CIVIC, Europe, and the new Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution that brought us coal and steam power in the late 1700’s was utterly transformative, bringing all sorts of previously unimaginable changes like sweeping mechanisation and formidable new manufacturing methods across society and the world. While this may seem like an odd topic for a digital agency’s blog in 2020 – you will be unsurprised to learn that our computers and offices are not run on coal – it is perhaps less well known that this industrial revolution was not the only one.
In fact, we are currently in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Industry 4.0. And just as the First Revolution and the two that followed it were era-defining events that completely remoulded society, so this Industry 4.0 has done and will continue to do now. That’s why we have taken on a portfolio of ERASMUS+ projects promoting the technology of this Fourth Industrial Revolution with partners from all across Europe, in industries spanning manufacturing, agriculture, and even crafts. These projects – Actife, FAME, and Craft 4.0 chief among them – are an opportunity for CIVIC, as an innovative digital agency, to help ensure that this revolution reaches its full transformative potential across Europe.
Actife, FAME, and The Internet of Things
So what, then, is the full transformative potential of Industry 4.0? The projects named above revolve around some of the key principals of this transformation: The Internet of Things (IoT), smart technology, and additive manufacturing. The first two of these concepts may be familiar to you already – they depend on wireless technologies, sensors and automation and are already becoming well-integrated into common products. Many people already have a phone, a laptop, a wearable device, perhaps even applications in their home that are synchronised and communicate wirelessly with each other. In business, this IoT and smart technology is scaled up to much larger proportions: sensors that can alert mechanics when a machine is about to break or that can automatically order more stock when it is starting to run out, even sensors allowing machines in different but related parts of a factory to communicate with each other autonomously.
This is the main focus of Actife, which CIVIC leads, and of the FAME project, on which we are a partner. Covering IoT in agriculture and Industry 4.0 in manufacturing respectively, these projects, ostensibly about the same thing, are nevertheless targeting diverse groups, using distinct methods, and fulfilling differing potentials. Actife is aimed at the agriculture sector as well as at the unemployed and those in education and training, while FAME is targeting the manufacturing industry. Actife has produced a serious game to foster knowledge, but also to broaden engagement with IoT-related skills, while FAME has produced an Advanced Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) Assistant to personalise the experience of interested manufacturers, directing them to relevant Industry 4.0 actions that they could undertake to improve the operation of their business.
3D Printing Our Way to Industry 4.0
Then take this a step further to the Craft 4.0 project. This project is working less on IoT or smart technologies and more on the third of the main industry 4.0 concepts mentioned above: additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. This increasingly common technology allows those with the skills to run it to use ultra-thin streams of material (3D printers can print with plastic, metal, and other substances) to create all sorts of three-dimensional objects. While “Craft” might not be the first word that comes to mind when you hear “Industrial Revolution”, 3D printing could have a huge effect on the sector, allowing craftspeople with the right skills to cheaply and efficiently create models, prototypes, or specific custom parts that might be impossible to find elsewhere. Our role in this project is to build and help design a peer learning platform where craftspeople of all kinds can learn from each other, and share projects and ideas in which they use this technology.
Eyes to the Horizon
These three examples lay bare only a small part the tremendous impact of Industry 4.0. We are helping prepare this continent, in our own small way, for all of this and more: the machines that communicate and sense problems autonomously; the sensors that monitor crops and soil and even automatically waters them; the printers that can build complex, difficult models or custom parts using only a line of code, the click of button, and not an ounce of wasted material. The future is ever-shifting, with possibilities and innovations constantly reaching us, even as thickets of new possibilities and ideas bloom further toward the horizon. That is why we at CIVIC believe that it is important for us to be part of these projects, to deliver them to the highest standard and to ensure that Europe’s society, our people, our economy, and our businesses are ready for that next horizon when it arrives.