What is IR 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is a name for the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing and cognitive computing.

Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a “smart factory”. Within the modular structured smart factories, cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralized decisions. Over the Internet of Things, cyber-physical systems communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans in real time, and via the Internet of Services, both internal and cross-organizational services are offered and used by participants of the value chain.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) is expected to change how we live, work, and communicate; it is also likely to change the things we value and the way we value them in the future. Presently, we can already see changing business models and employment trends.

According to The World Economic Forum, an estimated 65% of kids enrolling in primary education today will end up working in jobs that haven’t been created yet.

Automation and artificial intelligence are change agents in 4IR that will make certain groups of employees redundant, replacing them with new workers with the needed skills or with machines that do the job cheaper. Gone are the days where students go to college or university to study for a degree that will set them up with a job for life.

With technological advances, jobs with these three qualities are most likely to be automated:

  • repetitive
  • based on rules
  • involve limited or well-defined physicality


If we look at the image, we see three major industrial revolutions that have taken place through history. The Industrial Revolution 1.0 was the mechanical revolution, centred around production of equipment powered and driven by water and steam. We had the first mechanical looms introduced in 1784. The Second Industrial Revolution occurred in 1870, the phase of the electrical revolution. Mass production was enabled by division of labour and the use of electrical energy. The first assembly line, the Ford line, was probably the most famous example, but perhaps less well-known are the Cincinnati slaughterhouse lines. These first revolutions were only scalable by adding bodies – they relied on humans to achieve more. They were scale-efficient by doing things right. The Third Industrial Revolution occurred in 1969, with the advent of micro-controllers and IT automating manufacturing, and when the internet was launched. The internet came from the military, from ARPANET, and was designed to keep military communications going when the phone system was down. This was then further developed by two computer scientists, the Belgian, Robert Cailliau, and a Brit, Tim Berners-Lee, into what we know today as the World Wide Web. This revolution was scalable: add more computers, IT systems and technology, and improve scalability. By doing the right thing we could achieve economies of scale.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is distinguishable from the third because it is where humans meet the cyber world; where technology and people are not distinct, not separate. We had the PC and we had a life – today our devices and sensors will become an extension of us. Facebook is an extension of us. Our phones are extensions of us. Our smart watches are extensions of who we are and what we do. This fourth revolution has the same triggers as the third revolution, but it’s cyber meets human this time. It’s the same in businesses. Everything gets integrated, customised and smart-automated. The Industrial Revolution 4.0 automates complex tasks; it’s the age of the Internet Of Things and Cloud computing.

Where the first three revolutions were mainly about empowering organisations, almost all innovation in the last few years has been driven by the consumer and is now changing organisations from the inside. When we look at the changes that are taking place, the next revolution will be in an invisible world. So far the three main revolutions have all been very visible. We could see the tablets, the iPhones, the wearables – they were visible, but increases in our capabilities are powered by technology that moves further out of sight, becomes invisible. Innovation will come from the shift to the Cloud – invisible processing power, storage, intelligence. More innovation will come from what’s happening inside and around the device versus the object we can see – artificial intelligence, powerful algorithms, Cloud computing.

Some researchers say that the comprehensive nature and scale of the cataclysm of physical, digital and biological world changes coming together will be transformational. The majority of the government ecosystem is built upon models with mostly national rules, national taxes, local hiring and salary taxes to pay social security. The Industrial Revolution 4.0 is disrupting this model and the notion of being national is getting a different meaning. Of course, ethical questions, similar to the debates around the use of atomic energy and genetic research, will need to be answered as this connected super-intelligent world evolves, and new playing rules will need to reflect those questions.

New Samsung fridges provide us with the capability to scan the barcodes of products as we place them in the fridge and when we take them out. The fridge will then recommend items for ordering and can do it online for us, if we want. There are screens we can place on the wall or windows that we can project on to. Everything will become integrated into the environment; there will be natural ways of controlling things through voice, gesture, emotion, touches, and they will anticipate our needs and enhance our lives.

Our lives will follow us as we walk through the walls.

Is your career at risk?

These are some jobs that have a 95% or higher probability of being automated:

  • Cashiers
  • Office clerks, general
  • Secretaries and administrative assistants
  • Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks
  • Cooks, restaurants
  • Team assemblers
  • Receptionists and information clerks
  • Landscaping and groundskeeping workers
  • Shipping, receiving and traffic clerks
  • Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers
  • Counter attendants, cafeteria/food concession
  • Tellers
  • Billing and posting clerks
  • Counter and rental clerks
  • Driver/Sales workers
  • Foodservice hosts and hostesses
  • Packaging/Filling machine operators
  • Operating engineers and equipment operators
  • Bill and account collectors
  • Loan officers
  • Insurance claims and policy processing clerks
  • Claims adjusters, examiners and investigators
  • Parts salespersons
  • Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers
  • Telemarketers
  • Dispatchers
  • Data entry keyers
  • Legal secretaries
  • Order clerks
  • Payroll and timekeeping clerks
  • Molding/Coremaking/Casting machine operators
  • Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers
  • Library assistants and technicians
  • Switchboard operators

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