June 25th, 2025, 6AM. Your smart alarm clock wakes you up and you jump out of bed like a ninja as the new day starts. The bathroom light turns itself on, your smart music player plays your favorite music in the background and the shower is heating its water for you. After taking a shower, you head to the kitchen where your robot Ron has already served your breakfast. You click "remote start on the car" from your phone and your car starts itself. A push notification informs you via your phone that one of the machines at your factory is not working properly. Most of the time, the factory takes care of itself.
Welcome to life after the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, where all of the devices you use are custom-made, interconnected, and constantly working for your benefit. The fourth industrial revolution, more commonly known as "Industry 4.0", is initially defined as the integration of smart, internet-connected machines and human aiming to increase the competitiveness of manufacturing industries through a "completely new approach to production" according to a report released in 2013 by the Industrie 4.0 Working Group. As in many other areas of our everyday lives, the effects of Industry 4.0 are changing the world around us and making it a better place for all of us.
The number of Internet connectd devices is growing rapidly and it is expected to increase from 15 billion devices in 2015 to 40 billion devices in 2020. Intelligent devices are expected to become accountable for almost half of all Internet traffic and almost every cloud-connected thing from cards to thermostats to toasters will be connected to the Internet/Cloud. Nowadays, more practical systems, such as a home thermostat, can be connected and remotely controlled via a smartphone. Going even further to the transformation of simple everyday things/tasks, toothbrushes collecting data from the cloud to combat plaque seem entirely tangible. Connectivity is playing a significant role in everyday life and "smart" applications enable appliances to be controlled away from the home via a mobile device. Energy service providers are now offering smart remote heating giving owners more control over their heating. If you're leaving for home and it suddenly turns cold, you can switch on the heating by using your smartphone. New technology allows users to adjust the temperature in their homes simply by saying a voice commands such as "hello, thermostat", "make it warmer".
Let's go back to you. You are driving towards the factory, you check your phone only to discover that the battery is about to die, but no worries, a replacement is already waiting for you at the office. Your phone has already notified the factory machines to alter their production levels in accordance with the malfunctioning machines (error) and retain a high degree of production efficiency. You laugh as you realize all the objects you are using are made just for you. From the connected alarm clock that rouses you from your sleep to the shower that heats its water for you, from the time your robot Ron cooks you pancakes for breakfast, until the time your smart phone autonomously alters your factory production patterns to overcome the production error. Everything can be done remotely over the internet.
However, one thing is certain, Industry 4.0 is already upon us and changing the way we live our lives. Signs the transformation is happening already can be seen in every cloud-connected simple thing of our everyday tasks. It sounds like the future is going to be much noisier with this entire buzz around Industry 4.0. Let the machines speak their wireless protocols and create richer everyday experiences for us all.