The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) is here. But what does it actually mean?

By H. Young

Updated September 11, 2021 Updated September 11

Sponsored by the National University of Singapore (NUS)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, just like the previous three, will transform society. Known as Industry 4.0, it promises to be one of the greatest opportunities in modern history to solve a variety of societal and business problems.

The challenges confronting the world have probably become only more evident in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to isolate themselves, and catapulted the world into ‘online mode’. In every country, large swathes of the population have had to become accustomed to working and learning online, and connect with each other through social media platforms.

Among some of technologies that have come to the fore in these tumultuous times are artificial intelligence, which is being used to shorten the amount of time needed to develop a coronavirus vaccine, while drones have been utilized to manage and monitor quarantines.

These technological innovations are being driven by technological integration and a deep understanding of systems and processes attributable to Industry 4.0, a force more powerful and complex than previous industrial revolutions.

A report published by MarketsandMarkets™ in December 2019 estimated that the current global Industry 4.0 market is valued at US$71.7 billion and will more than double to US$156.6 billion by 2024. The Asia Pacific region is expected to have the largest share of this market over the forecast period.

The need for talent is obvious, but to have the competencies required to excel in Industry 4.0 is no easy task. The emerging technologies of the revolution include the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, industrial metrology, industrial robotics, augmented reality, virtual reality, blockchain, 3D printing, digital twin and 5G technology, along with cloud computing and big data.

To succeed in Industry 4.0, individuals need to have a wealth of diversified knowledge, amplified by a mindset of lifelong learning. Equally important is the ability to correctly recognize and analyze problems. All of these traits are critical in order to leverage a new way of thinking when it comes to the transformation of industries and the development of innovative solutions through Industry 4.0 technologies.

The National University of Singapore (NUS), which is ranked first in Asia and 11th in the world in the QS World University Rankings® 2021, is actively pioneering master’s degree programs that will lead the way in the era of Industry 4.0.

Some existing NUS programs relevant to Industry 4.0 are the Master of Computing (which offers a specialization in Artificial Intelligence), and the Master of Science in Data Science and Machine Learning. Joining that list is the Master of Science in Industry 4.0, which was launched in 2019. This program taps into the strengths of several schools and faculties at NUS (including the School of Business, the School of Computing, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Science, Institute of Systems Science, and the School of Continuing and Lifelong Education) to train graduates in order to become the change-makers and leaders of tomorrow.

The innovative Master of Science in Industry 4.0 breaks down the walls that traditionally separate one discipline from another. It offers core courses in Industry 4.0 and Applications, Data Analytics for Sense-making, Digital Physical Integration in Industry 4.0, and Digital Architecture and Transformation Systems. This is complemented by eleven elective tracks, including Digital Supply Chain, Data Mining and Interpretation, Deep Learning for Industry, Quality Assurance and Yield Optimization, Principles and Practice of Secure Systems, Digital Business, Pattern Recognition Systems, Intelligent Sensing Systems, Additive Manufacturing, Internet of Things, as well as Robotics and Automation.

Beyond the classroom, six-month capstone projects give students unique insights into the very real challenges being faced by companies in Industry 4.0. The projects are built around industry-relevant issues, and give students the opportunity to put theory into practice, deepening their knowledge and understanding of how they may implement Industry 4.0 solutions into working systems and processes.

The Master of Science in Industry 4.0 (which is accepting applications for the August 2021 intake until 15 March 2021), along with several other cutting-edge master’s degree programs offered at NUS such as the Master of Science in Data Science and Machine Learning (which is accepting applications for the August 2021 intake until 31 January 2021), have been designed to reflect the demands of Industry 4.0.

They emphasize cross-disciplinary competency, inclusiveness and growth, so individuals interested in joining these programs need not necessarily have academic qualifications or work experience in very focused or specialized areas.

Industry 4.0 needs talents who can work with a variety of disciplines to develop next-generation solutions in an increasingly complex world. Graduates of the Master of Science in Industry 4.0 program can expect to find career opportunities as an automation engineer, user interface and user experience designer, or even as a predictive supply network analyst. Graduates’ cross-functional competencies may also be a good fit for a broad range of occupations in across many industries and organizations. For individuals who are inspired and motivated rise to the occasion, now is the time to take action.

This article was originally published in December 2020 . It was last updated in September 2021

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