Carlos Andrés Toro is a Colombian mechanical engineer who left his homeland more than 15 years ago. While abroad, Toro studied in the fields of machine design, system monitoring and artificial intelligence (AI). Through his groundbreaking inventions in the field of automation, Toro has evolved to become the chief architect of what has been called the fourth industrial revolution in Singapore.
The new industrial revolution, as it is being called, is based on a project in Singapore called Smart Nation. The project brings together citizens, corporations and government agencies to develop automation technology to improve the quality of life, economic opportunities and fields of knowledge.
Toro has not forgotten his homeland, and recently visited Medellín to celebrate the 35th anniversary of EAFIT University’s Mechanical Engineering program. During his visit, Toro spoke with Ruta-N about his latest projects in Singapore.
According to Toro, Singapore, which is currently third in worldwide GDP per capita and first in R&D, is pushing the envelope to become the world’s leader in innovation and technology.
“Singapore has identified smart manufacturing as a priority, and we have developed a concept called model factory. It basically consists of a production facility which implements state-of-the-art industry technologies, version 4.0. However, they don’t want to simply replicate the German, French or American model, but to create their own”, he said.
The first industrial revolution began with the introduction of the steam engine. Henry Ford then introduced the second industrial revolution with the introduction of a production line, followed by the era of automation as the engine of the third industrial revolution in the late 20th century.
Toro believes that the fourth industrial revolution will be based on the integration of both information technologies and operational technologies to create automated factories that reduce or eliminate manual labor.
“This is a revolution of virtual and physical systems, which are a way to provide a system with processing, storage, and capture capabilities. In other words, smart systems that seamlessly integrate virtual representations and physical models in one with instantaneous mutual feedback”, Toro said. Toro’s vision is that management, storage, data analysis, machine-to-machine communication, machine learning and data mining abilities will be integrated together to provide a new level of automation that, in theory, will replace manual labor over the next decade.
Toro said that, while these technologies are not all commercially available, Singaporean corporations are making them available in a way such that they can implement them in silos at their own production plants. In this way, corporations can create alliances and share technology regardless of sector.
There are ethical considerations behind the new technologies that engineers like Toro are creating. As technology as advanced, blue collar workers without a university education are being left further behind. However Toro believes that it is nationalism and patriotism that will drive innovation in the 21st century.
“My boss, the director of this project, always tells me that we are not competing with other factories or enterprises, but against other countries such as Germany, who have been the industry standard for several decades now. It’s very clear to them, as a government, and that’s why they are providing us with the possibility to dream and experiment with technologies still three or four years far from reaching the market”, he added.