Industry Focus: Internet of Things
The Internet of things, or IOT as it is popularly called, is a paradigm shift in how the internet is used in today’s world. With an ever-increasing number of smart, connected devices being added to the network, its role in the smart city revolution becomes increasingly apparent, changing our lives at home and the way enterprises conduct business. It also brings a major shift in the job market, taking away jobs from some segments but creating thousands of openings for people with the right skillset and abilities.
What is the IOT?
The IOT’s development stems from cheaper, smaller electronics making their way into all manner of devices and making them “smart”. This allows devices to have greater perception thanks to advanced sensors and an easy connection to the internet via Wi-Fi. What is truly amazing about the Internet of Things is the plethora of devices connected to it. While smartphones and smart TVs are obvious examples, we are seeing an increasing trend of more humble devices and appliances such as refrigerators and light switches, becoming part of the smart revolution.
This increased intelligence and easy connectivity has two important consequences. Firstly and most importantly, it allows these devices to be easily interfaced with users and applications, making them a source of easily accessible and invaluable data. This data can then be used to make more informed and intelligent decisions. Secondly, through remote access via the internet, these devices can also be controlled to take actions based on the intelligence extracted.
How will the IOT it impact our lives?
This shift to smarter devices will have a perceivable impact on our lives at home. However, it is businesses and enterprises with their penchant for efficiency that will see a more discernible shift. With the increased range of capabilities, these smarter devices will be able to perform a wider range of tasks more efficiently, significantly cutting costs and raising profitability.
For those with the right skillset, the time is right to gains skills and qualifications to make the most of this emerging market. Market estimates for the future of IOT are mind blowingly large, with predictions of $470 billion in revenues as connected devices nearly double to 30.7 billion by 2020. Cisco the connectivity giant, a primary harbinger of the IOT estimates expects 4.5 million people working on IOT in the next five years.
Skillsets and Qualifications
The interdisciplinary nature of the IOT means a variety of experts from all manner of domains are required in its development. Listed here are some of the most thought-after qualifications and how to obtain them:
With the internet expanding exponentially, the demand for networking professionals will also rise. System administrators, network architects and networks analysts will be in popular demand.
- Cisco certifications
- University College London, Masters in Internet Engineering
- Technische Universität Darmstadt, Masters in Internet and Web-based Systems
Sensors and electronics
The electronics market will see a boom as more and more businesses will replace existing devices and appliances with smarter, connected and more energy efficient ones. There is a drastic demand for electronic and systems engineers with the ability to design electronic systems and sensor networks.
- University of Glasgow, Masters in Sensor and Imaging Systems
- University of Edinburgh, Masters in Sensor and Imaging Systems
- University of Bristol, Masters in Advanced Microelectronic Systems Engineering
Machine learning, data analysis and artificial intelligence are rapidly emerging fields that will play a role in utilizing the vast amount of data being generated by sensors to make more informed and smarter decisions.
- University of Bristol, Advanced Computing – Masters in Machine Learning, Data Mining and High-Performance Computing
- University of Amsterdam, Masters in Artificial Intelligence
- Aalto University, Masters in Computer, Communication and Information Sciences – Machine Learning and Data Mining
With new platforms and applications required to harness the newfound power of the IOT, software engineers and application developers will also be in popular demand.
- Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Masters in Software Engineering
- University of Surrey, Masters in Communications, Networks and Software
A primary concern with the IOT is increased security risks. Connected devices will be more susceptible to data breaches and hacking, creating an increasing demand for cyber security analysts to design and maintain more secure communication systems.
As with most emerging technologies, startups are at the forefront of the IOT revolution, introducing products and services to capitalize on the growing segment. The variety of segments where we are seeing companies introduce smart products is astounding, giving an indication to the sheer magnitude of the Internet of Things:
With such a large number of electronic devices ripe for adding intelligence, homes are a major part of the smart revolution. Sonos is a prime example of how a seemingly ordinary device like a sound system can be made intelligent, interfacing with music libraries over the internet and controlling speakers and record players throughout your home. And lastly, home security is also becoming smarter with intelligent security systems, such as Scout, that use sensors around the house, allowing access to people with the right credentials via their smartphone application.
Smart utilities and energy
On a similar note, smart devices are a major enabler for more sustainable and energy efficient homes and businesses. Enlightened is once such venture, using advanced sensors gathering data, coupled with their lighting and heating/cooling solutions, for more efficient energy usage in buildings. Plotwatt is a more interesting example, simply using an existing utility meter to give the user a better understanding of their energy usage to promote efficiency through advanced analytics. And then we have Vessyl, a modern take on the humble drinking cup that not only tracks your drinking habits but uses the data to improve your wellbeing by keeping you proactively hydrated.
Connected and car fleet
With the transition towards cars with complex electronics systems, a variety of start-ups are interfacing modern cars with the internet for efficient operation and monitoring. Zubie is one such company, connecting the car to the internet and helping the user keep a constant check on its location, potential problems, speed and analysing driving data for more efficient driving. Metromile kicks this same functionality up a notch, coupling a pay-per-mile insurance system with their smart car application, significantly reducing costs for low-mileage car users typical of urban cities. Inrix uses a similar setup for a deeper analysis of traffic flow and parking to make urban transport, working with city governments to adapt modern infrastructure in line with usage patterns.
IOT startups are transforming the retail segment, making shopping more interactive and convenient for customers while increasing profitability for stores. Estimote is a modern take on existing shopping spaces, using small sensors to keep track of consumers and using custom built applications to make informed suggestions. Theatro uses similar sensors but optimizes the retail workforce, allowing staff to better serve customers, leading to more productive employees and increased customer satisfaction.
Wearable devices are perhaps the best example of how smart electronics are getting smaller without any loss in capabilities. Smartwatches such as Flexterra’s flexible variant, and fitness trackers such as Jawbone’s are already mainstream products that collect important physiological data, process it and give the user actionable feedback. Then we have more innovation products like the Owlet smartsock that acts as a high-tech baby monitor, relaying vital statistics even from a distance, through their associated smartphone application.
An important part of healthcare is keeping track of a patient’s condition and progress through a variety of sensors. Start-ups such as Kinsa takes this a step ahead, with their smart thermometer actively tracking temperature, reminding the patient about medication and offering advice based on readings. Proteus takes a more innovative approach, using a combination of ingestible and patch sensors to keep track of a patient’s conditions and helping doctors monitor the efficacy of treatment.
The Industrial IOT is a subset of the IOT with a network of devices catering specifically to the manufacturing industry. Ground metrics is one such company, empowering oil and gas mining setups with enhanced sensors to image the ground and process them to create maps for more effective and safe drilling. Tachyus is a similar startup that uses smart, connected sensors to optimize all manner of processes in the mining industry, ranging from drilling to worker management for increased efficiency.
With their large field of view, drones are ideal for IOT scenarios requiring mapping and surveying large expanses of land. Skycatch uses autonomous drones to capture high resolution images and transfers them to the cloud to create usable maps in a fraction of the time it would take by conventional methods. 3Dr follows a similar methodology, making it easier to map construction sites and progress using drones, while also analysing data to keep clients updated about progress and possible areas for improvement.
The Future of IOT
With so many facets of modern life ripe for smartening up, the IOT will play a pivotal role in smart cities of the future. A constant stream of data being generated and passed along the network, coupled with intelligent data processing, will keep our modern systems in check and functioning proactively. In the next 5 years, this emerging field will be, without a doubt, one of the biggest sources of employment for millions, while also keeping our cities sustainable and efficient.
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If you like this article, you might also be interested in our feature on connectivity.