Workshops, presentations and lots of hand-on fun filled the three-day lineup of the first Industry 4.0 themed week staged jointly by the Industrial Association of Upper Austria (IV OÖ) and Ars Electronica. The fascinating lineup included presentations in Deep Space 8K on cinematic rendering, a quadcopter flight school, 3-D printing experiments, and how to program robots—playful educational activities demonstrating that Industry 4.0 is the context of Life 4.0.
But what does this term Industry 4.0 actually refer to? Why is it impacting not only the whole economy but also each and every member of society? Why do so many people fear digitization, and how can that be changed? Learn more in this interview with IV OÖ CEO Joachim Haindl-Grutsch.
Dr Joachim Haindl-Grutsch at the Ars Electronica Center. Credit: Vanessa Graf
Why did you launch this series of themed weeks having to do with Industry 4.0?
Joachim Haindl-Grutsch: The mission of these three-day events is to familiarize the general public—young people as well as adults—with digitization and its impact on the economy, on industry, on technology and on people’s lives. This isn’t only a subject for elites; this concerns people in all walks of life, which is why we want to provide insights into how exciting the future of industry will be.
What’s meant by the term Industry 4.0?
Joachim Haindl-Grutsch: This refers to the 4th Industrial Revolution. The industrial revolutions began with mechanization; this was followed by electrification, and then came the Computer Age. Now, we’re in the phase of digitization in which everything is linked up in networks. Every product puts out data and, conversely, information is input into it.
In this workshop, kids can try everything from 0-D to 3-D. Credit: Magdalena Sick-Leitner
Not everyone feels affected by this digitization process yet. Why do you think that’s so?
Joachim Haindl-Grutsch: This is actually a bit absurd in light of the fact that everybody nowadays has a smartphone that puts you right in the middle of digitization. Up to now, the emphasis has been on networking among people—for example, via smartphones and social media. Now we’ve reached the next stage in which machines and products are being interlinked. People will really sit up and take note of this when, for instance, cars start to “converse” with each other and thereby become self-driving vehicles. Then it’ll be crystal clear what Industry 4.0 is or can be.
And the upshot of this is referred to as Life 4.0…
Joachim Haindl-Grutsch: Naturally, and this topic is already the subject of discussions. Nothing can stop the advent of innovation and new technologies, and they shouldn’t be prevented, quite the contrary. If that’s the way we want to go, then we could have also said in the past: let’s stick with the horse & buggy and not make the transition to cars and planes. What would that have led to? To an incessant decline in prosperity! You have to climb aboard this train of new technologies, and then we’ll be able to create more prosperity here, more jobs, a better life, better opportunities.
The new VRLab at Ars Electronica Center was also part of the theme week. Credit: Florian Voggeneder
What concrete steps can be taken to get more people to board this “train”?
Joachim Haindl-Grutsch: I believe you have to start in the educational system, and I mean right from the start in kindergarten. And this has to continue right up through all school classes and levels. High-tech, the natural sciences, information & communications technology, robotics—there will be strong demand in all of these fields. In the future, programming will be one of the basic skills just like reading, writing and arithmetic. This is going to be a wonderful development, because kids master these techniques, and don’t just use applications of them like a smartphone.
First steps towards becoming a drone pilot.. Credit: Martin Hieslmair
There are also many folks who fear digitization. What do you think this stems from?
Joachim Haindl-Grutsch: Generally speaking, a human being is always afraid of change because you don’t know for sure what you’ll be faced with. What we’re accustomed to is familiar; change, on the other hand, is always a bit of a shot in the dark. What will this lead to; where will it end; what are the implications for me personally, for my job and my children? For these reasons, it’s perfectly understandable that people bring a modicum of caution to their encounter with digitization and even have certain reservations about it. But we have to succeed—just as we did in the past three industrial revolutions—to take advantage of the opportunities yielded by these shifts. We harnessed the advances brought by the three previous industrial revolutions and we’re convinced that we can also take advantage of this 4th Industrial Revolution to create more prosperity here in our region. To accomplish this, people have to get involved and be prepared. We have to adapt the educational system, the infrastructure and the labor market accordingly. But then, digitization becomes a turbocharger for our way of life and our prosperity.
Joachim Haindl-Grutsch is CEO of the Industrial Association of Upper Austria. He is also responsible for industrial policy, public relations and member services in the regional Economic Chamber.