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How the IoT Has Ushered in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Internet of Things is critical in enabling technology for manufacturing and beyond.
By Steve Latham
Oct 09, 2019

Back in grade school, we all learned about the Industrial Revolution—the sweeping mechanization of Europe and the United States that, seemingly overnight, replaced handmade production with water- and steam-powered manufacturing. But, of course, that wasn't the only radical reinvention of industry. We've had three major industrial revolutions since the 1760s. The early 20th century's Second Industrial Revolution brought us mass production and assembly lines, and we've all lived through the Third's explosion of computers and automation. And here we are now, about to enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution: the convergence of advances in technologies across many different areas—artificial intelligence (AI), biotech, big data, analytics, predictive analytics and more.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is critical in enabling technology in this new revolution for manufacturing and beyond. Machine learning and AI stand out as the big accelerators that'll catapult us forward—those technologies have the capacity to self-learn, and therefore discover solutions faster than humans would be capable of doing on their own. That's a big opportunity, and I'm excited about this because it represents a chance to tackle big problems standing out in a variety of disciplines. Whether it's in manufacturing, medicine or engineering, we'll need machine intelligence.

IoT Feeds AI That's Powering the Revolution
At the same time, AI can't learn without data—lots of data. That's where the IoT comes in; capturing lots of data over long periods of time is really what the IoT is about. It's about taking data from all manner of devices, sensors and sub-control systems, then quickly processing the information and reacting to it in real time.

It's akin to how the Internet has evolved. Throughout the last two decades, sites have become better and better at collecting data about users. Eventually, those websites started to learn how to capitalize on that data, and today you end up with things like Amazon's and Netflix's recommendation engines, which have revolutionized online shopping experiences. Today, the IoT is taking those same concepts and reaching into the physical world to communicate to devices, and to communicate to sub-control systems inside of physical spaces. We're making that big engine much, much more intelligent.

And so that data capture, processing and persistence are what the IoT is all about. Lay on top of all that technologies like AI, and it becomes the food for an AI engine to make powerful decisions; it enables systems to self-learn. So equipped, we'll see the velocity of innovation accelerate dramatically.

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