The fourth industrial revolution … how 12 disruptive technologies will together reshape our world … and their opportunities for your business

July 14, 2017

Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum recently declared that “the fourth industrial revolution is upon us”. This is a rapid and revolutionary change to our world, characterised by the fusion of technologies blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

These “disruptive” technologies and their broader implications for business and society, pose some challenging questions for business leaders, governments and entrepreneurs:

  • Which disruptive technologies to focus on?
  • What are these technologies and in what ways are they relevant?
  • How can we embrace them as opportunities for innovation and growth?
  • What are the broader issues and opportunities for humanity and society?

Not every technology will change everything – some will simply bring efficiency and speed –  but others have the potential to reshape our global economy, to transform industries, and our lives. They will disrupt value chains, displace established practices and organisations, take our jobs or enable us to achieve more, and multiply the impact of what we can do.

The diagram shows the major technologies, the changes they drive, and the emerging opportunities.

The WEF working with McKinsey identified 12 disruptive technologies clusters, collectively able to to create $33 trillion economic impact by 2025.

Here are those 12 clusters:

1. Mobile Internet … from Alibaba to Instagram, you know you have more computing power than the Space Shuttle in your hand, everything can be personal and connected, mobile-centric is the only architecture of business today:

2. Automation of knowledge work … from networks to blockchains, big data to artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural user interfaces, the automation of knowledge is transforming the way we learn and work:

3. Internet of things … Whilst Intel was still thinking about chips for computers,  Softbank’s ARM outplayed them by seeing a future of 50 billion connected devices, using smaller versions and long-life batteries to enable IOT applications from remote diagnostics to intelligent homes:

4. Cloud … transforming our ability to store and access information, anywhere and anytime, the cloud has become an accepted utility of the connected world, with companies like Rackspace have gone mainstream:

5. Advanced Robotics … Honda’s early robot concept ASIMO promised to be your best friend, always polite and never forgetful. But the use of robots has accelerated at incredible speed, invisible to most of us, transforming smart factories and processes:

 6. Autonomous vehicles … Tesla promised a future where every car will be self-driving, giving us more freedom, less congestion. Whilst the occasional mishap makes headlines, the safety record is exemplary compared to driving today, and the opportunities to save time, increase mobility are huge:

 7. Genomics … 23andMe revolutionised DNA profiling, enabling anyone for $99 to understand where they come from, and how to live a better future. What does this then mean, not just for the smart life insurance salesman, but for the future of health and healthcare too:

 8. Energy storage … will transform the size and capabilities of tech devices, allowing body implants and incredible efficiencies:

 9. 3D printing … in Amsterdam 3DHubs now has a network of over 1000 places to print out your new dress, car parts, evening meal:

10. Advanced Materials … form nanoparticles to superconductors, from non-invasive operations, to superfast travel, and new sources of energy:

 11. Oil and Gas  … rethinking how we source and use carbon-intensive energies, in a way that is economical and better for the world:

12. Renewable energy … going beyond carbon, to harness the sun and wind, in ways that could transform emerging markets and everyone’s health:

How will you respond to these changes?

  • How will they impact your industry and markets, as threat and opportunity?
  • What could you do to seize these opportunities, in new and value-adding ways?
  • Where do you start? Building a strategic vision from the future-back to rethink today?

Getting started:

  • The new Genius Workshops are for business executives, to learn and apply this new world to your own business, and develop the practical plans and important choices for your future.



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