Source: Adapted from Hargroves and Smith (2005).
- 1st wave (1785-1845). Leaned on innovations such as water power, textiles and iron. The beginning of the industrial revolution was mainly focusing on simple commodities such as clothes and tools. The conventional maritime technology relying on sailships was perfected, supporting the creation large colonial/commercial empires, mainly by Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Spain. Significant inland waterway systems were also constructed. The costs of production and transportation were significantly reduced.
- 2nd wave (1845-1900). Involved the massive application of coal as a source of energy, mainly through the steam engine. This induced the development of rail transport systems, opening new markets and giving access to a wider array of resources. The steamship had a similar impact for maritime transportation and permitted expanded commercial opportunities in global trade. Also, the mass production of cotton substantially improved the opportunities of the textile industry.
- 3rd wave (1900-1950). Electrification was a major economic change as it permitted the usage of a variety of machines and appliances and permitted the development of urban transit systems (subways and tramways). Another significant improvement was the internal combustion engine, around which the whole automotive industry was created and expanded the mobility of passengers and freight.
- 4th wave (1950-1990). The post World War II period represented significant industrial changes with new materials such as plastics (petrochemicals) and new sectors such electronics (television). The jet engine expanded the aviation industry towards the mass market and mobility could be realized globally and created an active aerospace industry.
- 5th wave (1990-2020?). The current wave mainly relies on information systems, which have tremendously modified the transactional environment with new methods of communication and more efficient forms of management of production and distribution systems (logistics). This spawned new industries related to personal computing devices, mainly computer manufacturing and software programming, but more recently e-commerce as information processing converged with telecommunications.