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From Industry 4.0 to Industry 5.0 – IV

There are many technologies that are supporting the shift to Industry 4.0. Some of these, and new ones, will be leveraged by Industry 5.0. Image credit: Frost&Sullivan

Technology is a tool, it has always been a tool. However, there have been some technologies that have shaped evolution and actually prompted evolution. The very first technologies (stone cutting -extracting and shaping-, bronze smelting, and iron/steel production) gave the name to entire epochs. More recently we have had use of energy sources characterising a historical period, like steam and electricity characterising the  first and second industrial revolution, and in the last 50 years computers characterising our most recent industrial (and cultural) transformation.

This does not seem to be the case for Industry 5.0, where all technologies used are also part, may be to a different extent, of Industry 4.0: IoT, fast low latency communications, robotics, artificial intelligence, industrial blockchain, additive manufacturing, digital production space (and related AR/VR), …

In the first graphic (taken from a presentation by Aroop Zutshi, Global President and Managing Partner Frost & Sullivan) you can see 6 technology “areas”:

  • Industrial blockchain, taking care of securing the different steps in the manufacturing process, starting from the supply chain up to the delivery chain. Notice that, well before the blockchain technology a number of industries had a process to track each single component ending up in the final product. As an example, the aerospace industry tracked the steps leading to the engine mounted on an aircraft from the very beginning, as an example: extraction of titanium from ore, purification, creation of the titanium alloy and certification of impurity, x-ray crystallography to check for internal disomogeneity, forging into a disc or a fan, when how and who actually assembled the fan and then the fan in the engine turbine, maintenance, issues detected in operation and so on. As you can see a very detailed record has been the way to go in the aerospace industry. Another example is the food industry that is carefully tracking origin, processing and dispatch of all its products and related component. Blockchain is just providing a more convenient (and reliable) way of tracking. Adopted in the financial and banking market is now moving to logistics and manufacturing. It will surely be a widely adopted tool in Industry 5.0.
  • Drones have been used by the military and have conquered the retail market (with a big impulse provided by aerial photography, both amateurs and professionals. Now they are being adopted in infrastructure surveillance and more and more for warehouse inventory. A still limited, but likely growing role can be foreseen in delivery goods, from warehouses and well as from trucks and vans. In several areas they can become essential, in others they may be a more effective alternative leading to a decreased pollution (decreasing trucks and vans congestions in urban areas). Overall, however, I have some doubts on the impact towards a friendlier environment approach. If a contribution in that sense is possible it is likely to be marginal.
  • Exoskeletons are providing a way to decrease the human fatigue and increase safety still keeping the human at the core of activity. It is an augmentation of human capabilities and a work around human feebleness. There are already a number of cases of adoption in the automotive industry and as they will become less expensive, more flexible and easier to operate in symbioses with humans we can expect a larger adoption. This goes along the objective of keeping humans at the center of manufacturing.
  • Additive Technology is quite widespread in manufacturing and its application is increasing as 3D printing becomes more and more flexible (in terms of materials used in the process) and more performant (you can use it in mass production, e.g. large scale manufacturing). One of the advantages of additive manufacturing is the dramatic reduction of waste (the fillers that are used in some production are fully recovered and reused, there is no wasted material). This means decreased use of raw materials and a correspondingly decreased use of energy. Additionally, additive manufacturing can support better recycling at the end of life, becoming easier (not always but in several cases) the “decomposition” of the materials that can be re-used for manufacturing other products.
  • 5G and beyond (6G). Communication infrastructure, evolving with 6G into a communication fabric, is a fundamental tool in all stages of manufacturing (including upstream and downstream). Notice that this is already the situation for Industry 4.0 (and I would say for Industry 3.0) so in a way there is nothing new. However, what we are seeing is that in Industry 4.0 the use of the cyberspace and collaboration through the cyberspace of the whole value chain (and ecosystem) is more intense and this requires a performant communication infrastructure. 4G is fine, 5G would be better, particularly private (or industrial) 5G. This is becoming a reality in a few Countries, like Germany, still lagging behind in others where the spectrum is managed by Telecom Operators and not open to industry (the problem here is just the cost that is charged by Telcos for private use). With Industry 5.0 there will be a growing emphases on control of the “operation” of products, both from the manufacturer, the user and third parties. This will require a pervasive communication infrastructure that can be created also by transforming the product into a communication node. This is part of the 5G architecture (although it has not been implemented so far) and it will be a basic feature of 6G. The evolution of the communication infrastructure will make possible to operate products at a higher level of efficiency, thus decreasing power consumption. Additionally, the products features will be provided also via the cloud, thus potentially prolonging the life time of the product (servitization) thus decreasing the need for resources and decreasing waste. Notice that this goes against the culture of “consume, discard, consume, discard” that has characterized the last 40 years. In turns, this will require a profound transformation of industry and of the financial markets (led by the drive to continuously increase revenues, i.e, sell more).
  • Mixed Reality (AR, VR, Metaverse). These technologies are already part of industry 4.0. They will be playing an even greater role in Industry 5.0. This allows a greater use of the cyberspace (and the production consumption in the Metaverse). The environmental gain is evident. What may not be evident is that operating in the Metaverse, both as producer and consumer, lowers the barrier of entry. People with disabilities, people with less than average strength (women included) will be able to play the same role in production as any other. Any gender difference can disappear in the Metaverse. Industry 5.0 intends to leverage on this possibility to the end advantage of the human workers, rather than to the advantage of increased revenues and efficiency. Whether this will be the case goes beyond the Industry, it requires an evolution of culture and most likely an imposition of rules on the market.

As a matter of fact there are more technologies to be considered, I’ll do that in the next post.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.