I never liked the term Industrial Revolution, coined by the French and popularised by Englishman Arnold Toynbee (1852-83).
But in this lexicon, we are moving from the Digital or Third Revolution (1975-present) to the Fourth, well described by Klaus Schwab as “fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.”
However, when you look deeply at the third and unfolding fourth industrial revolutions, at their heart are the properties of the electromagnetic spectrum. Not just the obvious like, electricity, radio, WiFi and X-rays. For example, the gargantuan estimates of data we seek to store, network and utilise into the future leads to an inevitable global solution – light.
The opening sentence of Albert Einstein’s scientific paper about his particle theory of light (1905) is considered to be one of the most revolutionary statements of modern times. He upturned long-held views about lights behaviour and properties. His insights opened an infinite door of possibilities for industry and innovation. Just as the Stone and Iron Ages defined humanity’s industry, leveraging the electromagnetic spectrum is the key resource defining our way into the next millennia.
For example, putting aside quantum entanglement, nothing is faster than light. Only digitised photons will handle the volume and speed of data we will demand into the future. This is why the multi-mode NBN was a mistake. We should have stuck, like other nations have done, with the original vision - fibre to the door.
There is another related revolution underway. I thank the Gillard Group and my friend and Australian Computer Society luminary Mark Lloyd for this important insight. The last century of artificial lighting is being overturned by the rapid global uptake of Light Emitting Diodes (LED). LED uptake is being driven by its low-energy footprint and environmental benefits. The casualties of this paradigm shift include the lighting divisions of GE, Osram and Phillips.
Critically, LED is a digital chip and capable of many things, including transmitting low-watt wireless power and data at much faster speeds than WiFi. The global standard for LiFi transmission is not far away. LED will soon be in every physical space, street lamp and car light. Combined with fibre optics, LED creates a ubiquitous synergistic global network of near light-speed capacity. Fuse in Artificial Intelligence, facial and voice recognition, time-of-flight technologies, IoT, actuators, cameras and sensors and almost every imaginable service can be delivered into your home, office, car and recreational space via smart LED luminaires.
Australia lags the world in LED uptake. If you want to see the contrast, search for Ujala Dashboard. Here India, a developing country, displays live uptake of LED by nation and State and consequent benefits. Japan is almost all LED. China, India and Europe are well-advanced. Australia needs a clear vision for creating a smart nation.
Mankind’s new-world industries rely increasingly on the properties of the electromagnetic spectrum. The unfolding Internet of Light and our creativity accelerates opportunities exponentially – we are entering The Photonic Millennia. As mankind reaches for the stars, it is now possible to imagine, that one day we could use the resources of infinite space and restore our finite Earth. This is an exciting vision to unite a planet.