Member Article

Autonomy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Author - Emma Parkin - ASV Global

As a young professional working in the autonomy field in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) I’ve been inspired, enthused and unsettled about what the future might hold. Why unsettled? It took millennia for the agricultural revolution to take hold, a century for the industrial revolution and only decades for the digital revolution. It is natural to feel unsettled about the speed at which the 4IR is taking hold and the changes this means for society. However, being able to work at the front line of these technologies has removed any nervousness I might have had about the changes to come and replaced it with excitement. I have seen technologies I thought only existed in movies. The 4IR will see the physical, digital and biological sectors converge at an exponential rate which makes predicting even the near future a challenging task. In this near future, we will see a world where a surgeon could carry out an operation from the other side of the world, drones which can guide cars to parking spots, reducing congestion by 30%. User manuals will become ‘smart’ so you can ask ‘is this the right setting?’ and then take it one step further by connecting to live data, adjusting the answer depending on the current situation such as environmental conditions.

But what does this mean for the maritime industry that I work in? We are seeing progression and innovation happen at an unprecedented pace, leaving many businesses, governments and industries behind. With local remotely operated vehicles already in use across industry, it will not be long before fully autonomous ocean-going vessels are in operation. The 4IR is poised to transform the maritime sector into one we would not recognise today. 

Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs) are innovative solutions offering attractive economic advantages, improved safety conditions and environmental benefits. Combined with algorithms allowing autonomous optimised route designs, operating conditions and logistic chains, autonomy has the power to revolutionise the maritime sector. 

Autonomous boats are already surveying the sea bed and coastal waters and being implemented successfully across a range of industries. Soon we will see autonomous systems dealing with oil leaks, or unmanned boats carrying out rescue missions. They are able to work around the clock and remove the need to have people working in dangerous environments. Working in the autonomy industry I have realised the constraints of the past are no longer relevant. We all have a part to play either as civilians, companies, consumers etc. We have the power to guide the 4IR through the decisions we make every day. Embrace the innovation and disruption brought by it. The future 10 years from now will be unrecognisable to the one we live in today, isn’t that amazing?

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