Dimensions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

By: Gabriel E. Levy B.www.galevy.com

Behind this flashy concept, which for some is odd and for others is trendy, there is an accumulation of processes, phenomena and principles that represent a profound technological, social, economic, political and cultural revolution, which will eventually blur the boundaries between information technology, physics and biology.

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what is its importance?

In order to understand the aspects that make up the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution and the impact it represents on contemporary life, it is appropriate to first refer to and understand the three previous versions of the industrial revolutions, their background, impact and evolution.

The First Industrial Revolution, known simply as “Industrial Revolution“, occurred approximately in the mid-18th century in Europe and later spread to the American continent[1], and refers to the process of economic, social, and technological transformation through the practical evolution of a rural agricultural society into an urban, industrialized, and mechanized economy[2].

The Second Industrial Revolution refers to the various socioeconomic changes that occurred approximately between 1870 and 1914, where the process of industrialization changed its nature and economic growth varied from model to model, with strong technological changes driven by new energy sources such as gas, oil or electricity, as well as new inputs, raw materials and advanced transportation systems such as airplanes, automobiles, larger ships and more efficient trains, while telecommunications emerged as mass services with the advent of telephone and radio [3].

The sum of all these processes induced chain transformations that affected the labor factor and the educational and scientific system; the size and management of companies, the way work was organized, consumption, until it also reached politics” Luis Bilbao [4]

The Second Industrial Revolution was produced within the framework of the so-called first globalization, which meant a progressive internationalization of the economy, brought about by the revolution of the new means of transport, having a greater territorial extension than the First Industrial Revolution whose borders did not expand beyond Western Europe and North America.

The Third Industrial Revolution was identified, conceptualized and proposed by the American sociologist and economist: Jeremy Rifkin, who proposed this concept as the result of the convergence of new information and communication technologies, articulated with the new systems of energy generation, therefore this revolution could be defined as the mechanization of the Electronic Communication technologies and it occurs anyway in the context of the information society [5].

The Third Industrial Revolution is characterized by a greater use of renewable energies, the transformation towards self-sustainability of the building stock, the development of rechargeable batteries, hydrogen and other new energy storage technologies; the development of the smart grid, the development of transport based on electric vehicles or hybrids, as well as fuel cells, using renewable electricity as propulsion energy and the massification of optical fiber for communications [6].

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is known as the fusion of experimental technologies that disintegrate the boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

The concept was proposed and coined by Klaus Schwab [8], who is one of the founders of the World Economic Forum, and was launched in the context of the World Economic Forum 2016.

This fourth stage is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, blockbusters, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles“. Klaus Schwab [9]

There is a certain consensus in various academic groups, regarding some guiding principles that characterize this Fourth Industrial Revolution, including some of them:

Interoperability: monitoring and analysis of data in real time, guaranteeing assertiveness in decision making. Knowing all the stages of the process and the moment when they occur.

Virtualization: remote and virtual monitoring of production processes in order to avoid possible failures and to make the production network more efficient and predictable [10].

Decentralization in decision making: in order to improve production in the industry, cyber-physical systems make decisions based on data analysis, without depending on external action, making the decision more secure and precise.

Modularity: the system is divided into modules, that is, into different parts. Therefore, a machine will produce according to the demand, since it will only use the necessary resources to perform each task, which guarantees the optimization of production and energy saving.

The pillars and main technological developments that support the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, precede the technological developments inherited from the Third Industrial Revolution, but when applied systematically in the context of an information and knowledge society, they have the capacity to significantly transform industry, although their scope is not limited only to the industrial or business context, since they impact on many other social aspects and everyday life, constituting a human revolution from the digitalization of information [12]. These pillars are:

 Artificial Intelligence AI:

AI is a branch of computer science responsible for the study of computer models capable of carrying out human activities based on two of their primary characteristics: reasoning and behavior [13].  AI allows system control, automatic process planning, the ability to respond to diagnoses and consumer queries, handwriting recognition, speech recognition, pattern recognition, statistically based estimates, natural event predictions, clinical diagnostics, biological behavior analysis, among many others. AI systems are currently used in fields such as economics, medicine, engineering, transportation, communications, and the military, and have been used in a variety of software applications, among many other everyday and industrial uses [14].

Data Science and BigData

It refers to the set of data as large and complex as they need non-traditional data processing applications to treat them properly. In the context of the information society, the modern use of the term “Big Data” refers to the analysis of user behavior, extracting value from stored data, and formulating predictions through observed patterns [15]. The discipline known as “Data Science” is specialized in the analysis, processing, treatment and distribution of results, of massive data accumulations [16].

Internet of Things (IoT)

It refers to the interconnection between the network of physical objects, environments, vehicles and machines through electronic devices that allow the collection and exchange of information, especially in the fields of health, education, culture and industry [17].

In the industry of goods and services, the IoT represents different technologies that were previously disconnected and are now interconnected through an IP-based network. This is one of the foundations of digital growth. As applied to industry 4.0, this concept aims to have more devices added and connected by technology standards, allowing field devices to communicate and interact with each other as more centralized controllers“. [18]

The Internet of Things is nothing more than the capacity for electronic devices of daily use of a different nature to be connected to the Internet for the benefit of one or more users, without requiring regular and/or permanent human intervention for such connection.

