The Early Bird Gets the Competitive Edge

Posted on 28 April, 2022

It’s going to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. The scale, scope and complexity will forever change the way we live, work, learn and communicate with each other. Some of it remains a mystery, some if it seems almost certain, all of it is thrilling to consider.

However, what is also clear is that the response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution must be integrated, strategic, and comprehensive, involving both the public and private sectors, from government to academia to business.

There are four commonly recognised industrial revolutions, each having its own unique impact on human society and progress. Much like the previous industrial revolutions, the fourth is no exception to causing issues with its progress. Working towards optimising the advances the third brought, it is the most volatile so far, with new technological advancements being released every week.

As we stand at the edge of this Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterised by the fusion of the digital, biological, and physical worlds, as well as the growing utilization of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, and advanced wireless technologies, among others – we can already see that it has ushered in a new era of economic disruption.

The first revolution brought the possibility of bulk production; the second revolution optimised, refined, and streamlined ideas from the first; the third moved things into a digital sphere and globalised communication; the fourth is tirelessly working to grow a more sustainable and prosperous future, with efforts towards achieving carbon neutrality and using renewable energy and materials.

Also, whereas previous revolutions focused more on industries, the fourth will focuses on tailoring those industries to personal needs. Imagine the possibilities of billions of people connected, of unlimited access to learning, and of unprecedented storage and processing power, when paired with technological advances such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, robotics, nanotechnology, and quantum computing.

It represents some incredible opportunities:

  • Increased opportunities for personalisation and growing trust and loyalty between businesses and consumers
  • Increased sustainability
  • Long-term gains in efficiency and productivity thanks to AI, machine learning, optimisation, automation, etc.
  • Reduced transportation, communication, and trade costs.
  • More effective logistics and global supply chains
  • The birth of new markets and higher economic growth
  • Income levels worldwide seem set to rise and improve the quality of life for all
  • Increased innovation thanks to global digital platforms for research, development, marketing, sales, and distribution
  • Higher quality products thanks to real-time monitoring across supply chains, IoT-enabled quality improvement and co-bots (collaborative robots)
  • Evolution of who we are as people – how we view identity, privacy, ownership, how we organise our time, look after our health, develop our careers, grow our relationships.

Impressive progress has been made in AI in recent years, driven by exponential increases in computing power and by the availability of vast amounts of data, from software used to discover new drugs to algorithms used to predict our cultural interests. In the early 2010’s, 3D printing was a fledgling idea, but now you can 3D print hips and entire limbs.

However, this revolution also will bring about many challenges for individuals, businesses, and society…

We are living in an age where digital transformation is the end goal of most companies. Why do so many companies realize that transformation is necessary to reach the future of digital manufacturing, yet few have been able to grasp its potential at scale?

There are four main areas in which the Fourth Industrial Revolution will revolutionise business: customer expectations, product enhancement, collaborative innovation, and organisational structure.

There are also several major concerns:

  • The skills gap – With the automation of certain jobs, new roles for humans will be created. However, the UK (and much of the rest of the world) currently still suffers from a distinct lack of skills, that prevents us from being able to fill those new roles and move forward with momentum
  • Data growth – AI algorithms need to be easier to understand in order to harness the ever- growing amounts of data generated in multiple formats
  • Data security & sensitivity – The growth of innovative solutions also creates a wider attack surface, and increasing threats and vulnerabilities have led to increasing concerns over data and IP privacy, management, and ownership
  • Interoperability – The lack of separation between protocols, components, products, and systems, will continue to curtail innovation
  • Instability – Economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have stated that this revolution could yield greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labour markets
  • Regulatory frameworks – Legislation needs to catch up, so that we can establish clear domestic and international rules around protecting data, consumers, and businesses. However, any jumping of the gun (before we fully understand particular technology and its potential) will only supress further innovation

As daunting and uncharted as the Fourth Industrial Revolution may seem, it’s worth remembering that those living through the previous revolutions felt the same.

Every organisation is being forced to reassess the way it does business. Moving forward, business leaders and senior executives must abandon traditional, linear thinking, and instead adopt an innovation mindset, and ensure they are constantly and strategically challenging assumptions and learning about their ever-evolving environment.

The potential is limitless and unlike anything we’ve ever imagined. So too are the consequences if we mess things up. We all need to work towards developing a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology can transform our economic, social, cultural, and human environments.

Boston Limited has been working with market leading technologies and their vendors for 30 years. We have seen the rise and fall of many technologies and worked with most if not all of them. As technology is rapidly developing it is important to keep it in line, so we are given enough time to experiment with them and understand their implications. The sooner companies embrace this revolution, the sooner can policy makers start streamlining legislation and make this future more accessible and stable.

For example, the hottest topic in business and technology right now is AI implementation and HPC ready systems. Having your own servers and own High-Performance Computing (HPC) hardware can give you the freedom to focus on what you want, and not only what you can focus on.

We are experts at helping people to upgrade their businesses and embrace transformation, to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution and be an early bird rather than late to the party. The solution depends very much on the individual needs and goals of an organisation – and figuring that out is our speciality.

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