Xesol Innovation | The Four Industrial Revolutions: An Overview
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The Four Industrial Revolutions: An Overview

The Four Industrial Revolutions: An Overview

As some experts agree, we are at the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, a revolution that is meant to rapidly catapult our way of life into an unrecognizable transformation. For some, it seems daunting, and for others, it’s a source of efficiency and innovation. But with all future prospects, it’s important to reflect on past endeavors to fully embrace and understand the disruptive innovations that are yet to come. We can’t forget prior industrial revolutions that once drastically changed the way society lived and worked and that has led us to the 4IR (fourth industrial revolution)


Industrial Revolution #1: Agrarian and handicraft to industry and machine manufacturing

The first revolution, the one most commonly referenced and recognized, can be marked by the shift towards a society formed around factories and was driven by steam power, enabling our society to reach innovative miles stones and distances that we had never imagined.

It was the steam engine that radically changed our society in how it worked and moved from point a to b.  In addition to using steam as power, new innovative process in the textile and iron making processes lead to more efficient production.

With factory jobs flourishing within cities, we began to see a shift towards more city living, leaving farm and agrarian life behind. Mainly confined to Britain, countries such as Belgium experienced the first industrial revolution as well.

Industrial Revolution #2: Science, mass production and the assembly line

Roughly bound by two wars (American Civil War and World War One) in the late 19th and 20th centuries, the second industrial revolution was a period of globalization and reaped the benefits of the advancements and innovation of the first. Distances grew shorter and communication was made easier with railway expansion, the automobile, public transport, airplanes and telephones.

Electricity, mass production and the assembly line were also important drivers of the advancements achieved in the second industrial revolution, transforming country output.

The second industrial revolution can be marked by a faster-passed life. With fewer people working in the fields, schedules were no longer determined by the sun or weather, but by the mass production of consumer goods. The second industrial revolution primarily took place in the USA, Britain, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Italy and Japan.

Industrial Revolution #3: The digital revolution- computers, internet and interconnectivity

The technological advancements that we enjoy today are a result of the third industrial revolution that can be marked by the digitalization and intensified connectivity and the shift away from analog and mechanical technology.

It is from this third industrial revolution that a large part of the world’s population uses personal computers, cell phones and internet. Our way of life and society has greatly become dependent on our digitalization and it has enabled us to live in a truly globalized world where things such as outsourcing and mass international trade have become the norm.

Beginning in the second half of the 21st century, we can think of the third industrial revolution as a fundamental stepping stone to the fourth revolution, Industry 4.0.

Industrial Revolution #4: Industry 4.0-AI and AR could just be the beginning

The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0 as it has been dubbed, will be the combination of advanced manufacturing, IoT and artificial intelligence. This shift is broadly marked by the merging of the physical and virtual worlds and cyber-physical production systems.

According to BCG, Industry 4.0 will encompass 9 technological pillars: simulation, horizontal and vertical system integration, the industrial internet of things, cybersecurity, the cloud, additive manufacturing, augmented reality, big data and analytics, and autonomous robots.

Whether you are one to find this change unnerving or, on the other hand, expectant of this forecasted revolution, it important to remember that change is inevitable and we, as a society, are not foreign to such changes. It’s what we do. Change, adapt and change again.