All of us in the UK construction industry have seen some fairly rapid changes over the past few years and we’re living on the brink of a technological revolution that is likely to fundamentally change the way we live, work and communicate. The coming transformation will be like nothing humankind has ever experienced before and, as yet, we’re not even sure on how it will unfold. However, insiders warn that our response will need to be comprehensive and integrated, involving all stakeholders from public and private sectors, to academia and civil society.
The First Industrial Revolution involved the use of water and steam power to mechanise production methods, making goods widely available to a growing market. Then came the Second Industrial Revolution in which electricity was used to create mass production on an unprecedented scale, changing our lives forever. The Third Industrial Revolution came about with the adoption of electronics and information technology to automate production which changed our working lives as well as our day to day habits.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution stems directly from the Third, the digital revolution that has been happening since the middle of the 20th Century with a fusion of technologies leading to the blurring of the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres. The transformations taking place today can no longer be seen as the prolonging of the Third Industrial Revolution, but rather as a herald of the Fourth. The speed of innovation and the resulting breakthroughs has no historical precedent and, when compared with the previous Industrial Revolutions, it is evolving at a dizzying rate, rather than at a linear pace as we’ve seen in the past.
This Fourth Industrial Revolution is disrupting just about every industry in every country of the world and the changes it brings are likely to transform the entire systems of production, management and governance. Billions of people across the world are instantly connected via hand-held mobile devices that have an unprecedented processing power, storage capacity and knowledge. We carry powerful mini-computers in our pockets everywhere we go.
Emerging technologies are delivering breakthroughs in fields that, just twenty years ago, would have seemed unattainable. Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3-D printing technology, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials sciences, energy storage and quantum computing are changing the way we live and the changes are likely to be fast and furious in the coming years.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, like those that preceded it, has the potential to improve the quality of life and raise income levels on a global basis. So far, those who have gained the most from this Revolution are the consumers who are able to afford and access the digital world. Technology now makes it possible to book a flight, buy products, listen to music, watch a film and order a cab at the touch of a button on a device that we carry at all times. It’s a type of instant gratification that we are becoming used to.
Future innovations in technology will affect supplies, bringing long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. Communication and transportation costs are likely to be reduced as will the cost of trade which will open new markets and drive economic growth. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds, we at Safety Fabrications will be bringing our readers all the news as it happens so that they can stay up to speed with a rapidly changing world, both in the workplace and in the home.