The fourth industrial revolution, much like the first three, has the potential to increase income levels and improve quality of life across the globe. Something to look forward to, but what exactly is it?

During the first revolution, water and steam power was used to mechanise production. Electric power was utilised to create mass production during the second, and automating production through electronics and information technology brought along the third industrial revolution. Each revolution builds on the preceding one, and the fourth is no different, except that instead of linear like the previous three, it is evolving at an exponential pace. The fourth revolution is the fusion of technologies that brings together the physical, digital and biological worlds.

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This fusion represents the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance and almost every industry in every country. With billions of people constantly connected, with access to unlimited processing power, storage capacity, and knowledge, the possibilities are enormous. Combine that with emerging technology breakthroughs, especially in fields like AI, IoT, autonomous vehicles, robotics, biotechnology etc., and these possibilities become boundless.

What impact will the fourth industrial revolution have on business?

There are already significant impacts on businesses. With growing business transparency, increased consumer engagement and changes in consumer behaviour emerging because of the fourth industrial revolution, companies are adapting the way they design, market and deliver products and services to remain competitive.

With access to new technologies that change the way they serve existing needs, innovative companies can oust well-established businesses faster and easier than before. Access to global digital platforms that improve the way we research, develop, market, sell and distribute can help companies to improve quality, cost or speed of delivery.

A new trend that the fourth industrial revolution has created is the development of technology-enabled platforms which fuse the demand and supply to deliver a new way of consuming goods and services. This brings forth an industry of “sharing” platforms (think Uber, Waze, iBoni, or UmbraCity!) which utilises people, assets and data in a mobile technology application. 

At its core, the fourth industrial revolution has brought forth four main changes to business:

  1. Customer Expectation

With customers at the epicentre of the economy, everything is and will continue to shift towards improving how the customer is served.

  1. Product Enhancement

Products and services will be given additional capabilities through digital enhancements, which will increase their value, and through this and other innovations, new technologies will emerge that cause existing products and items to be more durable. Maintenance will also be altered, by utilising data and analytics.

  1. Collaborative innovation

Connectivity and innovation enable and require collaboration and partnership, much like open source technologies such as Python enabled access and collaboration to analytical solutions.

  1. Organisational forms

New business models and platforms create a need for new talent, culture and organisational structures.

The transition from the third to the fourth industrial revolution, like before, requires companies to re-examine the way they think and conduct business. Business leaders need to remain relentless in their pursuit of innovation to stay competitive.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is still in its nascent state. But with the swift pace of change and disruption to business and society, the time to join in is now.” - Gary Coleman, Global Industry and Senior Client Advisor, Deloitte Consulting

In my next blog, I’ll be taking a closer look at what impact the fourth industrial revolution will have on emerging markets, and how it will affect employment and equality globally.

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