4IR IRL: The Impending Impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution


Welcome to Ericsson D-Fifteen

Are we really experiencing a 4th Industrial Revolution – or simply on evolution? As we go towards an increasingly connected society - what will be the next huge IoT technology? Marking the opening of Ericsson D-Fifteen, our new co-creation and innovation center in the heart of Silicon Valley, we hosted an evening event with WIRED magazine featuring a panel discussion addressing these questions. Five leaders from various industry verticals joined the panel moderated by Nick Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of WIRED, who all shared insights into the strategies and use cases driving innovation.

Technology for Good

In her opening statement, Margaret Herndon, VP Marketing & Communication of Ericsson North America, host for the evening, announced the event as carbon offset, and acknowledged the 17 UN sustainable development goals from 2015 which Ericsson committed to the very same year.

The panel included industry experts from a variety of companies, including Hitachi, VMWare, Ericsson, Autodesk, and AT&T. Nick Thompson, Editor-in-Chief at WIRED Magazine, moderated the panel.

The 4th Industrial Revolution - or an Evolution?

With the fourth industrial revolution, we are talking about several contributing technologies including smart manufacturing, Industrial IoT, 3D-printing, and so on. So - is it really a revolution, or rather an evolution?

The panelists didn’t give the audience a unified answer. Ericsson’s Rob Tiffany says “I definitely think it is an evolution. A lot of the concepts and principles that you think of behind this evolved from manufacturing, connected machines and getting data and doing analytics. There are new ways to do the old things, maybe better and different ways, but not necessarily a revolution”.

Bill Schmarzo, CTO of IoT & Analytics at Hitachi Vantara, on the other hand, explained how capabilities such as edge computing, and its ability of enabling split second decisions while leveraging huge amounts of data at the edge, has never been done before. According to him, we are therefore looking at a revolution.

IoT a failure?

Whether IoT is revolutionizing our industry landscape or not, it does entail some challenges to overcome before being fully adopted. Here, the discussions evolved around customer skepticism towards IoT in connection to AI, and how the big hype around it has scared customers off. Another historical issue with IoT is that companies are unable to monetize it effectively – it has a lack of economic value. In summary, the problem is not IoT per se, but customer adoption and deployment. “It is never the lack of technology that is the problem”, Vishy Gopalakrishnan, VP of Ecosystem & Innovation at AT&T, comments.

Further, the panelists all agreed on that the customer adoption issues are a matter of mindset. As soon as you add a different device or sensor to an organization, you cannot only change the device, but you must also change the way you think of your organization. Tom explains: “The mindset is how you show up, your attitudes and beliefs, your approach, the questions and framework you have. We need a better, perhaps different mindset to effectively understand, take advantage of and put (IoT) into practice. What is that mindset? Design thinking 3.0, including the new element of machine learning and extra intelligence”.

Technology for Good

Being a carbon offset event, the panel ended on a promising note by having each panelist mention an exciting technology they believe will have a positive environmental impact going forward. The panel talked about things like 5G and indoor farming, solutions for the visually impaired, computable homes with reduced energy usage and zero waste, and smart logistics - reducing the amount of trucks and trains, and modernizing the industry. Just like with IoT, the technology isn’t the problem, but rather the adoption: “There isn’t a lack of use cases - we have too many”, says Bill Schmarzo, further emphasizing on the need for organizational alignment to help us prioritize and move forward with the right use cases.

Going forward

The discussions terminated in an audience led speak-up session. Questions surrounded topics such as IT security and its role in unlocking the IoT ecosystem, data ownership, the adoption of IoT technology among the future workforce, and whether a certain industry vertical will be the 4th industrial revolution catalyst. The panel concluded that security plays a vital part in IoT adoption and is probably the biggest blocker in terms of investments in IoT.

After the panel, attendees were able to round off the evening by networking with industry peers over food and drinks, and taking part in seven different use case demos presented by Ericsson in collaboration with industry partners.


Nick Thompson - Editor-in-Chief, WIRED

Nick Thompson


Vishy Gopalakrishnan - Vice President, Ecosystem & Innovation, AT&T

Vishy Gopalakrishnan

Vice President, Ecosystem & Innovation,

Mimi Spier - Vice President IoT Business, VMWare

Mimi Spier

Vice President IoT Business,

Rob Tiffany - Vice President & General Manager IoT, Ericsson North America

Rob Tiffany

Vice President & General Manager IoT,
Ericsson North America

Bill Schmarzo - CTO of IoT & Analytics, Hitachi Vantara

Bill Schmarzo

CTO of IoT & Analytics,
Hitachi Vantara

Tom Wujec - Former Autodesk Fellow

Tom Wujec

Former Autodesk Fellow

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