The 4th Industrial Revolution has arrived, and its impact will likely dwarf those before it.

A worker passes a display lettering "The 4th Industrial Revolution has started" prior to the opening of the Hannover Messe industrial trade fair on April 10, 2015, in Hanover, central Germany. India is the partner country of this year's trade fair running from April 13 to 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / DPA / PETER STEFFEN +++ GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read PETER STEFFEN/AFP/Getty Images)

We have all heard of the great industrial revolutions over time, each responsible for moving society, century by century, into a more productive and comfortable way of living, working and playing.

First there was the steam revolution of the 18th century, which began to propel, quite literally, work efforts from sheer physical labor to something far less laborious. Then came the electrical revolution of the 19th century which made the wonders of steam power appear quite archaic. For electricity could power all sorts of things and do so with clean efficiency.

What could be superior to electricity and the way it has greatly impacted our lives? Only in the way that it powers other marvelous innovations, such as computers, which ushered in the digital revolution of the 20th century. Though the skeptics were many at first, computing by machine and ultimately digitally, has advanced learning and the way we live in a way no one could have ever imagined when IBM introduced the first mass-produced computer, IBM 650.

Of course, computer technology has advanced with lighting speed over the last 50 years and with the advent of the internet, the two have converged to produce incredible technological marvels that now make up the fourth industrial revolution, or 4IR.
For those who do not quite understand or even believe that a revolution of cyberspace technologies pertains to them, they can think again. 4IR adoption is everywhere and one survey by PwC found that 90 percent of consumers are using at least one form of 4IR technology with nearly half (46%) using at least three on a regular basis.

So what are everyday 4IR technologies?

The short answer could be any device that connects you to someone or some thing. Much of it is driven by artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology which allows Siri to answer our everyday questions or GPS to get us to the right location, on time because we are taking the shortest route. Then there are the home devices that perform tasks like turning off the music while turning on the lights. Smart phones, smart watches, tablets full of useful apps, and yes, the automobiles that now drive themselves. Larger scale applications from this age of digitalization are playing out with smart factories and one day, entire smart cities that are as efficient as they are environmentally friendly.

In the workplace, business owners are assessing how to use these technologies to their advantage, and more importantly, how to do so without risk to their many stakeholders, most importantly their customers. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware that there is a tradeoff between the convenience of using 4IR technologies and what is being sacrificed, specifically personal data or their privacy.

According to the same PwC study, which polled 6,000 consumers, 68 percent said they have serious concerns about the data that is collected on them. Still, they continue to share their personal information, whether it be financial or health-related, just believing – or at least hoping – that they will not become the next victim of a cybercrime.

Pros and cons of the technological wonders

It is estimated that 3 billion people worldwide are now connected to the internet and soon 50 billion “things” are predicted to be connected as well. This is commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) which merges all the technologies into an interrelated usefulness.

For example, manufacturing efficiencies through robotics, 3D printing, genetic engineering and quantum computing capabilities are all pathways for transformative business growth and success. 4IR is turning every company, no matter its products or services, into a tech company.

However, due to the rapid evolution of technology many business leaders still lack the knowledge or confidence to implement the wide array of technologies available to them into their everyday operations. They are either uniformed, skeptical, or simply worried about the risks of exposing consumer data or their very intellectual property to online managed programs.

Employees have their own set of concerns about advancing technologies, not the least of which is job security. Many worry that they could one day be replaced by the efficiencies gained from artificial intelligence and chat bots are one example of how customer service departments have been upended by these technological advances. Underscoring this reality, the World Economic Forum estimates that by the end of 2022, 75 million jobs will be lost to machines that do the work of humans.

What to do moving forward?

Though 4IR is uncharted territory for most, it is a reality, and most pundits agree that there is no turning back.
Are there risks? No question yet understanding and preparing for how to deal with the risks will only allow for a higher level of accessibility to the technologies that can benefit us personally and professionally. As one futurist has quipped, “Though the 4IR train has left the station, it’ll keep coming around to pick up opportunistic, forward-thinking passengers.”

All aboard, as PrettyFluid Technologies offers many solutions for keeping business data safe and protected.