The Key Theories Behind Industry 4.0 in Construction

The automation trend referred to as Industry 4.0 has been around for some time now, but not everyone is clear about what it all means. For our latest blog post we have defined the Industry 4.0 concept as it applies to the future of construction, and listed a few key theories that go some way to explaining the transformational potential of digitisation.

What is Industry 4.0?

It’s easy to divide the history of industry into three periods – first came mechanisation, with power generated by water and steam. The second period of industry was characterised by electricity, as well as mass production and assembly lines. The advent of computers was the third period of industry, and we are now entering an age of cyber-physical systems – commonly referred to as Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 describes the recent move towards automation, analysis and data exchange. RIB is a forerunner for implementing Industry 4.0 in construction, through interoperability, technical assistance and high-level data analysis. The company is developing integrated platforms that improve sustainable building practices, eliminate unnecessary waste and allow for greater collaboration through the supply chain. In this regard, digitisation is contributing to a better built environment worldwide.

The 6 Ds of Technological Disruption

There is often reticence to embrace digitisation in certain industries, but the tide appears to be turning. Agriculture has become digitalised through IoT, machine control and labs in an effort to improve outputs and crop quality, while the Carlsberg brewing company is even using AI in an attempt to predict the taste of different barleys in the final products from the brewing process.

Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation has a concept he calls ‘The 6 Ds of Technological Disruption’. This concept is largely based on Ray Kurzweil’s observation ‘The Law of Accelerating Returns’ which explains the exponential growth of IT.

This list outlines the rapid and significant impacts that technology can have upon established industries, and goes some way to explaining why humans have a hard time accepting technological potential.

1 – Digitised

Anything that becomes digitised experiences the same exponential growth that we see in computing. Digital information is easy to access, share, and distribute. It can spread at the speed of the Internet. Once something can be represented in zeros and ones – from music to biotechnology – it becomes an information-based technology and grows exponentially.

2 – Deceptive

When something starts being digitised, its initial period of growth is deceptive because exponential trends don’t seem to grow very fast at first. Doubling only .01 only gets you to .02, then .04 and so on. Exponential growth really takes off after it breaks the whole number barrier. 2 quickly becomes 32, and so on.

3 – Disruptive

The existing market for a product or service is disrupted by the new market the exponential technology creates, because digital technologies outperform their older counterparts in effectiveness and cost. Once you can stream music on your phone, why buy CDs? If you can snap, store and share photographs, why buy camera and film?

4 – Demonetised

Money is increasingly removed from the equation as the technology becomes cheaper, often to the point of being free. Software is less expensive to produce than hardware and copies can be produced consistently at a low cost. You can now download any number of apps on your phone to access terabytes of information and enjoy a multitude of services for a negligible outlay.

5 – Democratised

Once something is digitised, more people can have access to it. Powerful technologies are no longer only for governments, large organisations, or the wealthy.

6 – Dematerialised

Separate physical products are removed from the equation. Technologies that were once bulky or expensive – radio, camera, GPS, phones, maps – are now all in a smartphone that fits your pocket.

Moore’s Law of Exponential Growth

In simple terms, Moore’s Law is an observation first made in 1965 by engineer Gordon Moore, who noted that the number of components per integrated circuit doubled every year, leading him to predict that this rate of growth would continue for at least a decade. Moore revised his prediction to a doubling every two years as of 1975, a forecast which proved accurate in subsequent decades and was used to guide long-term planning and research in the industry.

RIB has found that Moore’s exponential growth theory has rung true over the past ten years. We initially experienced hardware and processing power scalability issues that limited our potential to run further services, but we accurately predicted that Moore’s Law would catch up and continued with our research and development plans. We took similar leaps with our MTWO and iTWO 4.0 platforms, offering full cloud support before GPU was publicly available.

In next month’s blog, we’ll look at the specific technologies utilised by RIB to bring Industry 4.0 to the construction industry, including GPU Accelerated Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, the Internet of Things and Robotics.