In the past few years, digital technologies have spread more and more into manufacturing and production processes. Rapid developments in the fields of Internet of Things, Big Data, robotics, blockchain technology, sensors, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and rapid prototyping technologies have noticeably transcended into the manufacturing industry. This unprecedented occurrence, often referred to as “the fourth industrial revolution” or “Industry 4.0”, has gained considerable momentum. Industry 4.0 could fundamentally transform the way goods are developed, produced and consumed, and galvanize the development of new business models, services, and behaviors. While Industry 4.0 promises many opportunities for economic development, its further reaching impacts are largely uncertain. Industry 4.0 emerges against the backdrop of pressing global challenges such as climate change, food insecurity, lack of energy access, water scarcity, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and megatrends like population growth, urbanization and mass migration, as well as the new and ongoing conflicts and crises worldwide. This raises a valid question: if – and how – Industry 4.0 could contribute to finding new ways of dealing with some of these major social, economic, and environmental challenges.
Nagasawa, T., Pillay, C., Beier, G., Fritzsche, K., Pougel, F., Takama, T., The, K. & Bobashev, I. (2017). 'Accelerating clean energy through Industry 4.0: manufacturing the next revolution'. A report of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Vienna, Austria.