Cloud Computing:

Cloud Computing, refers to the use of software, applications, services and data shared between different locations and remotely hosted systems, allowing the remote flow of information and processing capacity [20], significantly reducing costs, time and efficiency [21].

Cloud computing results in a change of the traditional computing paradigm, since access to information and technological infrastructure is practically omnipresent, allowing any computing process to be managed without the technological infrastructure on site and from anywhere in the world [22].

Augmented reality:

It refers to the set of technologies that allow a user to visualize a part of reality through a technological device with added graphic information. The device, or set of devices, adds virtual information to the existing physical information, i.e., a virtual part appears in reality. This way the tangible physical elements are combined with virtual elements, creating an augmented reality in real time [23].


Known as the manipulation of matter at the nanoscale for the manufacture of products at the micro-scale with at least one size dimension between 1 and 100 nanometers. Nanotechnology defined by size is naturally a wide field [24], which includes different disciplines of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, micro fabrication, etc. The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of device physics to new approaches based on molecular self-assembly [25].

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing

3D printing is a group of additive manufacturing technologies where a three-dimensional object is created by superimposing successive layers of material.

It involves the production of parts of overlapping layers of material, typically in powder form, to obtain a functional three-dimensional model, allowing the creation of custom products [26].

Three-dimensional printing allows the design and production of instantaneous pieces, revolutionizing the creation of specific products in fields such as medicine, industry, scientific research, among many others [27].

Autonomous robotics

Although robotics is a native technology of the Third Industrial Revolution, it is in the 4.0 industry that acquires skills beyond its predecessors, managing to incorporate capabilities to work without a human supervisor and simultaneously to automate other robots so that they are also automatic, as well as to lead the coordination of a series of logistic and production tasks, increasing the volume of production and reducing costs.

Computerized Virtual Simulation

Technically known as Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) [28], this tool has become essential for industrial design. Experts can perform different designs, simulations and static, dynamic, fluid, thermal, electromagnetic and acoustic analyses, among others, through a computer interface, which provide benefits such as time reduction in the project elaboration, increase in productivity, ease in the detection of failures and assistance in the identification of solutions.


It concerns a data structure in which the information contained is grouped into sets (blocks) [29] to which relative meta-information is added to another block of the previous chain in a timeline. Thanks to cryptographic techniques, the information contained in a block can only be edited by modifying all subsequent blocks, progressively creating a security system so reliable that it is practically impossible to copy or reproduce it, which allows it to be used as a substitute for the banking system through a decentralized model of value exchange and in other fields such as the management of health records, the registration of persons and certain industrial production processes [30].

This infographic available in Economipedia, summarizes the differences between the 4 industrial revolutions that humanity has witnessed in a very visual and clear way [31]:


In conclusion, the Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to the evolution of the predecessor technologies of previous revolutions, turning into tools capable of diluting the borders between informatics, physics and biology, impacting on practically all social, economic and cultural aspects of the contemporary world, becoming one of the deepest human revolutions from the digitalization and virtualization of industrial processes and information management. Industry 4.0 is drastically changing our way of life, representing one of the most important technological leaps that humanity has witnessed throughout its existence, in an unprecedented context that merges science fiction with reality.

 [1] Reference article and disclosure

[2] Reference article on the first industrial revolution

[3] Bilbao, Luis M.; Lanza, Ramón. Autonomous University of Madrid, ed. Economic History (THE BEGINNINGS OF THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, 1870-1914). Accessed May 23, 2015.

[4] Bilbao, Luis M.; Lanza, Ramón. Autonomous University of Madrid, ed. Economic History (THE BEGINNINGS OF THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, 1870-1914). Accessed May 23, 2015.

[5] Definition of the Third Industrial Revolution in Economipedia

[6] Technical reference article on the machines of the 3rd industrial revolution

[7] World Economic Forum article on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

[8] Encyclopedic article about the author

[9] World Economic Forum article on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

[10] Article: Industry Pillars 4.0

[11] Article: Industry Pillars 4.0

[12] Book: The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Klaus Schwab, Penguin Random House Editorial Group Spain, 2016. ISBN 8499926991

[13] Academic Article: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence

[14] Disclosure article on uses and applications of AI

[15] Academic article about Big Data Villavona University

[16] Newspaper article: “Massive data is the new gold”.

[17] Andinalink article: Understanding the Internet of Everything

[18] Specialized article on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

[19] Encyclopedic article on the Internet of Things IOT

[20] Academic article: Cloud Computing Óscar Ávila Mejía

[21] Article: Industry Pillars 4.0

[22] Newspaper article about cloud computing

[23] Newspaper article on Augmented Reality

[24] Academic Article: Nanotechnology and its application in the scientific field

[25] Book “Introduction to Nanotechnology”.

[26] Encyclopedic article on 3D printing

[27] Technical article on 3D printing

[28] Specialized article by Siemens

[29] Specialized article by the BBVA Foundation

[30] Specialized article on blockchain in the magazine fortune

[31] Economipedia article on the industry 4.0

Disclaimer: The published articles correspond to contextual reviews or analyses on digital transformation in the information society, duly supported by reliable and verified academic and/or journalistic sources.  The publications are NOT opinion articles and therefore the information they contain does not necessarily represent Andinalink’s position, nor that of their authors or the entities with which they are formally linked, regarding the topics, persons, entities or organizations mentioned in the text.