In 1784, the First Industrial Revolution was a result of learning that steam can be used to produce mechanical energy. In the 1870s came the Second Industrial Revolution after electricity became mainstream and was used to produce the assembly line. Almost a century later in 1969 marked the beginning of the Third Industrial Revolution with the milestones of computing and its involvement in machine programming. The time span between every subsequent Industrial Revolutions seemed to collapse and in under a 50-year period, in 2018, came the Fourth Industrial Revolution, otherwise known as 4IR or Industry 4.0. It has been deemed as an Industrial Revolution like never before and one that humankind is experiencing for the very first time.

So, what is Industry 4.0 all about? Mass production in smart factories, to put it simply. It is a marriage of the highly-skilled workers with digital technologies of the current age. Digitisation processes are rampant. We live in a world where the Internet of Things (IoT) has made its way into every sector, where Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies are commandeering the path ahead and where robots infiltrate our daily tasks. This is just the tip of the iceberg—what lies below is a fascinating world filled with advancements in cloud computing, 3D printing, 5G, blockchain and nanotechnology, to name a few. One thing that sets Industry 4.0 from its predecessors is the focus on producing responsible change while keeping an eye on the environmental impact, with climate change being recognised as a major threat to the world we live in today.

It is clear that the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the job market and with the Fourth Industrial Revolution also happening alongside in full swing, unemployment rates are skyrocketing.

Experts are of the opinion that the pandemic may, in fact, accelerate the Fourth Industrial Revolution owing to an increased dependency on the technologies we have grown to love. This also means that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will go a step further than just being an integration of the sensibilities of human beings and digital technologies of machines—it will begin to blur the lines that keep our biological, physical and digital worlds apart.

A valid question at this time would be if India, and the other developing countries around the world, would be able to keep up with the pace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Will our society be able to adopt and adapt to the technological milestones that mark 4IR?

Though India is a developing country, it is far ahead than the others that fall into this category- in terms of resources and educated manpower. India may have missed out on the previous Industrial Revolutions, but that will not be the case this time around.

This time, we are not in a race to catch up- India is a strong contender with our involvement and achievements as pioneers in digital technologies making the country a strong participant of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Every Industrial Revolution comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, as does Industry 4.0.

Factories run more efficiently with a marked increase in productivity while cost-cutting, along with becoming safer working environments for factory workers. This era has seen a smorgasbord of innovative developments which may not even have been thought of before. What this also means is that there will be newer job opportunities in previously unexplored domains opening up too.

On the other hand, this means that we are highly reliant on technological processes to complete work, forcing factories to ramp up their cybersecurity measures. The conventional factory workers are unfortunately made redundant, driving up unemployment rates as the industries are now seeking out highly qualified staff to look after their processes instead.

Is Human Work at Threat, Though?

As mentioned above, the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings with it a threat of people being made redundant at their existing jobs, only because it can be replaced by a machine that does it more efficiently in a cost-effective manner with no human errors. What falls under this umbrella would be routine jobs where employees have to complete a large number of tasks, from backgrounds including data management, transport, construction and the like. On the other end, automation of jobs requiring communication, human thinking, niche educational training and creativity will continue to be safe (and probably valued even more). With the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of healthcare and teaching jobs has come to light and the people belonging to these sectors have been deemed irreplaceable.

To say that human work is at threat would be a far-reaching statement, but a handful of jobs face the risk of imminent automation. Automation receives a lot of flak for being the sole reason for many people to lose their jobs, but it also opens up just as many (and sometimes more) newer jobs to people who possess a certain skill set.

The only way to ensure job security and see opportunity when prospects in your field look bleak in such a volatile market would be to upskill- and this encompasses both technological as well as soft skills. Soft skills include a problem solving attitude, good communication skills, the ability to adapt and work efficiently as part of a team.

Technological Skills needed for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

You’re looking for a secure job while tech companies at the threshold of embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution are looking for certain skill sets. A basic requirement for all jobs in the sphere of technology would require a decent level of digital literacy. Technological Skills you can work towards honing or explore include:

  1. Application Development- Mobile devices have come to replace desktops for internet usage and mobile applications have changed the way we perform tasks this decade. App development is already a top skill and its demand will only continue to rise amidst Industry 4.0.
  2. Internet of Things- The implications of IoT has made its way into almost every field and a knowledge of these technologies will definitely give the aspiring job candidate an edge over the rest.
  3. Genomics Engineering- Genomics finds its way into several applications across sectors and is particularly relevant during 4IR as there is a palpable shift towards developing green and sustainable technology.
  4. Robotics Specialisations- Find a niche in robotics that you are interested in and understand its effect on spearheading Industry 4.0. There is already an increase in demand for robotics professionals who can create, operate and maintain robots meant for specific purposes.
  5. VR, AR- Virtual and Augmented Reality have been having their moment in the sun for a while now, but the integration of these technologies into different aspects of human life is the next big thing!

In addition to these tech skills, a knowledge and understanding of nanotechnology, 3D Printing technologies, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Quantum computing or cloud technologies may prove to be useful in the competitive technological work space.