18 February

Timeline of Revolutions

Four Industrial Revolutions – How We Went from the Lightning Rod to the IIoT
Go back only 20 years and you’ll find an unrecognizable world with no smart phones, video streaming, or social media; let alone IIoT, Big Data, and cryptocurrencies… It is dizzying, talking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the massively impactful digital transformations all industries are experiencing today. How did we even get here?
It all started with the First Industrial Revolution, when production was first mechanized through the use of water and steam. Then the Second Industrial Revolution used electric energy to create mass production. The third, known as the ‘Digital Revolution’, used electronics and information technology to automate production. And today, a Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking ‘digital’ to a whole new level, where not only production processes are being transformed, but also business models, workforce demands, communication, safety standards, and governance systems… to an extent and depth we’re only starting to realize.
In 1991, Mark Weiser’s Scientific American paper The Computer for the 21st Century stated that “the most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” In an age when we almost take IoT for granted and are adjusting to the idea of cobots… who knows what technologies will be indistinguishable from our everyday lives 20 years from now?
1st Industrial Revolution:
The First Industrial Revolution started in Britain in the mid to late 1700s with the mechanization of the textile industry. Soon after that, during the decades following the American Civil War, the United States was inspired and fuelled by the old world’s technological advancements. The emergence of water, steam and coal as sources of power expanded American industries and enabled the emergence of new ones – such as petroleum refining, steel manufacturing, and electrical power. Railroads also expanded significantly, bringing large numbers of migrants from the country’s rural areas into its industrial hubs to fuel the revolution further.
Americans born in the mid to late 1800s experienced enormous changes in their lifetimes. The main source of light went from being candles to kerosene lamps, to electric light bulbs. Transportation methods went from horse-powered to steam-powered locomotives, to electric trolleys, to gasoline-powered automobiles. This revolution was marked by mechanization, the invention of the telegraph, the cotton gin and manipulating water, steam and coal as sources of power, and the invention of the lightning rod, which set the foundation for experimenting with electricity.
Timeline highlights:
1752:Benjamin Franklin invents the lightning rod, setting the foundation for studying electricity.
1794:Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin to speed the separation of cotton seeds from fibre. Consequently, the Southern USA increased its cotton supply sent to the North to be used in cloth manufacturing. Francis C Lowell further increased efficiency by uniting the spinning and weaving processes into the same factory, and thus the first industrial scale manufacturing operation begins in the US through the textile industry.
2nd Industrial Revolution:
The Second Industrial Revolution was characterized by electrification and mass-production assembly lines. Everything grew in scale as new technological advancements and the development of the combustion engine system initiated the use of new sources of energy: electricity, gas and oil. This revolution was centred around an economic and industrial model based on new large factories. Industries were fuelled by organizational models of production envisioned by American mechanical engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor and by American business magnate Henry Ford.
The steel industry began to develop and grow, methods of communication were revolutionized with the invention of the telegraph and the telephone, and transportation methods changed drastically as they continued to build upon previous discoveries, leading to the invention of the automobile in the late 1800s and the invention of the aeroplane in the early 1900s. Milestones include the discovery of electricity and oil, the invention of the telephone, the expansion of cross national railroads in the US, and the industrial reliance on mass-production assembly-lines and heavy machinery powered by electricity.
Timeline highlights:
1859: Oil is discovered in Titusville, which would soon become the centre of the nation’s oil drilling and refining industry.
1879: Thomas Edison patents the world’s first practical incandescent light bulb and quickly begins promoting the development of an electrical grid in New York City to power his invention. Soon after, George Westinghouse promotes the alternating-current (AC) transmission transformer technology and establishes a rival electrical network to Edison’s.
Early 1890s: AC becomes the dominant means of power transmissions and industry standardization allows electrical networks to spread rapidly. These electrical lines powered the light and heavy machinery of the nation’s factories, further fuelling the American economic expansion into the 20th century.
1943: The first data-processing machine appears, developed by the British to decipher Nazi codes during World War II.
1950: Alan Turing publishes a landmark paper speculating about the possibility of creating a machine that thinks. Many consider this to be the birth of AI.
1956: The field of AI, as an academic discipline based on the possibility of creating an artificial reasoning brain, is founded.
