View from India: On the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution

India is at the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, as determined by the manner in which the physical, digital and biological verticals will leverage the potential of the IT industry. Its motto - Transform, Grow and Innovate - will bring myriad visible changes.

“The fourth industrial revolution will be driven by autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, robotics and new materials. Biological innovation like DNA mapping will disrupt the existing technologies. A combination of IoT and 3D manufacturing will change the way human beings are analysed and developed in the field of medicine,” said Mr Anant Maheshwari, President of Microsoft India, speaking at the 19th edition of India’s flagship IT and electronics event BengaluruITE.biz.

“We need to re-imagine and change customer experience and empower employees by optimizing operations,” Maheshwari added.

When we look back over the changing technology landscape, India has emerged as a global leader in IT services over the last 20 years. In order to stay relevant in the domestic and global IT scenario, IT will be viewed in a different vein over the next 10 years.

“Every industry in India will be driven by IT. Every business will be driven by software, including smart cash and crypto currency. The overall investment in software will escalate considerably,” said Bhaskar Ghosh, Accenture Technology Services.

“India has 970 million telecom subscribers. Our country has 350 million Internet users, which makes it the world’s second largest Internet base. Digital India will invest $20bn in mobile connectivity, which will digitize many processes. Mobile banking will help create a digitized economy, among other mobile services.”

Besides mobility and internet, other significant changes in the IT industry will include the use of sensors.

“Moving forward, with proper legal framework and regulatory measures, driverless cars will become a reality. While all this is on, our devices will throw in a huge amount of data, due to which privacy issues will become a challenge. Cyber security should be built into the architecture, as early as the design stage,” said Infosys' Kris Gopalakrishnan, also chairman of Karnataka’s Vision Group on IT. Incidentally, Microsoft established its own Cyber Security Engagement Centre in India in October 2016, one of seven global centres.

By 2020, Gartner predicts that there will be 21 billion connected devices and this will result in 1.5 trillion business opportunities. “Venture capital investment in artificial intelligence (AI) has tripled to $2.5bn in the last five years,” said Ghosh.

AI will be everywhere and will become the user interface of data science. Predictably, AI along with connectivity, virtual agents and robots will transform industry services. Newer frontiers like drone technology will be tapped to monitor pipelines in the desert and will also be used for crop cultivation. 

Devices and machines will be integrated into the ecosystem. New software will be written which requires new capabilities to be managed. Underpinning all this will be IT, software development and the digital ecosystem. The scale, flexibility and security of the cloud platform will be the enabler for all forthcoming operations.

The manufacturing industry will move from mass production to mass customization. This shift in the manufacturing sector needs to be aligned with Make in India, as envisioned by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A new workforce and income generating opportunities will be part of the agenda.

From IT services to e-commerce to quantum computing, the IT industry has seen many waves of growth. The first industrial revolution began with the steam engine, the second being electricity. The third is viewed as IT and microprocessors. In the upcoming fourth revolution, time to learn and execute the same will be short. It will require maturity and ability to keep pace with the changing face of technology.

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