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  • Skill Sets

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    Tim Kannegieter

    Engineers wishing to enter the field of IOT have a number learning curves they need to go up in order to become fully competent. The diagram lists general areas where learning curves must be tackled, with just a few examples are relevant to those particular areas in the right hand column.

    IOT Skill sets.jpg

    Table by Geoff Sizer, CEO, Genesys Electronics Design

    At the systems level, IOT involves quite complex systems, so we need to conceptualize, visualize and specify what those systems must be. A business case must be developed that make sense and convinces those controlling the purse strings that there's a benefit or money to be made. If accepted, we then need to implement it. Because of the cross-disciplinary skills required, for most parties, this will mean finding experts who can assist them in the process.

    User interfaces present their challenges in that you have to decide what platform, what the user interface will look like. What are the design approaches to reducing the complexity experienced by the user? Then of course we have the design skills required to implement user interfaces on platforms such as iOS and Android and mobile devices, and web browsers. A thick client is a client application running on the end platform that providers a higher level of capability than a simple web browser.

    In terms of cloud services, we need to select a platform, establish and then operate the services on that platform. The virtual servers running in the cloud typically are hosting the database and big data analytics are applied over this, feeding back into the user interface.

    In terms of connectivity, we have wide area networks and low-powered wide area networks emerging, and then local area networks and personal area networks. Collectively, these provide connectivity between the cloud services and user interfaces, and the databases, down to the deployed things. This is hierarchy is typical.

    LTE stands for long-term evolution of cellular data and cellular telephony. 3G, 4G, 5G, and emerging Narrowband IoT. There are also standalone systems separate from the telecommunications network, providing wide area connectivity for extremely low-power devices at low cost. e.g. Sigfox, LORA, Ingenu and Taggle.

    Local area networks and personal area networks, there are ones that people will be familiar with. Typically Bluetooth and perhaps USB and WiFi and Ethernet. Cable-based connection systems still play their part, so Ethernet, RS-485 and CAN bus, and wireless mesh networks. Zigbee, people may be familiar with, but the 6LoWPAN, which is an open source equivalent of that, providing meshed wireless connectivity down at the premises or deploy site level.

    Things are the devices themselves. Challenges exist in this area because a thing consists not only of the electronics and firmware to undertake the core function of the device, but also the elements required to provide connectivity.

    A developer in this space may be familiar with what he needs to do to control the device or interface with the system down at the deployed equipment level, but achieving connectivity back up the chain to the rest of the Internet of Things may be an additional challenge outside of a core skillset that then requires additional expertise.

    For student engineers and recent graduates, the Internet of Things will provide a rewarding career paths and there are plenty of opportunities for more experienced professionals. The slide below outlines career paths from the perspective of ICT, electronics and software professionals, and considers emerging and evolving technologies where new skill sets will have to proliferate through the engineering community.

    IOT Career options.png

    Table by Geoff Sizer, CEO, Genesys Electronics Design

    There are parallel skill sets to be learned, particularly how to apply the technologies at the system level in the systems that the engineers are developing and deploying. Also, how to interface with the service providers in the space, which is going to be a significant challenge and calls for a lot of collaboration.

     

    Sources:

    Presentation by Geoff Sizer, Chair of Engineers Australia’s ITEE College and  CEO, Genesys Electronics Design titled How the Internet of Things will affect every engineer

     

    Edited by Tim Kannegieter



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