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Studying IoT: gearing up for a connected future

Forum Gold and Silver Schwäbisch Gmpnd Source: Forum Gold und Silber Schwäbisch Gmünd

Many young people wonder what they should study to prepare properly for a career in the Internet of Things. There is no question that people skilled to push IoT further will be in high demand, as Alicia Asín pointed out in her recent post on this blog. But the question remains: What skills are really needed in IoT?

From mastering the technical challenges …

From a technical point of view, the IoT involves an interesting yet challenging stack. Engineers need to handle things, with mechanical issues such as vibration, thermal stress, and much more. In many cases the things will feature sensors, microprocessors, communication modules, and other electronics. Each such thing is a huge playground for specialist engineers. At the next level of the technology stack you will encounter many different connectivity options: wired or wireless, long or short range, broad or narrow bandwidth, and so on.

This extends to the server back end of an IoT solution – where server infrastructures, databases, machine learning algorithms, and authentication mechanisms constantly provide eager engineers with challenging tasks. Finally, we want to have a neat user front end on PCs, Android devices, or iOS devices. All the server-related and front-end aspects involve a bunch of different programming languages from Java, JavaScript, and python to HTML5, Swift, php, etc.

… to designing IoT business models

But that was only technology. There is more. I learned about user-experience Venn diagrams from my design-minded friends. Looking at them makes it clear that the sweet spot of innovation is met only if technological feasibility, economic viability, and user needs are balanced. This means that mastering the aforementioned technical challenges of IoT is not enough. In addition, you should have all those fancy tools of user-centered design, design thinking, and user-experience design at hand – involving product design as well as interaction design. What’s more, you need a profound understanding of how to design successful IoT business models and maybe even ecosystems to round off the profile of the universal IoT specialist.

Three aspects are important for IoT professionals: the technology and the business side as well as the user. Source: Bosch.IO

What will future IoT specialists contribute?

I must share a secret with you. Although I call myself a professor of IoT, I am likely a true expert in just 10% of the topics above. I cannot imagine there is anybody on earth who is a legitimate expert in all those fields.

As a result, I think we need two types of people in the IoT. First, we need real experts in very specific cases – embedded microcontroller programming or user-interaction design, for instance. Second, multitalented people who have a sound understanding of all the IoT aspects I have mentioned. They need to be able to coordinate all the specialists, acting as glue between them.

So, what educational opportunities are there for young people who want a career in the Internet of Things?

Regarding the skills people need for a career in the IoT, we require programs designed to equip students with a broad set of skills in technology, design, and business. Skills must not be limited to facts; students also need to work on interdisciplinary projects, for example.

As for multitalented students, there is now a unique educational path. Aalen University of Applied Sciences (HSAA) and the University of Design Schwaebisch Gmuend (HfG) collaborate in offering dedicated Internet of Things curricula. Students can earn a Bachelor of Engineering in IoT at HSAA or a Bachelor of Arts in IoT at HfG.

More on IoT and education

Sirkka Freigang explains how the IoT can be used to design smart learning environments.

Engaging students: What happens when the IoT cloud meets university