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Is it time for you to join the 4th industrial revolution?

robot in a meeting room

The way we perform work has changed a lot. The first industrial revolution took us from farms to basic factories. The second was the move into mass production. The third introduced a level of automation and computing into that production, which brings us to the fourth industrial revolution, today.

What is industry 4.0?

The fourth industrial revolution is the move from individual computer-based machines to entire cyber-physical systems – where human beings share the working environment with robots, and where factories and other workspaces form entire networks.

These networks, using the Internet of Things (IoT), allow machines to communicate with each other, diagnose their own problems, and leverage big data to produce insights which lead to greater optimisation.

It brings with it new opportunities in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, and 3D printing – whether these are tools you use to optimise your business or actually become part of your offering.

In all cases, the fourth industrial revolution will not only continue to transform how we work but will likely lead to new, yet unknown products and services. Perhaps entire new industries.

What does industry 4.0 mean for your UAE business?

You may already be feeling the effects of this fourth industrial revolution. The key is to jump on board now and avoid having to play catch-up.

Here are four ways the fourth industrial revolution can enhance your company:

1. Boosting productivity

If your place of work is connected, if potential maintenance or breakdowns are predicted and avoided, and if people and machines are working together in greater harmony – the outcome is higher productivity. Everything is more efficient when you have visibility over every aspect of your company, and when your processes are seamlessly integrated with suppliers and logistics.

2. New products/services

When new ways of working are used, innovation can flourish. While we may currently only be scratching the surface, 3D printing alone has already started to transform many industries. Meanwhile, having the ability to create smart products – and do so more quickly, and at a higher quality thanks to continuous stringent quality control – means that you can think more imaginatively. This only adds to your competitive edge.

3. Reducing costs

As we saw in Point 1, digital transformation increases productivity. At the same time, it is lowering your costs by reducing downtime and streamlining operations through monitoring in real time. It also enhances efficiency and allocation of labour.

4. Strategy

When you are able to take a step back, review your data, and get that full picture of how your business is operating, this puts you in a strong position to make the best decisions for the future. Instead of operating on a certain level of assumption, you now have in front of you all components of your business and a map of how they interconnect.

Why is the UAE so well placed for companies entering Industry 4.0?

Whether your firm is taking advantage of the points mentioned above or thinking of creating products and services to help companies with their own digital transformation, the UAE is a great place to be.

The UAE government has launched its “Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution” among many other initiatives to boost innovation, technology, and ensure the UAE is the place of choice for companies to enter the 4.0 Industry. The strategy focuses on the following:

  • Innovation in education with the goal of creating a smarter learning experience and developing advanced technologies including nanotechnology and AI.
  • Intelligent medicine that strengthens the UAE’s place as a global healthcare centre, using genome personalised medical technologies, robotic health care, nanotechnology, and new wearable/implantable medical devices.
  • Security of water and food supply using bio engineering and renewable energy technologies.
  • Enhanced economic security in the digital economy using blockchain technologies in financial transactions and services.
  • Planning future cities using satellite data.
  • Advanced defence capability through the development of industries in robotics and autonomous vehicles.

Opportunities for startups in Industry 4.0

If you work in tech, the opportunities in the UAE are plentiful – and varied. From companies such as Prognica who are using AI-powered healthtech to find new ways to detect cancer early, to a company like SmartSpot that uses IoT to reserve a parking space, Industry 4.0 is finding its way into all aspects of business and life in the UAE.

Let’s look at some key areas:

  • Predictive and prescriptive analytics: Predictive analytics helps foresee when a machine may fail, while prescriptive analytics will offer options for decision makers, based on what the predictive analytics has provided.
  • The cloud: Industry 4.0 wouldn’t exist without cloud services. As time goes on, it is likely that several new cloud-based solutions will emerge around infrastructure, platforms and software. A UAE-based company such as Gokaddal Technologies has identified this by offering ‘digital solutions exchange’ in the cloud that can connect solution providers, solution seekers and solution integrators.
  • 3D printing: Reducing delivery times, enabling a faster prototype, and making greater collaboration possible.
  • Security: These systems, like all systems, will have vulnerabilities. Greater connectivity can lead to wider exposure, leading to a higher risk of cyberattacks. Therefore, opportunities will abound for companies that can provide innovative approaches to security to help block attacks, and minimise damage from attacks that do get through.
  • Augmented Reality (AR): Whether using AR to assist customers in ‘trying’ products before they buy, or boosting innovation by enabling 3D modelling, having the ability to overlay digital information on the real world is invaluable.

How we work, how we think

There is a lot of debate around Industry 4.0 and what it means for workers. Perhaps what is missing from that discussion is that, as always, it is people who are at the centre of any business transformation.

It is what people do with the information that IoT brings to them – and how we adapt and re-skill and create new ways of working – that will ultimately determine the value we get from these new technologies.