The Future of Fans

The hand fan has been described as the mobile phone of the 17th century. Think about all the ways mobile phones are used today other than for making phone calls: storing information; connecting to the internet; playing games and music; and even as a reflection of the owner’s wealth and status. The hand fan has survived for thousands of years by similarly adapting to fit a variety of needs.  The hand fan went from a simple tool for creating a breeze to works of art owned by royalty, souvenirs of historic events, cheap paper versions used as advertisements, and street fans showing a unique liaison between street art and fan making.  And then there are the myriad uses of the mechanical fan. Human ingenuity and adaptability are seen in our tools, so the parallel between fans and mobile phones is hardly unique.  

As we enter the fourth industrial revolution (the 18thcentury saw the first, the second took place from the late 19th century until the start of WW1, and the third was the recent digital revolution), our lives will be fundamentally altered in the way we live work and relate to one another.  

According to the World Economic Forum, this revolution, in its scale, scope and complexity, will cause a transformation, unlike anything humankind has experienced before. Whilst building on the third revolution, unlike those before, which were linear in progression, the fourth is evolving at an exponential rate.

 It is disrupting almost every industry in in almost every country and is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.  

The technological breakthroughs involved include robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) – and, therefore, machine learning – nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the internet of things, additive manufacturing (3D printing), autonomous vehicles, and virtual reality, all of which are aided by what is now termed ‘Big Data’. (350 Years & Beyond, Dr Michael Smith & Professor John Salter).

The application of mechanical fans across these technologies is ubiquitous in terms of application, variety and extent.