Defined by the World Economic Forum as the ‘4IR’, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is currently experiencing a technological evolution and rapid progress especially in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and the internet of things (IoT), just to name a few.
On the other hand, against these fast-evolving technologies, can these triumphs in innovation be adequate in addressing these five key climate levers: clean power, smart transport systems, sustainable production and consumption, sustainable land use, and smart cities and homes?
Here are 8 trends shaped by the ‘4IR’:
1. Artificial intelligence (AI): AI involves the issues and concepts of providing machines that imitate or duplicate the function of the human brain such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation.
2. Augmented reality (AR): It is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time to improve the experience for a task or a product. Unlike virtual reality, which creates a totally artificial environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it.
3. Blockchain: A blockchain is a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed. It is constantly growing as ‘completed’ blocks are added to it with a new set of recordings whereby the blocks are added to the blockchain in a linear, chronological order.
4. Drones: Air or water-based devices and vehicles, for example Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), that fly or move without an on-board human pilot. Drones can operate autonomously (via on-board computers) on a predefined flight plan or be controlled remotely.
5. Internet of Things (IoT): According to Forbes, it is simply put the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). The term IoT has come to represent any device that is now “connected” and accessible via a network connection. The Industrial IoT (IIoT) is a subset of IoT and refers to its use in manufacturing and industrial sectors.
6. Robots: Electro-mechanical machines or virtual agents that automate, augment or assist human activities, autonomously or according to set instructions — often a computer program. (Note: Drones are also robots, but we list them as a separate technology.)
7. Virtual reality (VR): Computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or a complete environment, within a defined and contained space (unlike AR), that viewers can interact with in realistic ways. VR is intended to be an immersive experience and typically requires equipment, most commonly a helmet/headset.
8. 3D printing: 3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file by layering or “printing” successive layers of materials.
Obviously the 4IR offers matchless opportunities for development yet it must be backed by a stable policy system and a regulatory environment.