10 most in-demand Internet of Things skills

The Internet of Things is ramping up into a multi-billion dollar industry, and with it goes demand for employees with IoT skills. Here we look at the skills that employers most need for their IoT initiatives.

internet of thing skills
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Hot Internet of Things skills

The Internet of Things (IoT) is in the midst of an explosion, as more connected devices proliferate. But there's not enough talent with the right skills to manage and execute on IoT projects. In fact, insufficient staffing and lack of expertise is the top-cited barrier for organizations currently looking to implement and benefit from IoT, according to research from Gartner.

"We're seeing tech companies around the globe getting organized and creating IoT strategies, but where they're struggling is they don't have the processes and talent in-house to make these things happen," says Ryan Johnson, categories director for global freelance marketplace Upwork. By tracking data from Upwork's extensive database, Johnson and his team have identified the top 10 skills companies need to drive a successful IoT strategy.

Data is sourced from the Upwork database and is based on annual job posting growth and skills demand, as measured by the number of job posts mentioning these skills posted on Upwork from October 2014 to December 2015.

1. Circuit design - 231 percent
1. Circuit design - up 231%

Connected devices require companies to adjust and adapt chip design and development to account for new system requirements. For example, applications that rely on long-life batteries may need to have specially designed circuit boards to optimize power consumption, or have multiple chips and sensors on one circuit board. "Within circuit design, we're seeing strong demand for printed circuit board (PCB) and 3D design," Johnson says.

2. Microcontroller programming - 225 percent
2. Microcontroller programming - up 225%

The Internet of Things is comprised of billions of small, interconnected devices, many of which require, at minimum, a microcontroller to add intelligence to the device to help with processing tasks. Microcontrollers are low cost, low power, embedded chips that have programming and data memory built onto the system." Specific to microcontroller languages, we're seeing particularly strong demand for professionals experienced with the Arduino programming language, which is commonly used in building sensor and automation projects," says Johnson.

3. AutoCAD - 216 percent
3. AutoCAD - up 216%

AutoCAD is the premier design software for engineering applications and has seen strong growth as the number and complexity of IoT devices continues to increase. Smart, connected products often require a whole new set of design principles, such as designs that achieve hardware standardization or enable personalization. "Product development processes will need to accommodate late-stage design changes quickly and efficiently, making this an ideal use-case for freelance talent that's skilled in AutoCAD," Johnson says.

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4. Machine learning - 199 percent
4. Machine learning - up 199%

Machine learning algorithms help create smarter appliances, applications and other products by using data sensors and other connected devices. Machine learning algorithms can be used to make predictions based on identifying data patterns from these devices, but that requires experts in big data management and machine learning, Johnson says. "To help give companies a competitive advantage, they're hiring data scientists to build adaptive algorithms and data analytics capabilities to extract the value of this new data," he says.

5. Security infrastructure - 194 percent
5. Security infrastructure - up 194%

Information security and fears of increased exposure of data, not to mention device and physical security, are some of the top impediments to IoT development, according to research from TEKsystems. "Companies experienced in cloud security have had a good introduction to this, however the added scale and complexity of IoT connectivity, communications, and the endpoints themselves complicate things. Within security infrastructure, we're seeing strong demand on our platform for network security developers and programmers," Johnson says.

6. Big data - 183 percent
6. Big data - up 183%

IoT has greatly increased the amount of data for organizations to analyze. Companies need to collect all the data that is relevant to their business while simultaneously filtering out redundant data and protecting that data. This requires a highly efficient mechanism that includes software and protocols, Johnson says. "As IoT and the proliferation of big data continues to rise, we're seeing strong demand for data scientists and back-end engineers who can collect, organize, analyze and architect these disparate sources of data. Within that, we're seeing particularly strong demand for professionals who have experience with Hadoop and Apache Spark," he says.

7. Electrical engineering - 159 percent
7. Electrical engineering - up 159%

The creation of the next generation of connected devices requires both software and electrical engineering expertise. "Electrical engineers are being brought in to help with embedded device development for mobile applications, and for radio frequency (RF)/analog and microwave engineering for communication systems and GPS on the devices," Johnson says.

8. Security engineering - 124 percent
8. Security engineering - up 124%

Security is such a huge concern in the IoT market. High-profile data breaches have heightened consumers' awareness of data security and privacy issues that may occur if a connected device is breached or hacked and data exposed, Johnson says. "To help mitigate against potential risks, companies are investing in security engineering to conduct in-depth assessments to identify both physical and logical secured threats to embedded systems such as local controllers/gateways and determine the risk at the device level. We're seeing strong demand for professionals with security analysis and vulnerability assessment experience," Johnson says.

9. Node.js - 86 percent
9. Node.js - up 86%

Node.js is an open-source environment for server-side web development used to manage connected devices such as the Arduino and Raspberry Pi, among others. With the availability of boards like Raspberry Pi, Node.js is becoming more of an option for developers looking to leverage their existing expertise in building applications for IoT, says Johnson. "Node.js also has very low resource requirements, a feature that developers are already leveraging in data-intensive IoT scenarios. From wearables to machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, Node.js is rapidly becoming the language and platform of choice for IoT," he says.

10gps development
10. GPS development - up 66%

The GPS market is seeing a resurgence, thanks to IoT. Specifically, wearables, smart vehicles and logistics companies. Analyst firm ABI predicts that the GPS market will reach out $3.5 billion in 2019 as businesses and consumers embrace location-aware devices. "This is creating a demand for professionals who can help develop GPS-enabled technology for wearables, smart vehicles and other IoT applications," says Johnson.