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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

Likewise, I expect that the concept of the IoT as an independent discipline might start to fade; it's almost certainly going to become much more integrated into other technologies. The IoT will be inside of things you use every day without you even knowing that the term "IoT" exists. The idea of big IoT platforms like Canopy is very important right now, but in the future, Canopy may well become a component of systems that are taking advantage of it.

Think of it this way: Back in the DVD kiosk rental world—where I came from—kiosks were very much powered by the IoT, but it just wasn't branded an IoT solution. Likewise, the Nest thermostat is considered a thermostat, not an IoT platform—while it very much is a part of the IoT. We'll see more and more of the IoT fading into the background, where we will take its presence for granted in manufacturing and elsewhere. It'll be "IoT in disguise," because consumers, industry and enterprises won't look for it; it's going to become an expectation.

While it's almost a cliché to assert that the pace of technological innovation is accelerating, that doesn't make it untrue. The pace is going exponential, like a graph with a hockey stick curve. That, in part, is because the IoT continues to deliver the food that feeds techs' insatiable appetite for data.

The dark side of all this innovation is the concern that increasing automation and smart machines may displace human workers—and that's a real worry. We've proven time and time again that when machines can perform tasks more efficiently and more accurately than people, humans tend to be replaced. That means we'll soon be facing some very real socio-economic challenges. Smart people like Bill Gates have made some predictions about how this will affect us, and it would be irresponsible not to take them seriously. That includes planning ahead to recalibrate the workforce.

We need to look at ways to retrain the workforce. In fact, one thing that we've thought about at my firm is that if Canopy ends up being a contributing factor to displacing workforce, then we, to be responsible, must become a place where that workforce can come to be retrained into careers related to maintaining and servicing the IoT.

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