The Fourth Industrial Revolution

This report is called Digital Reality because despite what many people think, digital is no longer the technology of the future. It is here now and changing the world in a multitude of ways, some predictable and others completely unforeseen.

The digital reality has also been described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, is clear about the importance of digitalisation. “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another,” he writes. “In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”

“The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent,” he adds. “When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.”

Infrastructure is no exception. With more than 20 billion devices set to be connected to the Internet by 2020, many businesses, while aware that there are huge opportunities out there, don’t know exactly where to start.

“Digital gives us the opportunity to do the fundamentals of what we do now better, and it also allows us to do new things that people have not yet thought about,” says Phil Gruber, Atkins’ Global Leader for Digital Asset Management.

The first step is to harness all the information your company is generating and gain greater insight into your assets and their condition. The next step, which is much more difficult, is to use that data to work out where you can make efficiencies or create new products and services.

Getting the most out of digital requires far more than just buying a whole lot of technology and expecting it to work miracles.

However, coming up with a strategy can be difficult when the pace of change is so rapid in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to 3D printing to autonomous vehicles.

Your organisation will also need to adapt, which will require new skills, new ways of working and new ways of managing. While specialist data skills will be crucial, everyone in your organisation needs to appreciate the value of data to the future health of the enterprise.

One key aspect of digital working will be an increase in collaboration, both within and between different organisations. An under-appreciated prerequisite for this increased interaction and co-operation is trust in digital technology and the data that it generates. But as an increasing array of sensors generates even more data that cannot be analysed in traditional ways, we need to find new methods to interrogate and extract value from it. It also means digital systems must be resilient and secure in a world where data is increasingly the target of attacks.

Do you know how long it will take your organisation to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution and become digitally enabled? Atkins can help you on this transformational journey. Please get in touch with our report contributors and subject matter experts to discuss your challenges.