Get ready for future imperfect

Prof Ian Atkinson
Prof Ian Atkinson

These may be times of rapid changes but the pace is only going to pick up, a MineX industry breakfast in Mount Isa on Tuesday heard.

Professor Ian Atkinson, director of James Cook University’s eResearch Centre told local industry representatives how the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, deep supply chain integration, blockchain assurance and smart contracts were revolutionising the way we live.

Prof Atkinson said they were all part of what he called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR) where disruption was all around.

Earlier industrial revolution phases went from steam engines, to automated engines like cars and aeroplanes, to computers and cellphones but 4IR was all about cyber physical systems with the IoT interconnecting everything.

Prof Atkinson described a day in the future powered by sensors, networks, data, cloud services and artificial intelligence where lifestyle improvements would be gained through collaboration between people and things.

Prof Atkinson said this would be supported by “big data”, data sets so large or complex to render traditional data processing inadequate with new players in traditional industries.

“People like Coles and Woollies are petrified of Amazon coming in and eating their lunch,” he said.

The banks too, he said, were worried by “blockchain”, a distributed database (behind ideas such as Bitcoin) that maintain a continuous growing list of records called blocks, secured from tampering and revision by timestamps and a link to the previous block. “Blockchains are an open distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties in a verified and permanent way,” he said.