simple:
- Interconnection – devices and people should be able to communicate with one another.
- Information Transparency – decisions should be made based on data points throughout.
- Technical Assistance – technology should be able to assist humans in decision making.
- Decentralised Decisions – systems should be able to make these decisions as autonomously as possible.
So they’re the principles, but what are some of the components that make up Industry 4.0? And how can agencies like ours ensure that the work we do plays a part in driving this forward whilst also retaining our fourth sector values? Is that even possible?
In short, yes. Technology is part of everything we do as a business, and it’s in everything we do outside of work too. Being a part of Industry 4.0 isn’t particularly difficult, particularly with the proliferation of IoT, mobile devices and mixed reality becoming increasingly common with consumers. But as with everything we do, it isn’t so much a case of finding a technological angle, it’s about an honest brief, an ethical process, and a sustainable result.
From this year onwards, everything we do should improve lives, benefit communities, and satisfy our values of inclusivity, inquisitiveness and independence.
The myriad components of Industry 4.0 can be grouped into four major categories: Cyber-physical systems, IoT, on-demand availability of resources, and cognitive computing. But that’s still a broad collection of almost endless possibilities. And in a world of swollen app stores, constant updates and device overload, many seem to be on a mission to create tech for tech’s sake.
That’s not what we do or why we are here. Despite a background in web development, we are finding ourselves working on an increasingly varied pool of work, from dashboards to data visualisations, even intranets and integrations. So whilst there’s no shortage of problems to solve and bold new clients to be working with, our part in all of this is to pinpoint exactly what we can do and the part we can play with clients who genuinely care about communities, sustainability and the developing world – the ethical side of Industry 4.0.
We’ve touched on this a lot already; our fintech series concluded with a look at how technology is making personal finance easier for underbanked countries. And also how mobile development (particularly Android development and mobile web development) can better benefit developing parts of the world.
To achieve an ethical approach to Industry 4.0, we need to be selective about who we work with, the projects we take on, and even the technologies we use. It’s a brave step forward for us, but a step forward that we feel confident in taking. But what safeguards are there for Industry 4.0? How can Industry 4.0 be sustainable?
This is where good old German efficiency comes into play. Thankfully, with the formalised approach to Industry 4.0 from the likes of Bosch and others, it has been agreed that clear sustainable development goals (SDGs) as set by the United Nations will be a clear target for Industry 4.0 by and beyond 2030. And this isn’t just a loose set of fluffy ideals. These specific, research-based objectives are already backed by thousands of endeavours across the world. They are:
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Good health and wellbeing
- Quality education
- Gender equality
- Clean water and sanitation
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace, justice and strong institutions
- Partnerships for the goals
So needless to say, a goal of our own is to be a part of this – to use these 17 action points as a guide for everything we do as a business. And who knows, perhaps one day soon we’ll be part of those 5,390 actions. We formalised our feelings on this back in January by joining 1% for the Planet. You can read more about that here.
If your business, brand or even your big, bold idea has sustainability in mind, we’d like to talk to you about how we can use our technology expertise to help you get to where you’re going. And perhaps by 2030, we can say that we were a part of the SDGs.