Automation – The Flag Bearer of Industry 5.0
I shared few thoughts on Automation in our recent Book Launch, in the august company of Founder, HCL Mr. Ajai Chowdhry, co-authors and esteemed leaders of the Indian IT industry. I thought of sharing this with a broader audience and help create more awareness of the subject.
Automation is hugely exciting. My narrative on Automation would be complete only if I give a historical perspective. Though our ancestors have been around for about 6 million years, homo sapiens as a species have a history of only about 200 thousand years. Even more interesting is that the history of human civilisation is only about 6000 years. Out of this, the Industry as we know it is barely 300 years because the pre-industry era was only about agriculture and handicraft.
There have been four distinct phases in these 300 years.
Coal, water, and steam driving the steam engine and all the associated machines. Starting in the early 1700s, this phase lasted 150 years.
Electricity and Internal Combustion engine which brought the automobiles of all types - trains, planes and a variety of machines that gave rise to mass manufacturing. This phase lasted 70-80 years.
Computers, a significant game-changer that gave rise to knowledge workers, shifted the economy. This created the Tertiary sector i.e., the Services. It is the largest when compared to Primary (Agriculture) and Secondary ](Manufacturing) sectors. Today, services share is 68% in the global economy. For India, it is 58%. As services became the most significant sector of the economy, the use of technology became higher and higher. The best of brains started working towards Automation like the BPA, RPA use cases, and other hi-tech automation that we take for granted. Some examples - an aircraft on autopilot, a colossal process industry plant is running with a small team, a vast 100000 tons tanker sailing with a crew of just about 20 people, or invoice processing happening alongside an ERP system using a software robot. And so many others. This phase lasted 45-50 years.
Cyber-physical systems that combine hardware, software, and biology lead to Automation combining the computers with biometrics. Just imagine a band on your wrist that can read pulse, blood pressure, calories burnt, sugar level, or ECG in real-time. Unthinkable, really, just a few years ago. We have seen the emergence of tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, whose market value is larger than the GDPs of most nations. Their cash reserves are also more significant than most countries. Think of Automation like Siri at your fingertips, Google Maps on your handheld that carries more power in your pocket than the Mainframe of the 1970s. This phase is only about 15-20 years and counting.
Each successive phase is shorter than the previous. So, the growth is exponential now and that is an enormous disruption today. Humans are unable to handle this rapid pace of change, and that brings about more enormous challenges. Probably technology itself will come to the rescue
Automation is going to the next level, driven by multiple technologies converging together in recent times.
Fifteen years back, we thought computing with Intel 65nm technology was the limit. Now we have 5nm chips. Quantum computing is also becoming a reality and that is an order of magnitude change.
Remarkable is the speed of evolution of 5G Communication. From 2.4 kbps of a VSAT in 1992 to Gbps speeds in three decades. Consuming content on your handheld anywhere, anytime would not have been possible without this evolution.
Genome editing, biotech, IoT, sensors, robotics, biotech, AI/ML, biometrics are commercialized ideas of many cyber-physical systems.
Now, combine all these with powerful software apps. You would have technologies and use cases unthinkable today – autonomous vehicles, drones, flying cars, 3D printing, anti-aging techniques, and consuming content at the speed of thought, et al.
I believe we are actually at the beginning of Industry 5.0 now, and Automation is driving the launch of the new era.
With every phase of the industry-changing, the global power centers shifted too. In a pro-industry era, India was a leading global power for nearly 2000 years, as the Indian economy was more than 30% of the global economy. As the Industry moved from 1.0 to 2.0 to 3.0 and 4.0, the shift happened to Britain, Europe, and the USA, which is today's situation.
If I have to gaze at the crystal ball, I can see that the wheel may come full circle, and India has the opportunity, thanks to the demographic advantage and the strong pedigree of Industry 4.0. After all, only a handful of nations have been able to land a mission on Mars and only a few countries have been able to develop a vaccine for COVID19 in <12 months. I hope India will become a dominant and responsible global power center, driven by Industry 5.0, powered by AUTOMATION.
Well, that is a positive thought, would you agree?