Previous industrial revolutions freed people from animal power, made mass production possible and brought digital technology to billions of people. Today, we’re in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, characterised by new technologies that bring together the digital, physical and biological worlds.
As with previous industrial revolutions, the pace of change is fast. And it’s set to impact all disciplines, economies and industries, including engineering firms. That’s why we decided to take a look at five tech trends that will shape the engineering world.
Trend 1 – 5G Connectivity
Despite some areas of the UK struggling to get a decent internet connection, the government is pushing ahead with plans to roll out a 5G network.
This is the next generation of broadband that will replace or augment your 4G connection. It will provide much quicker download and upload speeds and will connect far faster with other wireless networks.
Why is it needed? Because, in many major cities, mobile internet carriers are running out of bandwidth resulting in users experiencing slowdowns at busy times of day. The 5G network isn’t all about speed. It will also be used to support a range of other technology including:
- Autonomous vehicles – will need to communicate with one another and provide performance information to drivers and manufacturers.
- Remote control of heavy machinery – lowers the risk of injury in hazardous environments and allows work to be completed more effectively.
- Remote utility tracking – gas and water pipes and electricity pylons will be able to feed information back to the command centre making reporting hotlines, and the customer services staff associated with them, a thing of the past
Trend 2 – The Internet of Things
Long talked about, the IoT is getting closer to becoming a reality. It hasn’t been possible to connect all electrical products to the internet due to the lack of data capacity, but with 5G all that is set to change. More electrical products are being engineered to include chips that will connect them to the internet, transforming inanimate objects into items that are able to share information and communicate via the internet.
In engineering firms, the IoT could be used to provide feedback on the status of assembly lines or even the performance of items that would previously have been monitored manually. For example, one US firm has created a device that can be inserted into concrete to provide data on the material’s condition. This will allow engineers to be proactive in maintaining and replacing materials or parts and preventing issues ahead of time.
For engineers, the IoT is an opportunity to pioneer new products and influence interconnected systems at vast scale. To capitalise on this trend, you’ll need a solid IT foundation and potentially some professional development for key team members.
Trend 3 – It’s a Green Light for Going Green
The government has announced that the UK will be a net carbon producer by 2050. This has serious ramifications for all businesses and will undoubtedly impact the tech your organisation uses.
From generating your own energy via wind or solar panels to offsetting carbon and reducing emissions. Firms will need to be open to adopting new technologies and finding alternative ways to achieve their goals.
Consider less obvious changes like switching to biodegradable plastics, updating plumbing systems to harvest rainwater and switching to low-energy LED light bulbs. You don’t need to strip everything out from the foundations; these kinds of smaller changes can make a big difference. And by starting now you’ll save money sooner which can be used to offset future tech investments.
Another area to consider is reducing the amount of paper you use. This includes moving from paper-based systems to digital ones that are more efficient and reduce the need to buy paper, print and file it. Fewer filing cabinets also means less storage which will reduce your organisation’s physical footprint. Could you use that extra space to grow your business or rent it out to another firm to create an additional revenue stream? Whatever you choose to do, investment in digital technology is often a smart option that pays for itself.
Trend 4 – Engineering Design With AR, VR and MR
Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) are enabling engineers to close the gap between the digital and real world:
- AR – adds digital information to a live view; think Snapchat lenses or Pokemon Go.
- VR – provides a completely immersive experience that replaces the physical world. VR devices like Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard are required to transport users to real-world and imagined environments.
- MR – combines elements of both AR and VR and requires different tech to support it, for example Microsoft’s HoloLens.
Already in use in manufacturing companies like Ford, this technology helps engineers see their designs in 3D. And it enables them to model changes in a virtual simulation of real life, collaborating with colleagues – and potentially even customers – earlier in the design stage. Combined, this technology is already revolutionising the design and manufacture process.
Trend 5 – Machine to Machine and Human to Machine Automation
Do you still need someone to manually update your databases from paper-based information? If the answer is yes, it’s time to investigate the trend towards automation that’s ridding companies of time-consuming, inefficient manual processes.
This isn’t all about robotics and complex algorithms; automation can be as straightforward as moving manual processes online. Simply update your engineers tool kit with handheld mobile devices and upgrade your IT infrastructure with the right workflow software. This will enable your team to complete forms which update background systems and automatically enable the next step of the workflow to take place.
This aspect of automation is something that’s already been happening in a large number of businesses as they seek to reduce administration, streamline processes and enable end-to-end oversight of work. It also means decision makers are empowered to take decisions based on real-time information so they can drive the business forward with confidence.
Make the Most of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Preparing your business to capitalise on these tech trends requires a solid baseline of digital IT infrastructure. You’ll need the right software, internet connection and adequately trained staff so they can hit the ground running. This will position your business to make the most of everything technology has to offer.
Don’t get left behind – contact DoubleZero Solutions today to find out how we can fast forward your organisation’s technology to future-proof your business. Contact us on 0161 871 7509 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no obligation chat.