The rise of technologies such as smartphones and Uber are more than merely convenient. These shifts have fundamentally changed many aspects of our daily activity, from how we order food, access transportation, share information and more. We have seen this change exponentially through our lives, from Google Maps telling us the best route to avoid traffic, to Netflix suggesting the next series you may enjoy.
These technological shifts are revolutionary – so much so that they’ve been formally classified as such. We are living in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution introduced mechanized work, powered by steam and water. The second meant mass-produced goods, powered by electricity. The third saw the rise of computer technology. The fourth brought us those smartphones and Uber.
At its core, the fourth industrial revolution is the generation of a digitized world, coupled with the power and intelligence to process this data in real time to make better decisions. Some key technologies this encompasses are:
- Big data – the generation of massive amounts of data from sensors, satellites, drones etc.
- Internet of Things (IoT) – a network of devices (such as sensors, pumps etc.) connected by the internet.
- Machine learning – algorithms which aim to continually improve or optimize predictions or decisions, based upon the outcome of a sample set.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) – aims for computers to perform in an intelligent manner, for example in diagnosing and solving problems which they have not explicitly been designed to solve.
- Blockchain – an open and distributed electronic ledger. Notably, it results in a transparent record and requires consensus to change any information.
The implications of these disruptive technologies are endless. When it comes to water, the fourth industrial revolution holds potential solutions to many of our concerns about the future, like population growth, climate change and environmental damage. And many of these solutions are either already here, or not that far off. I have provided a few examples of some key areas, but there are many other examples and opportunities.