1965: The American Government builds the first Data Centre to store millions of tax returns and sets of fingerprints by transferring all those records onto magnetic computer tapes that had to be stored in a single location. The project is later dropped but the attempt marks the beginning of the electronic data storage era.
1968: Dick Morley drafts a memo that led directly to the invention of the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC).
3rd Industrial Revolution:
The Third Industrial Revolution, or Digital Revolution, began in the late 1900s and is characterized by the spread of automation and digitization through the use of electronics and computers, the invention of the Internet, and the discovery of nuclear energy. This era witnessed the rise of electronics like never before, from computers to new technologies that enable the automation of industrial processes. Advancements in telecommunications led the way for widespread globalization, which in turn enabled industries to offshore production to low-cost economies and radicalize business models worldwide.
Timeline highlights:
1969: The US Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (APARNET) develops many of the protocols used for internet communications today.
1972: The Japanese Waseda University completes the WABOT-1 project, creating the world’s first full-scale intelligent humanoid robot.
1973: Ethernet is invented, the first system for the transmission of information between computer systems.
1974: The first Internet Service Provider (ISP) is born with the introduction of a commercial version of APARNET, known as Telenet.
1983: Ethernet is standardized. The Domain Name System (DNS) establishes.edu, .gov, .com, .org, and .net system for naming websites.
1984: William Gibson, author of cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, coins the term ‘cyberspace’
1986: Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are linked to Personal Computers (PCs)
1989: Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) develops the HTML language and introduces the World Wide Web to the public.
1990: The first ever IoT device is born: John Romkey creates a toaster that could be turned on and off over the Internet.
1991: The first ‘web page’ is created by Tim Berners-Lee
1992: The first audio and video are distributed over the Internet. Connectivity for PLCs is introduced.
1993: The White House and the UN go online.
1995: Amazon, Craigslist and eBay go live. The Internet’s transformation to a commercial enterprise is largely completed.
1997: Wireless M2M technology becomes prevalent in industrial settings.
1998: The Google search engine is born, changing the way users engage with the Internet. The Ethernet becomes popular in industrial environments.
1999: The Internet of Things term is coined by Kevin Ashton
2000: Yahoo! And eBay are hit by a large-scale DDoS attack, highlighting the vulnerability of the Internet
2002: Cloud technology takes hold with the launch of Amazon Web Services (AWS)
2004: The era of social media begins: Facebook goes live
2005: Roger Mougalas from O’Reilly Media coins the term Big Data.
2006: AOL changes its business model, offering most services for free and relying on advertising to generate revenue.
2008: A group of companies launched the IPSO Alliance to promote the use of Internet Protocol (IP) in networks of ‘smart objects’ and to enable the Internet of Things. Blockchain and the first cryptocurrency ever invented are introduced to the world through Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper Bitcoin: A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System.
2008-2009: According to Cisco, the IoT was ‘born’ between 2008 and 2009 at the point when more ‘things or objects’ were connected to the Internet than people.
4th industrial Revolution:
The current era is marked by digitalization, digital transformations, personal connected devices, data analytics, AI technologies, automation, and Industrial IoT. IT standards are introduced to industrial automation, devices get smaller and smarter, IT and OT operations collaborate to drive business-level decisions and further transform business models.
This is the age when lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres are challenged and industries all over the world are uprooted. Factories use technology such as Cloud, Big Data Analytics and IoT to enable advanced and efficient communication between different players and connected objects in a production line.
This might become the industrial revolution that deviates from non-renewable energy sources and is embedded instead in smart cities powered by wind, sun and geothermal energy. So far, the milestones of the Fourth Industrial Revolution include: large scale digitalization, the emergence of IoT networks and IIoT, machine learning, AI, predictive analyses & maintenance in industrial settings, Big Data and Cloud Computing technologies, and advanced robotics.
Timeline highlights:
2010: Sensors drop in price. Smartphones and PCs are popularized and the number of connected devices per person is more than 1 for the first time in history. Facebook reaches 400 million active users. Pinterest and Instagram are launched.
2011: Bring Your own Device (BYOD) becomes mainstream.
2013: 51% of US adults report they bank online, according to a survey conducted by Pew research Centre
2016: Google Assistant greets the world and chatbots join the Internet race. IIoT vision emerges.
2018: Over 55% of the world population uses the Internet, according to Internet World Stats
Written by Paula Magal for IIoT USA, the annual Industrial IoT Summit highlighting the digital transformations taking place across the industry & returning to Chicago on the 18th-19th of June 2019. Subscribe to the IIoT Free Newsletter and follow the IIoT Summit LinkedIn Showcase Page for more content like this.

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