History books refer to radical and widespread developments in technology as industrial revolutions. To date, we've experienced three. Now, the world is in the middle of its fourth — and beginning its fifth — industrial revolution.
The mechanization of the textile industry and the advent of steam power ushered in the first industrial revolution. Electric power, which enabled the mass production of goods, sparked the second. More recently, the third saw breakthroughs in the integration of computers and automated technologies into production processes, which created new efficiencies.
Now, the convergence of some of today's leading internet-connected technologies is spurring a fourth industrial revolution — Industry 4.0. These technologies include:
1. The internet of things (IoT)
2. Cloud computing
3. Big data
4. Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI)
What's the result of this convergence? Digital transformation.
Many enterprises can now digitize once-manual and paper-based processes to achieve a digital enterprise — something Deloitte defines as an enterprise that is “not only interconnected, but also communicates, analyzes and uses information to drive further intelligent action back in the physical world."
Digital enterprises can easily automate, standardize, and control their most critical business processes to drive quality improvement, regulatory compliance, agility, and productivity.
While this sounds good, many people are concerned that such a digital and system-centric business model is the diminishing role of humans.
Naturally, software and robotics have superseded humans on the assembly line because they can outpace them on repetitive tasks. But recent strides in AI and cognitive computing mean systems can exploit data to complete more complex functions, such as problem-solving, once believed to be the exclusive domain of the human mind.
Does this mean that machines will eventually outsmart and displace humans as they do on the HBO series Westworld?
We'll have to wait and see if a robot uprising occurs. But what's certain is that we are in the beginning stages of Industry 5.0 — or the fifth industrial revolution — which means greater collaboration between advanced technologies and humans.
Look at robots that can complete the automated manufacturing of goods and IoT devices as an example of the fifth industrial revolution in action In addition, business process management (BPM) software will monitor business data to spot anything out of the ordinary. If something is wrong, BPM software can trigger a process that alerts the appropriate person to act and decide what to do.
Even better, using advanced data analytics and AI, BPM software can present people with several options to guide their decision on how to best proceed. We call this augmented intelligence.
So, even though technology is the driving force behind these processes, humans are still at the heart of decisive action in the fifth industrial revolution. In this collaborative environment, processes run faster, decisions are better, and business outcomes are far greater.
Industry 5.0 may still be in its infancy, but for companies that want to stay ahead of the curve and outpace their competition, it's critical to act sooner rather than later.