The Fourth Industrial Revolution

May 16, 2021 | Written by Tony McGurk

The only constant in life is change

Tony McGurk at the UK’s first PassivHaus Plus workspace – home of CryptoCycle

In my 40 years in IT, I have seen many technologies come and go but the one thing that remained constant is change. I read that it was the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who coined the phrase “the only constant in life is change” in around 500 B.C. No matter how cliché this saying may seem, I’ve realised throughout my career, this is reality!

Being in technology, I have witnessed change move at a record pace. Looking back at when I was a young boy, I was obviously destined to go into IT at an early age. Unbeknownst to me, my walk to my local swimming pool took me past a set of single story buildings that turned out to be the first home of GCHQ and apparently housed two Colossus computers

When I finally began working I was taught to program by a lovely lady called Anne who had previously been at Lyons in Greenford, the home of the LEO (Lyons electronic office I) the world’s first commercial computer! IT was therefore written in my destiny.

Throughout my career I have worked on Mainframes, Minicomputers, Distributed Systems, been around for the birth of the Email, the Internet, the Cloud and in the last decade, the rise of everything from Mobile to Blockchain to AI. I have seen entire industries emerge and watched traditional businesses re-imagine themselves and the ones that didn’t,  withered and died.

I am constantly being told “the old ways are better” but life experience tells me that this is not so. I often use the example of banking, an industry that is not known as ‘bleeding edge’. Back in the 1970’s banks closed at 3pm on a Friday afternoon until 9am on Monday, so if you had not taken any money out you were in for a quiet weekend. If I had been told in 1970 that in 2021 I would have an electronic device that would tell me how much money is in my account, let me use my watch to pay for items as cash, and that I could make telephone and video calls with these devices I would have probably thought you were watching far too much Tomorrow’s World! For those born after 2003 Tomorrow’s World was the gadget show of its time, and there is a brilliant clip from 1979 that talks about ‘mobile phones’ which I urge you to watch!

Today, we are seeing more people than ever relying on connected tech to help them manage almost every aspect of daily life, with the last 12 months seeing remarkable growth when it comes to digital usage – research has highlighted that habits are unlikely to change in a post COVID world and that the last 12 months have brought about a decade’s worth of behavioural change, particularly in the world of digital.

As connectivity and computer processing power continue to advance, new opportunities are opening up in every corner of the economy. From automated supply chains to new digital payment methods to big data analysis, new technology is fundamentally changing the way we interact with the world and how we do business at every level.

One of the largest shifts occurring in manufacturing is the digitalisation of supply chains. Before, producers would manually keep track of materials and components moving in and out of their factory. Today, new software allows an automated system to keep track of and automatically manage orders, while simultaneously ensuring quality and efficiency by staying hooked into every stage of production.

This kind of syntonised system, that once would have only been seen in the most cutting-edge facilities, is fast becoming standard, and is likely to become a required part of some larger retailers’ quality assurance or sustainability standards driven by ecologically aware consumers who demand to know the provenance or product impact in order to make better purchasing decisions.

As these new supply chain models become commonplace, businesses will need to be able to replicate and meet these standards if they wish to remain competitive. Advanced digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain are transforming industries by offering a synchronised and secure record of transactions and are starting to play an important role in helping to bring transparency and accountability to supply chains, bringing about a true circular economy. 

In retail and hospitality, we have seen the recent launch of  ‘connected stores’ where inventory is automatically tracked via mobile apps or hooked up tills, security alerts are logged through RFID tags (Radio Frequency Identification) and unexpected sales peaks or lulls are flagged. Going even further, all of this data can then feed into predicative algorithms that, as they learn over time, can inform business decisions on future promotions, orders or even the best opening times.

We are now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) and through digital transformations we have the potential to create new and exciting opportunities for businesses.

The advancement in technology includes a huge jump in cloud computing, the realisation of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the introduction of digital currencies and smart devices. The UK is in a prime position to capitalise and be a global leader in this charge.


For the last 3 years I have been wrapped up in the world of waste. A chance conversation gave the Eureka moment in which CryptoCycle was ‘born’.  Working in the waste industry has been an eye opener as it is an industry not easily open to embracing change unless forced upon it. 

In the world of waste our Digital Deposit Return Scheme (or Digital DRS), Reward4Waste, harnesses the power of Industry 4.0 to facilitate the return and reuse of containers using unique coding and smart technology.

We use green Blockchain and A.I. to prevent fraud, manage provenance, bring insights and model data.

The traditional way of running a Deposit Return System is to force consumers to take back their waste to central locations and process them through Reverse Vending Machines and whilst this has been around in Scandinavian countries for the last 30 years, it is now “so last century” and does not appear to us to be an eco friendly choice – with waste being driven cross country to counting centres as a way of reducing fraud. New intermediaries have emerged; home service and home delivery come to mind as good examples.

By harnessing technology, we have the ability to change the way people think about waste and incentivise consumers to do the right thing at home.

We live in a world so full of emerging technology that not a week goes past when I am not reading a paper with some new technology and thinking how I could apply this to our various projects.

Over the next few weeks, I will give you some insight behind Reward4Waste, our technology and vision for the future. 

Thank you for reading,


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