Watching talks from the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, I was drawn to the discussions surrounding Industrial Revolution 4.0. The earlier Industrial Revolution gave us the light bulb, telegraph, airplane and Model T. These were highly relevant inventions — not just at the time, but for all time. They were the precursors for inventions to come. Imagine a world without Alexander Graham Bell. His brainchild is the foundation for our handheld devices, which give us directions, set our alarms, add a movie to our queue and complete our mobile commerce transactions. All that in addition to making calls, texting, reading email and checking in with social media.
We’ve come a long way since the first Industrial Revolution. With huge advancements in technology the past few years, emerging technologies and the very real arrival of Artificial Intelligence, how do we harness this technology for good? We already are.
Technologies Already in Use
Drones. AI-enhanced agricultural drones are already in use by both large and small farm operators. Drones take highly detailed aerial images of soil, seedlings, pests and obtain other data to prevent crop damage. The cost for this technology is not exorbitant in most cases and the small investment can help prevent a year without yield.
Reusable rockets. Elon Musk and SpaceX lead the way in reusable rocket technology. Falcon 9 landed triumphantly on its drone ship after a successful mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX is currently flying cargo resupply missions for NASA with the goal of perfecting the sustainable, reusable rocket, but Musk’s real vision is making space available for all.
3D printing. Bastion Cycles in Melbourne, Australia manufactures bikes with 3D printed-lugs made of titanium alloy powder. Carbon powder makes up the bike’s tubes and the two are fused together to create a high-performance frame. The made-to-order biomechanical bikes are already available – ordering takes place right on their website.
Smart Cities. Barcelona, Singapore and Oslo have all received accolades for their smart city initiatives. Smart planning in transportation, parking, grids, connectivity, waste reduction and sustainability are the foundations of a smart city. New York’s ingenious LinkNYC initiative plans to convert many of the city’s outdated pay phones into communication kiosks, providing Wi-Fi internet and device charging to the public. Kabadiwalla Connect in Chennai, India uses advanced technology to ensure less recyclable waste inadvertently heads to the landfill. In addition, their Upcykle studio repurposes and upcycles sustainable products in an effort to shift the public perception of waste.
Wearables. Honorable mention goes to this still-emerging advancement. Sensors in wearable devices will allow the chemical composition of your sweat to be analyzed. From skin temperature to glucose levels, your body’s data will be wirelessly transmitted to your smart device, reducing or eliminating the need for traditional blood work.
Follow the Leader, Be the Leader
While emerging technologies are still being defined, there is no doubt we are participants in an Industrial Revolution of our own. Thinking much further back than the industrial Revolution of the 19th century, it’s astonishing to realize how far we’ve come. If the telegraph seems so long ago, imagine the first forging of a nail. Or the invention of the wheel. Even a sewing needle evokes some sense of awe. The nail, wheel and needle are still an important part of life today.
The World Economic Forum has again brought Industrial Revolution 4.0 to the forefront. We’re reminded that the future is already present. We’re reminded of the many innovations that led us to where we now stand. We’re reminded that our ever-inquisitive minds will continue to imagine a better way to perform, communicate, explore and create. We will follow the leader once again, as we have with each new invention and technological advance. We tip our hat to the nail, the light bulb and the internet while moving fully into our own Industrial Revolution 4.0. Here we lay ground, brainstorm, experiment, prototype, manufacture, and make our own contribution to the world.