Industry 1.0 - 3.0
The progression of industry over the last 250 hundred years is grouped into four distinct stages. The first industrial revolution began in the late 18th century and was characterized by mechanized production driven by steam and water power. By the middle of the 19th century, mass production, assembly lines, and electrical energy defined the second industrial revolution. The third industrial revolution initiated in the mid-20th century, and brought forth the use of electronics and computers to automate production. Like those before it, the fourth industrial revolution signifies our entrance into a new age of production complexity.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What it means for users
The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, is happening right now. At its core, it involves the integration between the physical and the digital world, which is highly applicable in manufacturing, agriculture, and the medical field. One of the key technologies that enables this revolution is the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT describes the system of physical objects that are connected to the internet, like your Amazon Alexa or other “smart home” devices. Think of these devices on a much larger scale, where they can run an entire factory, or perhaps even a city.
Industry 4.0 is more than just the existence of these devices. It is how they collect and share data with each other, and then use information derived from all these data sources to optimize performance. In factories, this increases efficiency by eliminating the human middlemen that need to figure out the significance of certain data and apply it to the other production processes. For instance, say a customer changes their order from red toy cars to blue toy cars. The order is modified in an online database, and every aspect of a production system adapts to this new information. Perhaps the conveyor belt shifts all the unpainted cars down a new path to receive the correct paint job. After that, maybe the blue paint is thicker and takes longer to dry, so it must be but through the drying system multiple times. Industry 4.0 allows all these decisions to happen automatically.
As the fourth industrial revolution progresses, less and less people will be involved in the hands-on aspect of manufacturing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Processes move faster without the risk of human error and safety concerns. Even though work on the factory lines may become obsolete, new jobs are emerging for humans to work with machines rather than on them. Workers will no longer be exposed to harmful chemicals, dangerous equipment, or hot and humid factory conditions.