The Internet of Things is changing every sector from healthcare to manufacturing. By 2020, there will be around 50 billion ‘things’ connected to the internet, including sensors, fridges, TVs, and watches. Thanks to this, there should be a 9% increase in the amount of engineering positions currently available.
However, with more and more devices, machines, and everyday items being connected to the internet, engineers and technicians will need new skills to keep up with the market.
As IoT devices rely on maintaining an internet connection, any engineer looking to work with them will need an understanding of coding.
As virtually all these devices will be controlled or accessed through a smartphone app, knowledge of mobile systems will also be necessary. These apps will need to be able to communicate with the hardware, sensors, and other software to create a seamless user experience. Having a wide knowledge of different types of code will mean engineers can work on different systems, or different projects, ensuring long-term flexibility.
As the Internet of Things becomes more ubiquitous, more products and machines will require software to be included as standard. Any mechanical components will be controlled by this software, which could allow for users to activate or utilise the device.
Furthermore, in all likelihood different software will be required to communicate with each other when the item becomes part of a wider network. Ensuring different pieces of software can work in sync with each other will be a vital skill for engineers in the future.
This software will also need the ability to update itself as new code is added, or patches are installed. In theory, engineers would even be able to provide upgrades to the functionality of the product. IoT-enabled products can now communicate with the manufacturer after they have left the assembly line, and thanks to the feedback from the device itself, engineers will have a vast amount of data to work with to optimise the product. Of course, the mechanical aspects cannot be upgraded remotely, meaning some designs will likely have to feature dormant functionality to future-proof the product.
One issue that the Internet of Things is facing is the increased likelihood of cyber-attacks. With so many potential points of entry for hackers, the IoT presents cyber-criminals with an abundance of targets. Because of this, devices must be designed with security in mind.
For the engineers working on them, security must be robust, and upgradable over the product’s lifetime. Engineers should familiarise themselves with vulnerability assessment, public key infrastructure, and wireless network security.
In terms of on-site engineering on larger projects or assemblies, the data provided by the inherent connectivity of the Internet of Things promises to help engineers with optimising their work output. The data generated by the hundreds of contact points along an assembly line can reveal where things could be streamlined or improved, and the sensors can measure temperature, pressure, revolutions, force, vibrations, light, sound, anything that might need to be tracked to improve efficiency.
It’s obvious that the Internet of Things has already changed the way engineering works. Today’s engineers should take steps to engage with it, learn new skills, and move their careers into the future.
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