Technological revolutions take place in waves, and the move toward a digital society neatly fits that pattern. The first wave saw the rise of tech giants such as Amazon and Google, while the still-ongoing second wave is marked by the digitising of traditional service industries, such as telecommunications and finance.
Wave number three, now breaking on the shores of Europe, heralds the advent of connected vehicles, heavy machinery, power grids, and healthcare, key elements of the world's real economy.
This is good news for Europe, whose strong foundation in manufacturing creates huge opportunities for European companies. Enabled by the data-driven technology of Industry 4.0, Europe's industrial sector has a chance to establish a leadership role in tomorrow's digital economy.
Fifth-generation mobile technology, or 5G, will be the cornerstone of that economy. But the power and potential of 5G will be realised only if a single standard emerges to unite all manufacturers in a seamless global web of connectivity.
A single standard is vital because 5G delivers ubiquitous connections, in an ecosystem that will soon contain 100 billion of them.
A single standard speeds things up, multiple standards cause delays. History has proved this: there were three standards for 3G, and it took a decade for the technology to finally commercial deployed.
There were two competing standards for 4G, and real deployment took five years. For Europe, a region well positioned to seize a leadership position in the 5G race, a single standard is a fundamental component of success.
The streamlined simplicity of a single 5G standard must evolve from collaboration with many different industries, which is why, to its credit, the EU is taking a highly collaborative approach to the development of global standards for telecommunications and industrial digitisation.
The EU-led 5G Private-Public Partnership (5GPPP) includes countries from around the world, including Huawei, which stands ready to work with European companies in the 5G Action Plan launched by the European Commission in mid-September.
Following the EU's lead, China has also begun to engage with countries beyond its own borders in the quest for 5G standards. In March, Ericsson and Nokia joined China's IMT-2020 (5G) Promotion Group, set up to promote 5G technology research in China and facilitate international communication and cooperation.
Ericsson and Nokia participated in just one of China's 4G projects; with 5G, they are participating in seven. China is inviting leading European companies to help digitise Chinese industry.
Led by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Huawei is working with European car makers - including Volkswagen, Audi, and BMW - to build 5G IoV demonstration sites in China. Siemens is part of an Intelligent Manufacturing project.
Over the next three years, the project will invest more than $449.7m in 1000 smart workshops for a wide range of industries, including steel, petrochemicals, textiles, light manufacturing, and electronics.
SAP and Bosch, play a role in smart manufacturing projects in China, as well as projects led by China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) and Qinchuan Machine Tool Group. For its part, Huawei has already demonstrated its commitment to Europe by establishing a strong presence there. Huawei's European operations employ more than 10,000 people, many of them local hires.
We have established research centres in eight European countries, partnered with more than 200 European scholars and experts, and with 150 European academic institutions; and sponsored more than 80 research projects. We believe that China and Europe, two increasingly open economic entities, are natural collaborators and trading partners.
The need for a single 5G standard that allows Industry 4.0 to reach its full potential provides a perfect opportunity for China and Europe to strengthen their already substantial cooperation, while working together toward a prosperous digital future that benefits them both.