Gearing up for the next industrial revolution

BabyX is a computer generated simulation of an infant who learns and interacts in real time using AI.
BabyX is a computer generated simulation of an infant who learns and interacts in real time using AI.

By Edward Lim

It’s been a long time coming but the next industrial evolution, dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution is nearly, if not already here.

Each revolution since the first led by water and steam power used to mechanise production in 1784 has been driven by technology in various forms. The Second Industrial Revolution leveraged electric power for mass production while the Third Industrial Revolution used electronics and information technology to automate production.

The next revolution builds on an increasingly digital economy and the fusion of various technologies, including the Internet, which is shaping the way people live, work, play, and relate to one another.

Central to these revolutions has been the manufacturing sector – the bread and butter of many countries around the world. Manufacturers are facing constant pressure to increase production levels while keeping manpower and operational costs down. Compounding these challenges are rising costs, stagnating productivity and worst yet, ageing workforces around the world.

Coming forth for the Fourth
However, the emergence of some technologies and the maturing of others that are at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution may provide the tonic needed for manufacturers to transform and compete in the coming days.

These technologies include the Internet of Things (IoT) where devices and machines can talk to one another, enabling machine-to-machine communication; robotics that take automation to another level, lessening the need for manpower; and artificial intelligence that leads to deep learning and machine learning, where machines can move beyond performing repetitive tasks by learning from data gathered during the manufacturing process and improving the processes.

Similarly, the logistics industry is also facing manpower and operational efficiency challenges, and the need to deliver faster in a very demanding world.

They too will benefit from these technologies plus the use of drones to deliver goods. That’s something that Amazon is already planning to do with Prime Air, a future delivery system designed to safely get packages to its customers in 30 minutes or less using drones.

By adopting some, if not all, of these technologies, manufacturers and logistics companies may be able to overcome the challenges of productivity, operational efficiency, manpower, and cost.

Storage more vital than ever
Traditionally, the storage infrastructure has been a depository of enterprise data and applications. However, in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, storage will go beyond that to take on an even more vital role as lots of data will be captured and generated by the enterprise network, mobile devices, sensors, and machines.

All these technologies will involve massive gathering, storing and flow of data. Manufacturers and logistics companies need to have robust storage infrastructures – physical, in the cloud or a hybrid – that can handle the huge amounts of data.

It’s no longer just certain applications that are mission critical. The entire storage infrastructure will be mission critical.

The manufacturing and logistics industries will need to re-align their storage infrastructure capabilities to be able to support the transformation towards smarter and more efficient operations. This may call for a re-evaluation of the storage policy and the need to determine how to better manage the storage requirements of the enterprise.

Data needs to be captured quickly, analyzed and be easily retrievable and available to those who need them so performance of the storage solution is key. On top of these, the storage system must be reliable because of the sensitivity and timeliness of data in making critical business decisions. Any downtime may hamper the decision-making process and even result in loss of business.

Privacy is another important consideration so the storage infrastructure must be intelligent enough to know who owns the data and how the data is shared. Besides privacy concerns, there is also the need for data protection. Enterprises need to consider whether everything should be on the cloud, reside in a secured enterprise network or a combination of both.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will transform the world perhaps even more than the previous three revolutions. This is because the economies today are much bigger than they were before.

The stake is high for manufacturers and logistic companies. Put the right storage infrastructures in place to support the new technologies, and they will be able to benefit from the many opportunities that the new revolution will bring.