The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What business students should know (Part 1)

William Woods Business

If you are earning a degree in business, then you’ve likely heard the buzz about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this two-part blog series, we will explore the basics of what this term means and how it may impact the future of jobs for recent business graduates.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or industry 4.0, is often characterized as a fusion of physical, digital and biological worlds that is impacting all disciplines, industries and economies. It is the notion that machines, powered by web connectivity and plugged into large systems, can make sense of their environment — whether it be city traffic or a production chain — to make decisions independently.

Take for example, driverless cars. They are powered by several systems that work with each other to operate a car independently and safely. Those include radar sensors that collect information about the position of other vehicles; video cameras that monitor traffic signals, from lights to signs, while also keeping track of pedestrians; lidar sensors that monitor road edges and lane markings; and wheel sensors that detect curbs and other parked vehicles. Finally, all of this sensor data is collected and analyzed by a central computer that is then able to control steering, accelerating and braking.

However, it goes beyond driverless cars. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is also marked by other technologies in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, 3D printing, quantum computing and more.

In terms of historical context, the Fourth Industrial Revolution isn’t like any of the prior industrial revolutions because it’s not characterized only by advances in technology but also the ability to connect cyber and physical systems. In contrast, The First Industrial Revolution occurred in the 18th century and utilized steam and water power to streamline production. The Second Industrial Revolution happened between 1870 and 1914, and used electric power to enable mass production. And the Third Industrial Revolution, or the Digital Revolution, created widespread computerization and automation.

In his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum explores how industry 4.0 will change the way we work, live and connect with one another. Like previous industrial revolutions which have stimulated economic growth and in many ways improved standards of living, industry 4.0 offers a promising outlook for the future. Yet, Schwab also points out that potential failure of private and public sector to adapt and manage new technologies could lead to vast issues — from security breaches to greater societal inequality.

At William Woods University business students interested in innovation, including those concentrating in entrepreneurial management, may find that an understating of the forces at play with the Fourth Industrial Revolution can better prepare them for their careers ahead.

To learn more about industry 4.0, check out the short video below created by the World Economic Forum.

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