Today, our world is more connected than ever. Over the past decade or so, the “internet of things” (IoT) evolved from a trendy industry term used to describe the continually growing network of internet-connected electronic devices into a technological reality that is here to stay.
The statistics show that IoT gadgets are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, with the global market for IoT solutions recently growing to $212 billion and nearly 80 billion IoT devices expected to be in use by 2025. As the connected device explosion continues, organizations across the tech industry are realizing that there is not enough engineering talent with the IoT expertise and skills required to manage and execute IoT product development projects.
With Gartner citing insufficient staffing and a lack of IoT expertise as the top barriers for organizations looking to leverage the power of the IoT, let’s dive into the skills an engineer needs to succeed in this hot field, how to gain that skill set, and what is most exciting and challenging about being an IoT engineer.
What Skills Do You Need for IoT?
As companies across industries solidify their IoT strategies, they’re recognizing they don’t have the internal processes in place nor the in-house talent with IoT expertise to quickly bring IoT products to market. As a result, projects drag on for about twice as long as they should, and companies are failing to innovate at the speed necessary to succeed in the modern world of business.
So, what key skills does an engineer need to get into IoT and embedded engineering?
- Cloud computing — A server containing computer resources that can be accessed whenever required, the cloud is often used as a platform to store, process and access IoT data.
As such, knowledge of cloud computing is essential to the development and deployment of scalable IoT applications.
- Big data — The proliferation of connected devices has generated an incredible amount of data, increasing the demand for data scientists and back-end engineers as organizations strive to make sense of the real-time data IoT devices collect.
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning — By identifying patterns in data collected from connected devices, AI and ML algorithms can be used to make predictions and create smarter appliances and applications.
- Embedded software and mobile application development — Embedded software is one of the key components in smart devices because IoT solutions cannot be built without embedded systems. Since IoT apps directly interact with physical devices for command and control, onboarding, and OTA embedded software updates, it’s important to understand how mobile apps interface with hardware devices.
- Security engineering — From physical device, software and endpoint security to data and network security, shoddy security infrastructure is one of the main obstacles to successful IoT development.
- Electrical engineering — Since connected devices incorporate everything from sensors, appliances and microcontrollers to personal computers and larger systems, the application of devices and systems that use electronics is vital to ensure devices and systems quickly, clearly and accurately connect to and communicate with one another.
- UX/UI design — At the end of the day, internet-connected “things” are used by people. In order to assure devices work like they’re supposed to, the interface between users and their devices must be intuitive and effective.
- Hardware interfacing — Hardware is the backbone of the IoT, so knowing how to interface hardware is important. Skills from circuit design and computer-aided design to microcontroller programming and quality assurance are all necessary.
- Circuit design — From optimal power consumption to size, shape and weight, computer chips must be designed and developed to adjust for and adapt to evolving system requirements.
- Computer-aided design — As the number and complexity of IoT product designs continue increasing, CAD software can increase designer productivity and improve design quality.
- Quality assurance — For internet-connected products, even the smallest malfunction can result in disaster. From security lapses to physical accidents, it is vital to test for service availability under various conditions as well as for optimal performance in order to assure an IoT product’s quality.
Now that you know which skills are necessary, let’s look at how you can acquire those skills.
How Can You Acquire IoT Expertise?
While the skill sets needed to succeed in the IoT ecosystem will continue evolving, gaining some of the expertise necessary to build connected products to thrive in today’s networked environments will be important if you want to grow in the field. But how does one go about getting those skills?
By pursuing the necessary training, that’s how! Generally speaking, embedded engineers are required to obtain at least an undergraduate degree in computer science, information technology or electrical, hardware or software engineering. But intensive coding boot camps and even master’s programs are springing up to help people truly excel in this rapidly evolving industry.
If taking more classes isn’t for you, consider toying around with prototyping tools and platforms to hone your IoT skills. To that end, one of our engineers recently built a unique smart home IoT solution in fear that his basement would flood. Playing around on projects like this can help you better understand the unexpected limitations that inevitably pop up when you’re bringing the physical world online.
Additionally, it makes sense to get involved with meetups or groups of makers, inventors and entrepreneurs with whom you can bounce questions off of, collaborate with and develop IoT proof-of-concept projects in order to become an IoT engineer. Consider Hackster and Instructables as examples of such communities.
Which Elements of Embedded Engineering Work are Most Exciting (and Challenging)?
As is the case with any line of work, building IoT devices and applications can be both rewarding and difficult. From design and development to product testing and device security, engineering IoT products requires multiple disciplines. As such, the type of work each individual engineer finds exciting or challenging varies from person to person.
Some embedded engineers thoroughly enjoy organizing and analyzing massive amounts of data to draw conclusions and optimize processes while others get a kick out of building AI and ML algorithms that tell the computers in devices how to learn and operate on their own. On the other side of that coin, some people detest designing gadgets with end users in mind because traditional UX/UI design of software varies so much from physical devices. And others hate calculating component requirements or working with CAD software on late-stage design tweaks because of the complexities required. Security is a great example because some people are excited to help protect devices and data from bad actors, whereas other people rarely consider security and use the same password for pretty much everything.
Every engineer is different, and the type of work an embedded engineer does to contribute to a team should be different too. If you want to become an IoT engineer, determine which stage of the IoT design and development process you want to involve yourself in and tackle that discipline with passion and enthusiasm.
At Cardinal Peak, our IoT device engineering team leverages extensive experience in the IoT space, empowering our clients to develop state-of-the-art devices that are intuitive to set up and use while maintaining security. If you think you have what it takes to help us develop the cutting-edge IoT products of tomorrow, check out our current job openings in embedded software and hardware engineering.