Mon | Dec 6, 2021

It is a good time to be alive: The Internet of things and digital twinning

Published:Thursday | March 18, 2021 | 12:07 AM

Industry 4.0 is the new industrial revolution focusing on the digitalisation and integration of the value chain. Prior to Industry 4.0, there was the First, Second and Third Industrial Revolutions. The Internet of things (IoT) is a part of Industry 4.0, the fourth revolution. IoT provides advanced connectivity of systems, services and physical objects. Zhong 2017 posits that it enables object-to-object communication and data sharing, and that the IoT can be achieved through the control and automation of heating, lighting, machining and remote monitoring in various industries. It assists us to tackle global problems by placing big data at our fingertips. Brian Burke, research vice-president Gatner in The top Technology Trends for 2021, speaks to the people centricity of businesses and to the location of independence in spite of the pandemic. Two questions need to be answered: one, how did we get to industry 4.0? And two, how is Jamaica positioned to make the economic leap forward with the Internet of things and with digital twinning. First, how did we get here?

The First Industrial Revolution – Industry 1.0 occurred from 1760-1840 and was characterised by a switch from hand production to manufacturing through the use of machines powered by steam and water. A number of industries were affected by this revolution, including mining, farming, textile and iron. With the introduction of steam came urbanisation, steamships and railroads, which revolutionised movement and transportation.

SECOND INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

We can attribute the modern world we know today to the Second Industrial Revolution. This industrial revolution occurred between 1870 and 1914 and is commonly referred to as the Technological Revolution. With this revolution came advances in communication and transportation, railroad network construction, the advent of the telegram and the electrification of factories. Scientific inventions such as gasolene engines, airplanes and chemical fertilisers, radio and telephone transformed the quality of life.

THE THIRD INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

The Third Industrial Revolution began in the 1950s and saw the introduction of semiconductors, mainframe computing, personal computing and the Internet. It signalled the industrial era. This revolution is therefore associated with the rise of digital technology and the cellular phone.

These three industrial revolutions transformed society with the associated introductions of steam, science and digital technology.

THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

We are currently experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the world is looking forward to humans working side by side with artificial intelligence. It is argued that this revolution began in 2014. The concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution was coined in 2016 by Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum. The components of Industry 4.0 are categorised as Internet of Things, Cyber Physical Systems, Internet of Services and Smart Factory.

This revolution is different from previous ones because occurring simultaneously are breakthroughs in nanotechnology, quantum computing and the fusion of these technologies across the physical, digital and biological domains.

Economically, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is expected to transform the world by 2030. Increases in productivity is expected through the enhancement of more efficient and better-quality processes and safer, enhanced decision-making through the use of big data and the design of customised products tailored to the needs of the consumer. On the other hand, there is the need to adapt to this fast-paced change, the need for developing countries like Jamaica to bridge the digital gap, to train qualified staff as it is expected that jobs will disappear due to automation and that new jobs will be created.

Coincidentally, Jamaica’s Vision 2030 Plan sees Jamaica as the place of choice to live, work and do business by 2030 and coincides with the expected time of transformation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The two main goals are for Jamaica to have a strong and competitive information communications technology (ICT) sector and for Jamaica’s national development to be advanced through widespread adoption and application of ICT.

For the attainment of these goals, the deficiencies in IoT and digital twinning, especially as it relates to the education sector, needs to be addressed speedily.

THE DIGITAL TWIN

The digital twin is poised to transform the world as we know it. The digital twin has the ability to transform what was previously thought to be science into reality. Digital twins think, sense and act by replicating the image of a product virtually. It incorporates data in real time, big data, processes the data with artificial intelligence, cloud computing and machine learning to produce a ‘living’ representation that thinks, feels and acts. Digital twins have the capacity to replicate any process and solve any problem, in any environment, thereby improving any or all processes. This fact is astounding and has the implication for how we do things in Jamaica.

INTERNET OF THINGS

The Internet of things brings the control of technology in the hands of the consumer. Smart devices are self-contained and can give and receive instructions from other devices, and the smartphone has become a necessary device for life.

Second, COVID-19 has served as a thermometer with which to gauge the pace of industry 4.0 on the education system. The education system has been affected by several challenges ranging from changes in the education curriculum to closing down the system. Mustafa, 2020 found that due to lack of Internet connectivity, information technology, educational materials, and digital technology skill, distance learning is difficult for teachers, students, and families in developing countries.

UNICEF 2020 also found that COVID-19 has put the spotlight on the inequalities in the education sector, highlighting the divide where 34 per cent of households with children do not have exclusive access to an Internet device for education and to glaring disparities between urban and rural areas.

It is recognised that Industry 4.0 is relevant to the interfacing of education with industry. COVID-19 has shown that we are able to work remotely, and that cybertwinning is not confined to a specific location. Computers and robots existed previously but the opportunities provided by the Internet has revolutionised their use. We are now able to monitor activities cheaply, whether product, people or things. We are also able to collect, analyse and utilise data in real time.

IoT feeds digital twinning and education is being impacted negatively when cables are stolen, digital devices are taxed and the average household is not able to access the Internet. The move to provide a national broadband network is a move in the right direction. This increased connectivity will benefit not only the education sector but all sectors.