Fourth Industrial Revolution with Dr. Rajeeva Kumar – Part 1

Summary: In this episode I discuss the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), with my guest Dr. Rajeeva Kumar. In part 1 of this two-part series, we discuss what 4IR is, how it compares to the previous industrial revolutions, and why it matters to users of Industrial Control Systems.

Topics Covered:

  • Explanation of each of the four industrial revolutions
  • Low power, low cost sensors / smart sensors
  • Compute power and cloud computing
  • Connectivity and network protocols
  • Data analytics, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence
  • Edge Computing 

Guest Bio: 

Rajeeva is currently the Advanced Technology and Digital Leader for Nexus Controls. He has 29 years of experience in research and development for control systems. In the past he has worked for National Aerospace Laboratories (India), the German Aerospace Center (Germany), and the GE Global Research Center (United States) on projects such as flight control programs, actuator fault detection, isolation, and reconfiguration, physics based modeling, model based sensing and controls, parameter estimation, and signal processing. Rajeeva has a BT of Aeronautical Engineering, an MT of Aerospace Engineering, an MS of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a PhD in Aerospace Engineering. 

Additional Resources:


Podcast Article:


In this podcast, Michelle Rosinski, Senior Product Manager at Nexus Controls, discusses the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) with podcast guest Dr. Rajeeva Kumar. Part 1 of this two-part podcast series describes 4IR, compares it to the previous industrial revolutions, and examines why it matters so much to users of Industrial Control Systems (ICS). The podcast covers the different elements of 4IR such as low-cost sensors, computing power, cloud computing, connectivity, and network protocols, data analytics, edge computing, and more. 

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR?

4IR is the next wave of innovation in manufacturing technology and encompasses automation driven by digital technologies. 4IR is an approach inspired by advancements in data science, machine learning, controls, robotics, as well as computing power, and platforms.

How 4IR compares to the previous industrial revolutions

All industrial revolutions were concerned with either large improvement in productivities or efficiencies.

  • The First Industrial Revolution, characterized by mechanization, water power, and steam power, gave rise to the industrialization of factories.
  • The Second Industrial Revolution, characterized by mass production, assembly lines, and electricity, was able to transport electricity from its point of generation to factories and houses.
  • The Third Industrial Revolution, characterized by computers and automation, made use of information technology, like advances in controls and electronics, to automate production.
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by cyber physical systems, is moving toward advanced automation through digitization, data exchange, and communication.

Why 4IR matters to users of Industrial Control Systems

The speed, scope, and system impact of 4IR are disrupting and changing every industry in every country, transforming the entire system of production and management. For ICS users, 4IR can better integrate business information with production information to optimize assets, reduce downtime, and prevent obsolescence.

Essential components of 4IR

The essence of 4IR is more automation through data exchange, made possible by a combination of technologies. For example, technologies such as low-cost sensors, hardware, computing power, advanced analytics, robotics, and connectivity (like 5G technology) with cloud computing as well as network protocols, complex algorithms, and natural language processing.

Note: The capabilities found in consumer products, such as smartphones and tablets, are affecting consumer thinking and expectations for industrial products.

Game changers of 4IR

  • Low-cost, low-power sensors: making deployment of data-collecting sensors affordable and possible.
  • Big data: driving insights from information across the business including integration with other business systems and data from sensors, processes, equipment health, etc.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning: enabling companies to quickly process and make sense of big data.
  • Cloud computing and “cheap” computing: reducing concerns around footprint and lifecycle issues.
  • High-speed connectivity: supporting low latency or minimal delay and approaching real-time access.
  • Cyber security: providing secure data communication between various subsystems thus enabling a product/service design where data consolidation and analytics could take place remotely if needed.
  •  Edge computing: supporting solutions on premise as well as providing options for more economic solutions for cloud hosting by rationalizing the amount of data that needs to be transferred to cloud.

Cloud computing versus edge computing

4IR is more about automation through connectivity, data, and information sharing, and not all about cloud computing. Many industrial customers do not want to put their operational data on a public cloud for security and latency reasons. However, manufacturers can create a local cloud on-premise to solve these challenges.

In some cases, companies are better off having an edge computing platform alongside the ICS, often within the control network. This platform takes information from ICS, other field devices, and downstream systems and then applies complex analytics to that data. An edge-computing approach can improve uptime, overall system integrity, and performance without compromising safety. It also helps users avoid uncertainty related to data latency normally associated with the public cloud.

NEXT UP in Part 2 of the Fourth Industrial Revolution Podcast: In Part 2 of this podcast, topics include more discussion of edge computing, recommendations on how to get started with 4IR, and several other factors that are important 4IR considerations, namely cyber security.