Our role in the 4th Industrial Revolution – Observations from The World Economic Forum

By June 27, 2016 No Comments

Sitting yesterday in an intimate session with Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum and author of The 4th Industrial Revolution, Professor Schwab addressed many of the key issues facing the global economy. Stating that we were in the midst of an already happening 4th Industrial Revolution – an increasingly connected combination of cyber and physical in manufacturing and supply chain – he noted that “populations are not prepared for the pace of change” in the current environment.  Fittingly, right outside our meeting room is a near lifelike anthropomorphic robot and a collection of advanced manufacturing robotic systems on display.  As an engineer by training, I see exciting times ahead but also complex times.

This year is our first time participating in the World Economic Forum.  We were honored to be selected as a 2016 Tech Pioneer and recognized at the Annual Meeting of New Champions in Tianjin, China.  We are among a class of incredible innovators like Impossible Foods, Magic Leap, Humanyze, and Blockchain to name a few. We’re also surrounded by some of the world’s foremost leaders, thinkers, and activists who are engaged in debating topics such as the Future of Production.  Klaus Schwab gave us all a bit of a challenge – he selected Google as a Tech Pioneer back in 2001 and Facebook back in when it had only a few dozen employees and a dream – build something that can help the world through its challenges and create opportunities.

Times have changed significantly since the last time I spent significant time in China ahead of the Olympics.  GDP in Tianjin is highest in the country and growing at over 12% per year.  Yet even still, China is sensitive to the exact same market pressures that we are.  A country that the US often looks to when questioning our competitive footing is grappling with the same extraordinary pace of change that the rest of us are contemplating strategies to address.  Simply put, the 4th Industrial Revolution is here and we are all a part of it.

The consensus heard at the WEF was that the new normal is a world where connected systems, machines, and analytic techniques like Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning are here and will continue to be a permanent fixture in the future of work.  How we respond to that new normal is the question that remains.  The biggest challenges relevant to our industrial partners are:

  • How to maintain tribal knowledge or upskill the workforce as the knowledge requirements change faster than in generations before.
  • How to harness the access to enormous amounts of information created by the industrial Internet of Things – information that can be extremely insightful and beneficial to work process, first time quality, and product safety.
  • How to protect the people in our economies as we go through a transformative period of time.

Enter the connected worker.  As a concept and as a professional seeking to enable a truly connected workforce, we are in the earliest of innings but the opportunity to address those above challenges is now.

APX, our customers, and our partners have a front row seat, perhaps the driver seat, in the solutions being designed to tackle these challenges and contribute value in this new chapter of the economy. Wearables are the most compelling interface we’ve seen to empower the people who work across the thousands of industrial roles that fuel a healthy global economy.  Enjoy the journey!