What 5IR will look like and how to prepare for it

What 5IR will look like and how to prepare for it
Jun 22

Justin Glanville

You’ve digitally transformed your business – what now?

Reckon you’ve got the Fourth Industrial Revolution all figured out? Well, whether you do or not, it’s time to start thinking about Fifth Industrial Revolution. If you think we’re getting ahead of ourselves, you might be surprised.

Things are moving quickly these days. Yes, we’re still very much in the midst of 4IR and will be for some time to come, but the vision of 5IR on the horizon is becoming less murky. It’s now possible to imagine it – a world of seamless synergy between people and technology – and even to start laying the foundations.

Accelerating progress

Since the First Industrial Revolution (from the 1750s to the 1830s), which saw the first use of machines, each successive revolution has been ushered in by a leap in technology that changed the way we live and work.

The Second Industrial Revolution began soon after the conclusion of the first and lasted until the First World War. It was defined by industry at a scale that was made possible by the huge leap forward in transportation technology, i.e. steam-power, railways and the combustion engine.

The Third Industrial Revolution started in the 1950s with the introduction of semiconductors, mainframe computers, nuclear energy and the Internet. All but the most junior members of your team were likely born during this era and have witnessed the transition from the Third to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which began in the mid-to-late 90s.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution came about as a result of better networking and communication infrastructure which enabled a convergence of technologies. Cloud technology became possible and proved a game changer, as did “smart” networked devices. Instant data access has allowed for the development of increasingly sophisticated AI, and now blockchain is finding a place in a host of different industries.

The Fifth Industrial Revolution will see unprecedented collaboration between people and machines with symbiotic working relationships that place value on human intelligence, defined by technologies like quantum computing and ultra-advanced AI. Fundamentally, it will let people play to their strengths and celebrate what makes them human rather than force them to think like machines.

5IR will be built upon the progress made, and the technologies developed during 4IR and certain industries will serve as torchbearers for the rest to follow. But where exactly 4IR ends and 5IR starts is an academic question.

5IR ahead of schedule

One thing experts are in agreement on is that the pandemic accelerated digital transformation, putting us on track to meet 5IR a lot sooner. In an industry like manufacturing – pioneer of many 4IR technologies – organisations that were further along in their digital transformation journey were better prepared for the disruptions of 2020.

That’s because, with the adoption of these technologies, businesses can become more agile and responsive to change with fluid yet highly efficient processes. And contrary to many fears, it’s not about replacing people with robots.

Economist Kiki Sondh writes for Oxford Economics: “Rather than humans competing with robots for jobs, as feared with the arrival of Industry 4.0, humans are now envisioned to collaborate with them … collaborative robots are to be integrated into industrial processes for more repetitive and mundane tasks, providing humans with greater opportunities to use their creative flair.”

Creativity will be hugely important in Industry 5.0 because it’s something that humans will always be better at than machines. It’s humans that will chart the course for innovation and machines that will make it possible. Industry 5.0 will be more human, personalised and inclusive – taking customer-centricity and stakeholder engagement to new levels with the technology to facilitate and enrich human connections. And at its heart, we can expect a more mature understanding of people with the values of inclusivity and diversity baked in.

How to prepare your organisation for 5IR

The most important thing business leaders should do to prepare for 5IR now is to simply not fall behind in their 4IR journey. Try to make the most of the available technologies in your space and implement digital platforms that facilitate engagement for both customers and employees so that you can remain in tune with them.

The technology investments you make now will lay the groundwork for the next great leap forward, but it also goes beyond technology. Consider how processes and structures can be optimised for greater agility and reflect on the mission and values of your organisation – make that your compass as you plot a path ahead in the years to come.

It will be an easier journey with a capable digital partner at your side. We can help you prepare for the future by equipping you with the right digital solutions.