Industry 4.0: Top emerging technologies to watch


The third industrial revolution gave birth to the digital revolution, the computer and electronic advancement age. We also saw a huge number of technology startups rise up and take the challenge— so far as influencing the way we interact today.

Many tech companies we see today were founded during this period, notably known as the dotcom bubble period or the age of internet revolution.

And once more we are at another exciting time in history, a new shift is on the way—the age of Industry 4.0. This is the period where machines become smarter and intelligent. It is a period characterized huge investment in artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, and cognitive systems. Indeed, we are expecting a significant shift in how we interact with systems.  

So, without further adieu, let’s outline some of the significant technologies that will transform the Industry 4.0 age. It is important to note that the speed of technological change is increasing at unprecedented rates. Companies that will make a bet on this trend shall have a significant competitive advantage in their value proposition.

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence is the ability of computers to accomplish complex tasks and be able to mimic the working of a human brain. The main aim of AI is to augment human intelligence in performing various tasks. AI is already in use in many industries to predict future trends, natural language processing in interactions through smart devices like. Examples of popular AI solutions include Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s DeepMind, Safaricom’s Zuri, among others.

2. Blockchain technology

Blockchain technology is a public distributed ledger where transactions are recorded and confirmed anonymously. Each transaction is digitally signed to ensure its authenticity and that no one tampers with it We’ve seen this in digital currency transactions (Bitcoin), record-keeping in hospitals/schools/government agencies, and many other companies that want to improve business efficiency. Today blockchain is transforming critical industries such as finance, healthcare, supply chain, and even the public sector.

3. Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) extends internet connectivity to a diverse range of devices and everyday things. This simply means that most devices are being connected to the internet. We’ve seen IoT implementation in manufacturing to monitor machines activity and predictive maintenance and in smart cars to monitor car activities. Other IoT applications relate to remote monitoring of assets as well as in the area of control through smart homes with connected devices like smart fridges, smart speakers, smart TVs, etc. 

4. Big Data and Analytics

According to an IBM study, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years—thanks to the advancement in technology and connectivity. We are currently generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. Companies need to find ways to gain insights from this data and gain a competitive edge through analytics. From influencing elections to real-time analysis of players on the basket court, qualitative data analysis can help election officials and coaches to make real-time decisions. Data analytics has been used in many areas to gain a competitive edge by improving products and customer service. Data is the new oil.

5. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic Process Automation involves applying technology to automate workflows to increase productivity and efficiency. We see this in the automation of administrative tasks, financial process automation, and customer account creation, etc. Contrary to popular belief, robotic process automation is not a replacement for the underlying business applications. Instead, they simply automate the already manual tasks of human workers. Thus, RPA frees humans from low-value-added tasks like data entry and bookkeeping.

6. Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality (AR) is the addition of the physical world via a data or graphical overlay of information or visuals. AR applications are being used in medical schools to train doctors and in shopping to encourage customers to purchase products. In gaming, AR is applied to enhance the gameplay experience by creating a level of interaction that cannot be experienced in the physical world.

7. 3D Printing (3DP)

3D Printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional object by successively printing layers of materials on one another until an object is formed. This is currently being used in complex manufacturing to rapidly build and iterate prototypes. This has helped in cost reduction especially in lean manufacturing model where proof of new concepts, parts, and new techniques are tested before being deployed. It has enabled the manufacturing of complex parts which traditionally could not be created.

8. Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulation of a 3D image or complete environment where a user can interact in a seemingly realistic way. This is often used in gaming to improve user experience. Other popular applications include rapid prototyping for iteration, simulation of the dangerous environment in warfare, touring of remote places and enhancing customer payment experience.

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About the author

Powell Omondi

Powell Omondi

Powell Omondi is an IT consultant with experience in digital strategy and system controls evaluation. As an avid technology futuristic, Powell enjoys writing about emerging trends that will shape the technological landscape.