Related to Industry 4.0, there are nine technological trends that have great potential to contribute to the development of a circular economy. These are big data and analytics, robotics, modelling and simulation technologies, horizontal and vertical system integration, the industrial Internet of things (IoT), cybersecurity, the cloud, additive manufacturing, and augmented reality.
1.- Big data and analytics will enable faster and smarter collection and analysis of large amounts of data. This will enable the production of higher-quality products at reduced costs and low wastes. It will pave the way for improved product life cycles and energy savings. Data analytics has the potential to turbocharge circular economy models through greater efficiency of use, maintenance and longevity of assets.
2.- Robotics is gaining traction in manufacturing, waste management and beyond. Waste-sorting robots have integrated intelligent systems that can function around the clock and are proficient at multitasking, making them well-suited for deployment in waste processing and recycling industries.
3.- In the future, modeling and simulation technologies are expected to be used more extensively in manufacturing to test and optimise parts and products before they are produced, thereby increasing precision and product quality as well as reducing waste.
4.- Horizontal and vertical system integration will make production capabilities become more cohesive through networking and integration among different production value chains. Such integration, which involves reverse logistics, product recovery and remanufacturing, can hasten the transition to a circular economy.
5.- The implementation of Internet of things (IoT), with re-use and re-purpose in the design and manufacturing of products, can create products that can signal defects, determine when repairs are needed, and schedule product maintenance. All these will surely reduce waste.
6.- One of the threats to the nexus between cybersecurity and the circular economy is intellectual property protection. Such protection does not foster the re-manufacturing and re-purposing of products after their lifecycle. For example, car or smart-phone manufacturers do not embrace the open market in which the ecosystems of independent collectors, refurbishers, and recyclers, who are critical to the success of the circular economy, to reverse engineer, hack or digitally unlock their products for re-using and re-purposing.
7.- Cloud computing can cause many physical assets and devices to become much less important in their own right because content is stored and accessed through the cloud. It saves costs, resources, and ultimately reduce their carbon footprints thereby promoting a circular economy.
8.- High performance, decentralised additive manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing, used mostly to prototype and produce individual components, also help promote a circular economy because they reduce the amount of resources required.
9.- Augmented reality, on the other hand, helps us realise the environmental impact of products before we turn them into waste as product developers will be able to visualise them at the prototype design stage.