The Fourth Revolution

The latest developments in mankind’s industrial evolution combine digital, physical and biological technologies in a manner never seen before. Veronica Carvalho examines how new tech will influence consumer shopping habits and its impact on the retail environment.

Veronica Carvalho
September 2018

About two centuries ago, humans learned how to control water and steam and use it in power machinery. It was the first industrial revolution.  The second industrial revolution in the late 1800’s, unleashed the power of electricity and mass production.  Electronics and IT began the third industrial revolution in the late 1990’s when digital came along to replace analog, electronic and mechanical devices.

Now we are living a new fourth industrial revolution. Swift, deep, more impactful than ever before, it combines digital, physical and biological technologies.  It’s not only self-driving cars or  artificial intelligence that can emulate humans, it’s also humans carrying chips and synthetic biology bringing Man and machine together. If the previous revolutions transformed processes, the fourth Industrial revolution will transform the way the human being sees themselves and function.

By 2020 more people will have phones and will be posting online than people will have electricity or running water in their homes or villages. Information and data will be the new force of nature.

How will all of this affect consumers?

As in any other industry, retailing will see a fundamental change in the way goods are manufactured, distributed and sold. Artificial intelligence will transform the supply chains to be more effective, Internet of Things will help reduce error and know exactly when stock needs to be replenished. Customer’s  desires will be analyzed to the most infinite detail. And all the information being uploaded will be treated at unimaginable velocity to help customers make decisions. The fourth industrial revolution will blur the borders of sales, service and marketing. Personalization will be everywhere:  ads on the side of your screen, emails reminding you of what you left in your cart. Augmented reality devices, such as smart glasses or other wearables, let shoppers look at a product in a store and see relevant data pop up into their field of vision.

This will change the very core of our shopping experience. Now, we first shop and then we receive our products.  With AI predicting what you will need next - even before you know it - and the possibility of trying out your goods without going into the store - retailers will be able to send consumers what they need before they even purchase it. The cycle will get reversed: “shipping then shopping”   

It took a hundred years or more to fully see the impact of the steam engine, electricity, mass production and digitalization. But time and change are moving more quickly now and it will only be a matter of a few years before our economy and our lifestyle see the true impact of the fourth industrial revolution.

For PLMALive! I’m Veronica Carvalho.


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The Fourth Revolution

The latest developments in mankind’s industrial evolution combine digital, physical and biological technologies in a manner never seen before. Move over water, steam and electricity. Veronica Carvalho examines how new tech will influence consumer shopping habits ‑ and its impact on the retail environment. Click here for video.

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