IoT skills set to rise in importance
Training and Development

IoT skills set to rise in importance

Technology revolutions come and go, but if there’s one that’s here to stay for the next few decades, it’s the Internet of Things. As an industry in its own right, IoT is set to take the world by storm and introduce a range of new possibilities.

According to IHS, the market will grow from 15.4 billion connected devices in 2015 to a staggering 30.7 billion in 2020. As well as the sheer number of devices growing, the industry will also generate massive amounts of revenue. A report from Zinnov Zones claims that spending on IoT products will reach 253 billion by 2021

When you take the numbers into account, it becomes clear that there’ll be a need for highly skilled people to develop these devices and ensure they’re always safe. Just to demonstrate, a study published in 2014 by VisionMobile found that the industry will need 4.5 million developers by 2020. The right training is fundamental to plugging the skills gap but what must this deliver in practice?


Training needs to be specific

Education is important in any industry, but where the Internet of Things is concerned, nothing is clear cut. The market covers a wide variety of areas, so when it comes to accessing training and academic courses, students need to have an idea of what they actually want to do in the future.

Craig Smith, director of IoT and analytics solutions of EMEA at multinational IT firm Tech Data, believes that a combination of education and practical experience is fundamental in shaping the IoT pros of the future. Practitioners and course leaders, he says, can help students achieve this and find the right routes for them. 

“Training and education always matter. Importantly for IoT, education, knowledge and technical skills are catalysts for innovation and getting more from technology. A lack of technical skills can result in all manner of issues, including unplanned downtime or loss of data,” he tells IDG Connect.

“Having the latest certifications is the best way for an IT professional to show employers and customers they have the skills and competence to use products correctly and optimally. IoT is very broad and covers many disciplines, which is why expert trainers can help students find the right courses for their journey to certification.”

Smith says that courses should be flexible and tailored to the needs of students. “The quality of the course is highly important—make sure it is the latest vendor-authorised course and delivered by certified instructors. Good training providers will offer a high degree of flexibility, with courses delivered on site, online or self-paced, depending upon the students’ preferred learning style,” he adds.


Avoiding an IoT skills gap

When a new technology trend emerges, it’s important for companies and IT professionals to readjust their skillsets. Otherwise, there’s the risk of falling behind the crowd. MRL Group, an employment agency based in Hove, has begun dedicating resources to placing people in IoT roles around the world.

Terry Hiscock, principal account manager at the firm, believes that a skills gap will open up if more isn’t done to target pupils when they are making their career decisions. “The adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) is increasing across almost every industry, as technology advances and we move towards an ever connected world,” he says.

“However, as a new and embryonic sector, there are no true ‘IoT experts’ available to the job market yet. We are seeing traditionally unrelated industries now requiring cross over skills which can be hard to recruit for. The birth of mobile banking in the previous decade created a similar situation, with the telecoms operators suddenly requiring candidates with financial services experience and the banks requiring candidates with telecoms experience.

“We are now witnessing the same phenomenon as these skill gaps manifest themselves within industries such as automotive, mobile telecoms, utilities, consumer goods and more. These business are all evolving rapidly from a technology point of view, thanks to IoT, but according to research for Gartner, insufficient expertise is still the top-cited barrier for organisations seeking to implement and reap the full benefits from IoT.”

Alison Vincent, chief technology officer of Cisco UK & Ireland, believes that IoT should be taught as part of the technology curriculum in schools. “Understanding the essence of the issue, Cisco is working in collaboration with schools, governments and non-profit organisations to deliver training initiatives such as the Little BIG Awards, which encourages young people from the age of 11-14 to develop new ideas and realise the job prospects available through technology and STEM skills,” she says.


Be multi-skilled

Professionals working in IoT need to have a broad range of skills if they are to succeed in the industry. Martin Woolley, technical program manager at Bluetooth SIG, says engineers should not only be able to understand code but also new wireless technologies. These, he says, will become crucial over the next few years.

“IoT training is about coding plus communication. On its own, coding will allow an engineer to give a device some functionality and behave in a certain way. But the IoT is based on the idea that the ‘things’ are able to effectively communicate with one another and exchange data. To make an IoT specialist, they would need to be educated about wireless communications technologies and networking as well as coding,” he says.

“ABI Research predicts that 48bn devices will be connected to the internet by 2021, 30% of which will be Bluetooth devices, so knowledge of this most pervasive of low power wireless communications technologies is key In addition, for some people currently working in IT, it means more education is needed about embedded software engineering, as they may find themselves working with smaller, more constrained devices than they ever have before.”


UK leading the way

Ian Hughes, an IoT analyst at 451 Research, also agrees on the importance of IoT training. But while there are fears of a skills gap, he says that strides are being made - especially in the UK. “As with any complex project, training and certification helps improve quality, and in particular deal with the number one concern around security, where gaps between specialisations lead to intrusion points,” he says.

“In the UK, there are some interesting educational initiatives with the BBC Micro:bit in secondary school education, providing the self-contained device and supporting material to schools. This grass roots IoT education is not only about programming but dealing with sensors, outputs and physical computing.

“Corporations are providing starter kits and self-help resources, including engaging in open source projects and hackathons to encourage developers to their platforms. Also, organisations such as the IOTA (Internet of Things Alliance) are setting up support and training events in conjunction with industry and academia, and universities are starting to offer Masters degrees in IoT.”

The Internet of Things is one of the most talked about topics in the technology world, and there’s no denying the fact that it’s growing at a rapid rate. Clearly, the industry will need high-skilled professionals to keep driving forward, and good training is essential if this is to happen.



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Nicholas Fearn

Nicholas is a technology journalist from the Welsh valleys. He's written for a plethora of respected media sources, including The Next Web, Techradar, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, TrustedReviews, Alphr, TechWeekEurope and Mail Online, and edits Wales's leading tech publication. When he's not geeking out over Game of Thrones, he's investigating ways tech can change our lives in many different ways.

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