The widely heralded “next industrial revolution” is certainly here, though there may be some controversy about what exactly that revolution is. For many commentators the next industrial revolution is based on “The Internet of Things”. I don’t think so. The Internet of Things is certainly going to make information more available. More data, or mobile data isn’t going to lead to a major industrial revolution by itself. Internet of Things will lead to a many new applications, smart devices and new jobs within the controls industry.
Extremely low cost microprocessors are the key technology that makes the IOT possible. It’s important to consider the fact that there is a hardware layer required to make the communications work. Hardware may be somewhat transparent, but it’s there and there is a cost.
Manufacturing is about the things we make. Cars, consumer electronics, many of our favorite food products are manufactured products. Everything to do with manufacturing is about hardware. It takes stuff to make stuff. Semiconductors, cars, you just can’t make stuff without other stuff to make the stuff. Know what I mean?
The real industrial revolution is that the cost of stuff to make stuff is decreasing. And it’s changing quickly. The 3D printing revolution is not about printing plastic parts per se. It’s about the idea of making things for low cost. And the cost of the stuff required to make things looks like its declining by an order of magnitude. You can see it in every arena. The $250,000 stereolithograpy machine of 20 years ago is now replace by a $30,000 high resolution desktop printer. Which is being replaced by a $2000 3D printer.
The point is that as the means of making stuff declines by an order of magnitude, the barrier to entry for people to make new stuff is lowered as well. And this is where the real industrial revolution and economic growth will come from. If wealth is created, then the next industrial revolution is about the ability to start up a business with lower capital costs and sell new products.
All the stuff that makes stuff is mechatronics stuff. Everything requires actuators, motors, drive electronics, gears, belts, pulleys, position sensors. You name it. Everything in the mechatronics world requires microprocessors for control. Just as the IOT depends on electronics, mechatronics is about to be similarly transformed by the low cost of processors and will of course, take advantage of the connectivity that the technology affords.
So it is my theory that the next industrial revolution is the sum of 2 powerful trends based on the same thing. Low cost processor technology that is so inexpensive that it can be embedded in almost anything. Transforming mechatronics and lowering costs for the next generation of stuff that makes stuff.
That’s real capitalism in action. Wealth creation and job creation. The real industrial and economic revolution.