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Networking will drive the future.

  • 26. May 2016
  • Connectivity
  • Photo: Daimler
  • Text: Walther Wuttke

The American futurist Jeremy Rifkin on the third industrial revolution and trucks as pioneers of digital progress.

The digital revolution is happening without much fuss. Nevertheless it will completely redefine the way that economic processes are organised in future. The third industrial revolution is taking place in the midst of dramatic upheaval, triggered in particular by humanity’s reckless management of the environment and associated economic changes, according to the American author and futurist Jeremy Rifkin speaking at the Daimler Campus Connectivity event in Düsseldorf, Germany, in late March 2016. “Our ecosystem can no longer keep up with the climate change we’ve caused and, at the same time, we’re experiencing a global economic crisis,” says Jeremy Rifkin.

“Over the last two decades productivity has been declining all over the world. The result: unemployment’s high. That is also why we’re going to have to find ways to leave the era of fossil fuels behind us.”

The internet of things represents an opportunity

One way out of the crisis, explains Rifkin, starts with the internet of things. This term describes communication between all kinds of devices, which in turn collect large quantities of data. The data is available to everyone who participates in economic life and it enables processes to be optimised. “This includes internet-based communication, a fully automated GPS-guided transportation system and a kind of energy internet,” explains Rifkin, which distributes energy efficiently and reliably as a decentralised network.

In his view, this combination has to be successful in order to allow the stagnating global economy to be jump-started and the planet, which is suffering under climate change, to be saved. For Rifkin, these elements define the third industrial revolution.

Logistics will change significantly over the coming years.

The futurist considers Daimler to be well placed In this context, Rifkin considers Daimler, and Mercedes-Benz Trucks in particular, to be well placed – after all, the company invented the motor car 130 years ago and the truck ten years later. Since that time, trucks have played an essential role in global economic life and are already incorporated into the internet of things. Without question, logistics will change significantly over the coming years – moving from independent rolling load carriers to a networked transportation system that is integrated into processes much more effectively than was previously the case.

“Today,” explains the 71-year-old futurist, “Daimler is laying the foundation for the third industrial revolution. In the era of the internet of things all tools and machinery will be equipped with sensors which constantly provide a real-time information flow. This will fundamentally change the way we do business.” A communications internet and a new energy internet are now converging, according to Rifkin, with the third part of the new industrial revolution – an automated GPS-guided logistics internet that will optimise energy efficiency significantly.

' Today Daimler is laying the foundation for the third industrial revolution. '

Jeremy Rifkin, economic and social theorist, writer, and political advisor

“These three internets ride on top of a platform called the internet of things and create a new economic model.” In this system every device imaginable is interconnected. According to Rifkin, ultimately it will be producers that benefit from the data that is collected, along with suppliers of communications, power and logistics. Processes will become more transparent and response times will dramatically speed up. Many entities that were previously indispensable can now be circumvented, improving energy footprints and productivity. “This also reduces the carbon footprint of the businesses involved,” recognises Rifkin.

Trucks as intelligent data centres

“These new Mercedes-Benz trucks are actually data centres,” says Rifkin in his analysis. “We are now seeing the first mobile data centres in the world.” Everyone can use the information gathered by the trucks’ sensors – from haulage firms to other trucks that receive information about traffic flows in real time and can switch to a better route if necessary.

In future, this available data will not only benefit logistics providers but everyone else, including commuters, will also be able to use the information from these rolling “data centres” to avoid traffic jams, for example. Daimler is also tapping into a new area of activity thanks to the digitalised trucks. Rifkin’s vision is as follows: “Daimler will, of course, continue to develop and manufacture innovative vehicles but, as data is being collected, Daimler will also be the first to introduce a radical logistics business segment whereby this information is shared with interested parties. Daimler will thus boost business by helping to improve company productivity and reducing the ecological footprint.”

About Jeremy Rifkin

Jeremy Rifkin is an American sociologist, economist, futurist and author, as well as the founder and president of The Foundation on Economic Trends. He gives lectures at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and elsewhere, and advises various governments along with the European Commission. Rifkin gave his keynote speech at Daimler's Campus Connectivity event on 31 March 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

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