Industry 4.0 is well and truly underway. For big business, digital transformation not only allows companies to drive internal productivities, but it also provides them with the ability to tap into new markets and verticals. However, the resultant impact the Fourth Industrial Revolution can have -- and is having currently -- on lives cannot be overstated.
Tech giants and startups alike around the globe are developing technologies that are enacting societal change. From making Internet more accessible to transforming education and medicine, here's how tech is impacting lives globally.
Bridging the digital divide
According to statistics from the World Economic Forum
, a staggering 4 billion people are unable to access the Internet. In continents such as Africa and South America, most countries just don't have the money and infrastructure to bring Internet connections to their citizens. That means they're arenít able to access resultant technological applications in areas such as finance, health and education.
But Google is an example of a technology giant thatís looking to change this. Through Project Loon, the firm is using high-altitude balloons that travel the stratosphere to bring wireless connectivity to rural and remote areas across the globe. The balloons fly at an altitude of around 18 km (11 miles) and can deliver 4G speeds.
Following Hurricane Maria last year, the organization stepped in to send its balloons to Puerto Rico to help the island's population regain access to communications technology. Itís thought that the project has supported an 100,000 people in the country, teaming up with AT&T and T-Mobile to make this possible.
Technology is also transforming the learning experience, making it more immersive and enjoyable for both the youth through to adults. But again, due to a lack of financial support and IT infrastructure, emerging countries are missing out on the opportunities offered here. BRCK Education
is one of the organizations working to eradicate this challenge.
Developed by a team of technologists, engineers and coders from East Africa, the organization creates affordable gadgets for schools in developing countries. Its vision is to "enable millions of children in schools across emerging markets to access digital educational tools for better learning." One of the companyís main products is the Kio Kit, which is a digital educational pack that consists of 40 tablet PCs, a WiFi hotspot and a water-resistant case.
American tech giant Microsoft is doing some exciting things in the education sector as well. Over the next fifteen years, the company has committed to investing more than $750 million into supporting educators and school leaders around the world. The tech giant offers a range of professional development tools and courses to transform education. Itís also been supporting schools through its Educator community, which consists of more than 500 schools and 150,000 educators globally, utilizing Windows Devices and Office 365 in the classroom.
And since 2016, Microsoft has been working with Rwanda to improve its education system. Itís been digitally transforming the countryís schools in a bid to increase tertiary enrolment rates by providing students with access to the latest digital learning tools and empowering teachers to get the most out of technology. By 2020, itís hoped that all countryís school will have their own smart classrooms.
Empowering people with disabilities
The latest gadgets are helping disabled people to live more fulfilled lives too. Israeli company OrCam
, for instance, has developed a wearable device that supports people who are blind, partially sighted and have reading problems. Called MyEye 2.0, itís powered by artificial vision technology and reads text out aloud for those with visual impairments. The wireless device, which attaches to the userís glasses, can also recognize faces, banknotes and products.
Trudie Strauss, who heads up the business in the UK, believes that technologies like MyEye are changing the game for healthcare professionals. "To a certain extent, we have all become so familiar with technology that, often, we take for granted the role that it plays in our everyday lives. However, the beauty of working in healthcare tech is that you get to experience, on a daily basis, the profound effect advanced technologies can bring," she says.
She tells us that assistive technology is changing the lives of so many people. This particular device is helping blind people to live independently.
"The impact of being able to successfully carry out daily tasks cannot be underestimated; reading your post, selecting your own meal from a menu or reading signs in a supermarket all help ensure blind and partially sighted people retain quality of life and achieve increased independence. Used in the right way, breakthrough assistive technology really is something to be celebrated."
Birmingham-based technology firm Holosphere
has been using virtual reality systems to revolutionize the health world, too. It teamed up with St Giles Hospice to create a VR- guided meditation experience for people suffering with chronic pain. Larry Brangwyn, a director at the firm, says The Forest of Serenity reduces their reliance on medication.
"The ten-minute experience, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, transports the viewer to a beautiful forest and lake populated by birds of paradise and exotic flora. The sense of immersion offered by VR makes the effects of meditation more effective and allows a sense of freedom for those with limited mobility. Being able to see, hear and move within the experience is also useful for people who find visualization difficult," he says.
Technology is helping health professionals identify and fight serious diseases as well. Start-up Cognetivity, which was founded by a team of Cambridge University PhD students, is a great example. Itís created artificial intelligence-driven software that can detect the early stages of dementia.
Patients are given a simple, 5-minute test to complete on an iPad, and the results are then analysed through an AI engine. The latter examines the data in terms of accuracy, speed and image properties, before working out if the patient displays symptoms of the health condition.
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