This report examines the potential benefits that could be realised from the rollout of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in the household – both at home and travelling to and from it.
4IR refers to the latest technologies which are building on the digital revolution that commenced in the second half of the 20th Century. This includes internet-connected household appliances (“the internet of things”), driverless cars, big data, robotics and artificial intelligence. 4IR is set to dramatically change the way we live, work and travel in the UK – provided the right policy framework is in place.
This report identifies five key benefits from the rollout of 4IR in the home:
1. A care revolution, with connected appliances and robots dramatically improving the quality of care in the home.
- Connected household appliances will make it much easier for individuals to monitor those in need of care – helping to identify and reduce accidents, and reduce anxiety associated with not knowing if an individual is safe. We believe subtle and low-cost forms of monitoring will be widely adopted – for example, sensors which can inform an individual if an elderly relative has not turned on a kettle in the morning; a sign of inactivity could indicate that an elderly relative requires help. Other sensors could detect if lights have been switched on, whether an individual has left the house, and whether a relative has left an oven or electric fire switched on.
- Care robots (“carebots”) are already being developed which can provide those in need of care with mental stimulation, and assistance with tasks such as getting out of bed. This will enable individuals to live independently, and safely, for longer.
2. Safer, less congested and cleaner roads (travelling to and from the home). We expect 4IR to drive many changes in how individuals travel to and from the home. This includes:
- The mass adoption of eCall technology, whereby cars automatically alert emergency services in the event of an accident, providing information such as a vehicle’s location.
- Increased usage of telematic technologies in cars to reduce insurance costs among safe drivers.
- The introduction of smart road pricing (driven by data analytics) as a replacement for fuel duty in an age of electric vehicles. Dynamic road pricing, which varies across the day, will help reduce congestion and even out traffic flow.
- Driverless cars, including fleets of driverless taxis which can be easily summoned – increasing the extent to which cars are a service rather than something owned by individuals.
- Much safer roads as a result of these advances. At present road deaths are a major killer – Department for Transport statistics show that there were 1,792 road deaths in Britain in 2016. 24,101 individuals were seriously injured on Great Britain’s roads in that year.
3. Financial savings. Connected appliances and data analytics will make it easier for individuals to identify waste and take advantage of potential cost savings. For example, smart devices can be programmed to operate only when energy prices are charged at off-peak rates. Data analytics will provide consumers with a growing number of tools, such as smartphone apps, which can provide product recommendations tailored to an individual’s needs. For example, an app drawing on smart energy meter data can help guide an individual to the most appropriate energy tariff for their needs.
4. Gains to leisure time. As processes such as the weekly grocery shop are automated, and data analytics help individuals with their decision-making and financial planning, we expect gains to leisure time to be realised.
5. A revitalised sharing economy, with connected appliances being increasingly available on a “to borrow” rather than a “to own” basis. As depreciation and usage of connected devices will be easier to monitor, we expect a wider range of companies to provide sharing economy services in the future.
At the same time, we identify a range of challenges to realising these benefits. The report provides 10 policy recommendations for ensuring the benefits of 4IR in the home are maximised, while addressing potential challenges.