Much of what would be considered science fiction two decades ago is driving the world toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Industry 4.0 will completely change the landscape of business, as well as how humans interact with their environment and each other.

Many predict that it will usher in a new age of bounty: increasing lifespans, improving healthcare, reducing global poverty, and more. Others see darker possibilities in the vast data sets used to drive change during the revolution.

No matter what, the reality is that the stage is set with the global GDP expected to nearly surpass $90 trillion — magnitudes more than the $1 trillion just twenty years ago.

It’s that rapid economic growth and technological innovation that has pushed the world into the Fourth Industrial Revolution — Industry 4.0.

The Technology of Industry 4.0

Data Analytics and business intelligence already require a sophisticated command of information technology, mathematics and statistics. AI and machine learning algorithms have the capability to automate and optimize analytics processes, which in turn creates transformative business insights.

In the last two years, the world produced 90% — 2.5 quintillion bytes a day — of all the data out there.

This data is different from content. It is raw, unorganized information.

Much of the cutting edge technology being worked on involves designing artificial intelligence systems that can curate data sets in meaningful ways so those can then be fed into neural networks.

Beyond the central role that artificial intelligence will continue to have in Industry 4.0, quantum computing, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are all expected to be part of the foundation of this change.

A European Patent Office study in 2017 discovered that there was a 54% increase in patents filed that were related to Industry 4.0 in the past three years.

However, it is not just these technological advancements that mark the revolution.

Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab, who coined the phrase “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, argued in 2016 that the revolution “is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres”.

This includes the move toward smart devices, from smart houses to smartwatches. It’s the merger of the Internet of Things with humans’ physical lives.

And this merger is more than simply convenience. It is set to drastically alter how people, businesses, and governments operate.

“Not everyone needs to be a data scientist, but everyone needs to be data literate,” Jordan Morrow, head of data literacy at analytics firm Qlik, told CNBC. Morrow went on to point out that many people and businesses currently lack the skills necessary to analyze and interpret data in a meaningful way.

Societal Changes Ushered in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The classic example is nuclear technology, which is the foundation for both nuclear powerplants and nuclear bombs.

Where the Fourth Industrial Revolution will take the world, will depend on the goals of those who are driving the change.

“There has never been a time of greater promise, or one of greater potential peril,” Schwab said, predicting that the greatest societal concern associated with the revolution would be inequality.

Driving Positive Change

Along these lines, Cangler, a for-profit social enterprise, has stated its mission is to solve three of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals: a world without poverty, increased good health and wellbeing, and the creation of sustainable cities and communities.

In an age where data illiteracy is holding back many organizations from doing good in the world, Cangler offers automation and democratization of enterprise data analytics.

“I believe in the face of new technologies, humanity will be able to use them to benefit us. Most people aspire to a good life, not a miserable life,” Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said during a Davos tech session focused on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Generally speaking, some of the anticipated social trends associated with the revolution will be a rising middle class, reverse brain drain, Halal economy, and women’s empowerment.

There will also be an increased intent on “innovating to zero”. This is where the focus of product development and technology is done with a “zero” negative impact on the world. This can involve everything from cars with zero emissions and zero accidents to carbon-neutral cities. Already, Copenhagen has said that it is working toward being the first carbon-neutral capital in the world.

Smart products will be everywhere, from smart clothing, watches, and phones, to smart buildings and smart cities. One smart product that is expected to vastly improve people’s lives will be smart cities: the industry is slated to be worth $2.57 trillion by 2025.

These smart cities rely on the Internet of Things to collect data, which can then be used to provide insights for better managing assets, resources, and services. These include everything from garbage collection systems to urban planning.

With two-thirds of the world’s population expected to be living in urban areas by 2050, smart cities will become essential to allocating the necessary resources for populations. There will also be the rise of “mega districts,” which will be key centers for investment, leading to the idea of “city as a customer” strategies for businesses — as opposed to focusing on targeting nations.

Already, a report from ABI Research is urging a more aggressive deployment of 5G in cities to open up new economic value.

The technology is slated to generate $2.5 trillion in direct contributions, $866 billion in indirect contributions, and $3.2 trillion in productivity gains by 2028.

The Dark Side of Industry 4.0

“On the most shallow level, it could be a repeat of the nineteenth-century industrial revolution, when the leaders had the chance to dominate the world economically and politically,” Harari said. “I understand the current arms race as an imperial arms race…You don’t need to send the soldiers in if you have all the data on a country.”

The increased reliance on technology in how society functions, leaves it more open to cyber-attacks and various other cyber-threats.

An increase in security, especially related to the Internet of Things, is vital for the Fourth Industrial Revolution to flourish. That’s because these cyber threats can do everything from compromising physical security to creating production downtimes, leading to significant financial losses.

On the social front, however, perhaps the greater threat will come in the form of increased inequality.

And Schwab isn’t the only one concerned about the possibilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution leading to greater inequality in the world.

“Inequality in the adoption of the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a result of a different starting point with regard to access to the internet, access to finance and technological capabilities, could result in further unevenness in economic growth,” states a report by Common Fund.

Such inequality can also have a snowball effect as automation and artificial intelligence continue to replace more and more people in the workplace.

How Will These Changes be Different from Previous Industrial Revolutions?

Schwab argues that the exponential pace of the change and rate of introduction of new technology will have unprecedented levels of impact on society.

Think of it this way: it took 75 years for 100 million people to start using telephones. The game Pokemon Go had that many users in a month.

The adoption of new technology is happening more rapidly than at any other time in human history.

Final Thoughts: Industry 4.0 — The Fourth Industrial Revolution is Now

To create better products and serves — as well as make better business decisions — your team must be data literate. Additionally, you need systems in place that can coordinate various artificial intelligence systems to prevent artificial intelligence islands.

At this point in the revolution, 85% of data science projects fail, and 92% of such failures are due to people and process obstacles.

Join the Cangler early adopter program to be a part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Use this emerging technology to get a competitive edge for your company and help create a better world for everyone.