Energy and fourth industrial revolution happening at same time

Ulrich Spiesshofer, chief executive of ABB, said the fourth industrial revolution and the energy revolution are happening at the same time and how their changes are impacting one another as well as the workforce in profound ways.

By Gregory Hale, ISSSource March 22, 2017

ABB stepped deeper into the digital world this week during its ABB Ability program launch while also showing the industry it has broken down its internal technology silos and created a cohesive, connectivity plan to help end users move forward.

What wasn’t said, and ABB rarely talks about it, was one of the underlying strengths of their connected digital movement was its adherence to strict internal cybersecurity rules to ensure software and applications remain as secure as possible.

What was said, however, was the industry giant has a handle on where it feels the industry is headed.

"There is a lot going on in the world," said Ulrich Spiesshofer, chief executive of ABB during his keynote address at ABB Customer World 2017 in Houston. "The energy revolution and the fourth industrial revolution are going on at the same time."

In the energy revolution, he said there was, "More pressure not only on the grid, but there is tremendous proliferation on the demand side. The management of bits and bytes of the grid is more complicated. Electricity is flowing many different ways," he said, "but we have to make sure you get the electricity like you always have in a reliable way."

Spiesshofer mentioned one case where a ConEd substation in New York City decided to go digital and it created multiple benefits.

There was 30% less footprint, which means it saves on real estate. In addition, maintenance reduced and there was the ability to employ remote condition monitoring. "We made a difference with the people in New York City in the safety of energy," he said.

When it comes to the fourth industrial revolution, Spiesshofer said this one is different from the previous versions.

"The first three industrial revolutions were about replacing people with machines. The fourth industrial revolution uses artificial intelligence. We are having an unprecedented speed of change. Technology is the key enabler in the fourth industrial revolution," he said.

Part of that change in technology will improve engineering efficiency, operator performance and asset utilization. That change also entails jobs potentially changing on the fly.

"We have to take the people with us. In other times, the father would have a job and the son or daughter would have a different job (over their careers). Today, the jobs change within the generations."

Gregory Hale is the editor and founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (, a news and information Website covering safety and security issues in the manufacturing automation sector. This content originally appeared on Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, Control

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