Changing: The 4th Industrial Revolution


By Maria Hernandez, Internet of Things strategist at Cisco UK and Ireland

Be it the creation of the first audio cassette in the 60s, the arrival of the World Wide Web in the 80s, or the smartphone connected world we now occupy, technology has time and time again transformed our world, and there’s no indication that is going to change.

The World Economic Forum earlier this year focused on businesses and countries a like navigating the 4th Industrial Revolution, an era in which technology plays a critical role in the future of business and society.

The 4th Industrial Revolution will be delivered by the 4th era of IT. The first era, in the 1960s, was the mainframe era and was all about the automation of accounting and computational number crunching; the second, in the 1980s, was the introduction of the PC, and later, the Web, which brought about automation of paper processes, and ushered in new ways of communicating. The the third era, in the early part of the 21st century, was the introduction of cloud and mobile, delivering pervasive devices, consumer and social apps, and new systems of engagement.

Finally, today the fourth era is the here, driven by the internet of things (IoT), analytics and machine learning, leading to industrial connectivity, autonomic infrastructure, predictive ecosystems, is enabling digitisation of organisations, cities and countries.

Welcoming the new age

With the arrival of the fourth era, ‘things’ are quite literally changing as we connect the unconnected. We stand at the cusp of an era in which everything from cars, trees, asthma inhalers and even cows can be connected to an ever-expanding network; in developing the IoT we are building the next generation super connected highway which will provide the innovation platform that will spawn and nurture disruptive and creative innovation.

Take the UK health sector, in the midst of a perfect storm, caught between huge increases in demand for services, the prospect of a massive £30 billion deficit and the associated pressures to cut costs. But, through connecting the unconnected, significant savings can be made. The Department of Health for example estimates that unused medicines cost the NHS around £300 million every year. However, the use of ‘smart’ pill bottles can remind patients when to take medicine, reducing wastage and ensuring people recover by tracking usage and dosage.

Transforming business models

IoT is ultimately playing a key part in digitising organisations, transforming their business models and how they operate and interact with citizens and customers. The rationale for business digitisation isn’t just to enhance an organisation; it’s required to ensure it survives.

Organisations that do not drive their own digital business transformation will be left behind; we estimate 40% of industry incumbents will be displaced in the next five years due to failing to embrace technology appropriately. Just look at the impact digital-by-default companies such as Amazon and Netflix are having in their respective industries; the message is clear digitally, disrupt or be disrupted.

The good news is that the UK and its businesses are well placed to embrace digital technology. We recently released the findings from our Digital Readiness survey, questioning IT leaders in eight countries to rate their organisations readiness on a 100 point scale, with the most advanced companies scoring 77, and UK average standing at 75.

However the survey did also highlight that 43% of UK IT leaders cite security as their primary concern in an increasingly connected world, and the ability of IT to respond to change and demand is limited; only 33% of UK businesses are able to deliver on IT requests within 48 hours.

So whilst the UK may not be performing badly on the global stage, more needs to be done to ensure our businesses and as a nation we will thrive through the technological innovations which are taking place. Working with the combined force and capabilities of academia, industry and government, we can drive a culture and environment prepared for digitisation.

As technology continues to develop around us, and as connections become smarter and faster, we will only see more creative and innovative applications of IoT. These aren’t just technological opportunities, but certainties, and the UK must be ready to embrace them to ensure it continues to strive ahead in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Cisco is a worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow by proving that amazing things can happen when you connect the previously unconnected.


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