Lighting Matters: Fourth Industrial Revolution offers Opportunities & Threats – Monthly Column featured in EE Publishers’ Vector Magazine

In my column last month, I tried my best to encourage readers to seize opportunities presented by the shortage of skills and not to be distracted by the negative news of the day.

I am the first to admit that there are days where the negative news invades my space, in fact bombards my space, and I must consciously focus on positive matters and business.

But, all that aside, there are some incredible opportunities in the lighting space. The new technologies are exciting and disruptive in the sense that they take a completely new approach providing one has the knowledge and experience.

Some professionals have asked me how many projects in South Africa are “taking the plunge” to use several of the new technologies. The answer is simple: We have projects that will make use of some of the new technologies. Of course, the implementation is still many months (and in one instance, a year) away.

But there won’t be any acceptance if our professionals do not study and understand the system architecture for the new technologies because, without that, they simply cannot even start to discuss them with their clients and developers. Many of the technologies will save the clients bundles of money because of the level of their efficiency and reliability. Some will assist the owners to “bullet proof” themselves against future energy disruption and are very well-suited for use with solar PV systems. Other PoE systems run on low voltage: either 24 or 48 V DC make them ideal for use with solar PV systems.

My second-year students not only study the theory behind these systems but also master the development of the system architecture for actual projects.

The threat, in the lighting space, comes with the denial of any need to study lighting in more detail and eventually graduating with an internationally recognised qualification. This is akin to the proverbial ostrich in the sand syndrome. Some 60% of our student population are happily professionals who have had the foresight and wisdom to do something positive.

4IR is not only a fusion of the different technologies within the IoT space. It also embraces some of the more advanced aspects such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality (VR), where it will be combined to give manufacturers and businesses the ability to control worker productivity to the point where jobs could be on the line if the productivity targets are not met.

Systems have been developed where, for example, workers on a production line are required to screw components together. Wearing VR glasses, the screwdriver will automatically adjust to give the correct amount of torque to insert the screw. In addition, the rate at which tasks are completed and quality are monitored to have the highest level of productivity to produce products at the lowest cost for the highest return. It has been estimated that employment numbers will be reduced with greater productivity.

The example I have described here, which is already in use overseas, is a huge threat in a country like South Africa.  However, if we prepare and prepare well, the threat can be minimised or neutralised.

I urge readers to prepare themselves by enrolling for suitable studies, by reading and attending presentations, talks and webinars.



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