28 minutes | Oct 14th 2020

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Has Begun: Now’s The Time to Join

2020 has created more than a brave new world. It’s a world of opportunity rapidly pressuring organizations of all sizes to rapidly adopt technology to not just survive, but to thrive. And Andrew Dugan, chief technology officer at Lumen Technologies, sees proof in the company’s own customer base, where “those organizations fared the best throughout covid were the ones that were prepared with their digital transformation.” And that’s been a common story this year. A 2018 McKinsey survey showed that well before the pandemic 92% of company leaders believed “their business model would not remain economically viable through digitization.” This astounding statistic shows the necessity for organizations to start deploying new technologies, not just for the coming year, but for the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This podcast episode was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not produced by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

Lumen plans to play a key role in this preparation and execution: “We see the Fourth Industrial Revolution really transforming daily life ... And it's really driven by that availability and ubiquity of those smart devices.” With the rapid evolution of smaller chips and devices, acquiring analyzing, and acting on the data becomes a critical priority for every company. But organizations must be prepared for this increasing onslaught of data.

As Dugan says, “One of the key things that we see with the Fourth Industrial Revolution is that enterprises are taking advantage of the data that's available out there.” And to do that, companies need to do business in a new way. Specifically, “One is change the way that they address hiring. You need a new skill set, you need data scientists, your world is going to be more driven by software. You’re going to have to take advantage of new technologies.” This mandate means that organizations will also need to prepare their technology systems, and that’s where Lumen helps “build the organizational competencies and provide them the infrastructure, whether that’s network, edge compute, data analytics tools,” continues Dugan. The goal is to use software to gain insights, which will improve business.

When it comes to next-generation apps and devices, edge compute—the ability to process data in real time at the edge of a network (think a handheld device) without sending it back to the cloud to be processed—has to be the focus. Dugan explains: “When a robot senses something and sends that sensor data back to the application, which may be on-site, it may be in some edge compute location, the speed at which that data can be collected, transported to the application, analyzed, and a response generated, directly affects the speed at which that device can operate.” This data must be analyzed and acted on in real time to be useful to the organization. Think about it, continued Dugan, “When you’re controlling something like an energy grid, similar thing. You want to be able to detect something and react to it in near real time.” Edge compute is the function that allows organizations to enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and this is the new reality. “We're moving from that hype stage into reality and making it available for our customers,” Dugan notes. “And that's exciting when you see something become real like this.”

Business Lab is hosted by Laurel Ruma, director of Insights, the custom publishing division of MIT Technology Review. The show is a production of MIT Technology Review, with production help from Collective Next.

This podcast episode was produced in partnership with Lumen Technologies.


“Emerging Technologies And The Lumen Platform,” Andrew Dugan, Automation.com, Sept 14, 2020

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond,” Klaus Schwab, The World Economic Forum, Jan 14, 2016

“Why digital strategies fail,” Jacques Bughin, Tanguy Catlin, Martin Hirt, and Paul Willmott, McKinsey Quarterly, Jan 25, 2018