The IoT Skill Gap and You
The IoT Skill Gap and You
With IoT skills in short supply, it's a great avenue to bolster your career. Here are some challenges facing IoT development and the opportunities they open up.
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As the Internet of Things commits to enter (or erode depending who you are talking to) every area of your life, it follows that a sufficiently skilled workplace is required to make this happen. Over the last few months, research has been released raising concerns of a shortage of staff equipped with the specific skills pivotal to the creation of future tech. This means problems for verticals such as IoT, AI, and Big Data.
Earlier this year saw the release of The Impact of Connectedness on Competitiveness, report based on a global survey of 350 executives from large global enterprises such as Airbus, Balfour Beatty, Philips Lighting, GE, Whirlpool, and Hitachi. 31 percent said their organizations face a ‘major skills gap’ in their IoT readiness, with the same percentage believing the talent gap was ‘large, but improving somewhat’. Only seven percent said they had most of the skills in place already.
A report in August last year produced by Capita and Cisco found that businesses and IT managers feared that their staff lacked the skills and understanding to be able to use new technologies like IoT. In 2014, VisionMobile estimated a 4.2 million increase in the number of IoT developers over the next six years — from 300,000 to 4,500,000, yet other research reveals that as of 2015, over 70% of developers involved in home automation were hobbyists. There is a clear nexus between the growth in IoT products and practices and the number of capable employees.
What Kind of Skill Sets Are Needed?
The challenge with IoT is, of course, its ubiquity. The needs of a business in manufacturing differ to those in health tech, transport, or agriculture, so each vertical has a cornucopia of knowledge areas including network protocols, microcontrollers, sensors, cloud computing, database management, data analysis, wireless sensor networks, and of course, everyone's favorite whipping boy when it comes to IoT, security.
According to CIO, the skills with the biggest increase in demand concerning IoT are machine learning (220%), AutoCAD (108%), Node.js (99%) security infrastructure (83%), security engineering (83%), and Big Data (71%).
By comparison, IBM suggests that developers that want to make the most of the opportunities of IoT should foster skills across a range of key topic areas including hardware, networking, app design and development; security, business intelligence and data analytics and machine learning and AI.
At any rate, there are a plethora of opportunities for those wanted to wanted to skill up in IoT and associated knowledge:
Degrees in IoT Are Coming
From spring 2018, Florida International University will be the first university in the US to offer a Bachelor's degree in IoT. The syllabus focuses on four major areas of IoT hardware, software, communication, and cyber security. According to Provost Kenneth G. Furton. “The Internet of Things degree will allow our students to get and create great jobs, many of which don’t exist today.” Program Director of the IoT degree Keml Akkaya notes the benefits of full stack experience:
“When they hire a computer engineer, that person can focus on the hardware aspect, but companies want to hire employees who can do it all. With this degree, these skill sets will be combined in one person so companies don’t have to do multiple hires.”
In the UK, Staffordshire University offers a degree in Telecommunications Engineering that teaches engineering application, instrumentation and measurement, digital design and embedded software, wireless communications engineering apps, voice and data over broadband networks, and others.
Comparatively, Ireland's Waterford Institute of Technology has a BSc(Hons) in IoT with curriculum descriptions that make it sound like an extended hackerspace where students "program diverse devices, including embedded sensors, mobile phones, single board computers and cloud systems. e.g. Raspberry Pi" and use " collaborative tools, such as GitHub."
Elsewhere, there's a range of certifications, higher degrees, and diplomas focusing on IoT. For example, Republic Polytechnic, a university in Singapore, offers a 300-hour Specialist Diploma in IoT. Its syllabus includes hands on experience with 3D printing, programming, statistics and analytics, and students are expected to design, build and test a complete IoT solution that comprises sensors, wireless network connections, data analytics and display/actuators, and write the necessary control software.
In London, Ravensbourne college offers a Masters in Wearables, that includes interaction and UX design and open source culture, design innovation and applied philosophy. What is clear is that the particulars of what an IoT degree or higher degree course could specialize in could potentially leave students with a huge range of different skills sets. It's also questionable whether university courses can stay current with existing (let alone and future) trends in IoT besides the foundational levels, given the amount of work that involved in writing and approving course curriculum. Further, it's fair to say a job in tech these days require ongoing learning as tech is forever progressing and changing.
What About Online Learning?
There is an ample market in MOOCs (massive open online courses) open to anyone wanting to learn about IoT, from experienced programmers to hobby enthusiasts. Some of these include:
An Introduction to Programming the Internet of Things (IOT) Specialization (Coursera and UCI)
Introduction to the Internet of Things and Embedded Systems (Coursera and University of California)
Self-Driving Car Engineer (Udacity and a number of car companies including BMW)
Machine learning (Coursera and Stanford)
Unlocking the value of data (IBM and Coursera)
CS188.1x: Artificial Intelligence (edX and University of California)
The caveat, of course, is that most free or low-cost online courses have extremely low retention rates. Regardless of the participant ratings, quality of the course material, academic qualifications of the teachers, and the teaching style utilized, unless you show up and put in, you get nothing back. All adult learning requires a high degree of self-motivation. Paid courses that are embedded in the industry and teach 'real world' skills can seem the most compelling, but it's worth bearing in mind that their academic achievement rates are often higher than others only because they have a stringent entry requirement requiring a level of academic skill or prior knowledge upon entry.
Ultimately, the better you educate yourself, the better your future choices. Whether you choose to watch online videos, buy a Raspberry Pi kit, volunteer with an open source community, or attend a training boot camp, knowledge is never wasted. You might just fall into the vortex of embracing a passion that will become your next career.
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