How the internet of things is disrupting tech staffing: Part 1

IoT introduces enormous "people" challenges that are testing even the best employers. To succeed, these are non-negotiable workforce disruptions that must be conquered.

internet of things 2015
Credit: Thinkstock

The internet of things (IoT) is exploding -- and as with most explosions there are consequences and collateral damage.

On the positive side, businesses are looking to IoT technologies to enable new business models and transform business processes. The result, predicts the McKinsey Global Institute, will be a direct $4 to $11 trillion global economic impact by 2025 as 80-100% of all manufacturers will deliver some sort of IoT application by that time. Moreover, McKinsey is expecting a 32.6% CAGR in IoT from 2015 through 2020.

On the negative side, Gartner believes that by 2020, more than 25% of identified attacks in enterprises will involve IoT, but IoT will account for less than 10% of IT security budgets. A recent AT&T study titled “The CEO’s Guide to Securing the Internet of Things” reports that 90% of the organizations it surveyed lack full confidence in their IoT security.

Nothing will happen without the people to build and support IoT -- and that’s where there will likely be the greatest disruptions. Here are the three key questions that need answers, the first of which I will discuss in this post:

  1. What jobs and skills are needed to transition into an IoT world?
  2. What is trending right now in jobs and skills that are being driven by IoT growth?
  3. What can employers and tech professionals do to prepare for IoT long term?

Jobs and skills needed to transition into an IoT world

Our firm sees a lot of disruption already in the more 3,000 U.S. and Canadian research partner companies we closely track as they struggle to staff the IoT freight train.

Let’s break it down.

"Things" part of IoT

This part is defined by a number of elements addressing device management, MEMS (microelectromechanical systems), and integration and gateway skills. Here are some areas that require expertise:

Device management/MEMS

  • Embedded systems, software and design
  • Wireless sensor network design
  • Circuit design
  • Microcontroller programming
  • Machine learning
  • Sensor data analysis
  • Quality assurance and testing

Integration & gateways

  • MQ telemetry transport
  • TCP/IP
  • IPV4 & IPV6
  • Programming (e.g., Node.js)

Hot jobs in the "things" space include:

  • Data scientists
  • Network engineers
  • Design engineers
  • Hardware engineers
  • GPS development engineers
  • Electrical engineers
  • Network engineers
  • A.I. engineers
  • Info/cybersecurity infrastructure (cloud, network, software development)
  • Info/cybersecurity engineers and analysts

Connecting "things" with "internet"

Conversely, the internet side of IoT is fairly well-defined and familiar to most of us. Not so the connective tissue between the “I” with the “T” which is particularly rich in hot skills and jobs.

Employers must focus a great deal of their efforts on internally developing and externally hiring a broad and diverse set of skills and jobs that will bring this critical connectivity to life. Here’s a representative list; it will be a challenge for most employers to acquire proven expertise in even half of these:

  • Cybersecurity (key skills in visibility, analytics, identity, risk)
  • A.I. experts
  • UX/UI designers
  • Interaction designers
  • Visual designers
  • Product designers
  • Digital product designers
  • BI professionals (key skills: JIRA, Confluence, Cognos, Tableau, SSAS, SSIS, SSRS, advanced SQL and SAS, predictive analytics)
  • NoSQL and NewSQL
  • Apache Spark
  • Machine learning
  • Data mining
  • Big data (key skills:  Apache Hadoop, HDFS, Hbase, MapReduce, Flume, Oozie, Hive, Pig, YARN)
  • Cross-skilling (hardware skills for software developers; software skills for hardware developers)
  • Communication interfaces
  • Associative thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Pattern recognition

Objects in the IoT world will come in every shape and size; some will have very small screens, and others will have no visual display at all. Talented user interface and user experience designers will be a hot commodity as IoT providers strive to develop effective, user-friendly interfaces despite this shift in paradigm. Marketable skills for UI/UX designers include responsive web design (wherein visuals dynamically adjust to screen-size, platform and orientation) and service design (a human-centered design approach that intuitively guides users through complex services).

Early IoT products are going to be mostly rules-driven IFTTT ("If This Then That" web services) kinds of programs. For more complicated decisions in IoT, A.I. experts will be in high demand especially in the retail space.

With so many devices consuming and sending exabytes of raw information, the true potential of big data will be realized as IoT evolves. Organizations will strive to collect, store, and analyze smart device data streams for actionable intelligence. Business intelligence specialists with skills in sensor data analysis, data center management, predictive analytics and programming in the leading big data platforms -- such as Hadoop and NoSQL -- will be ideally positioned to meet these needs. Strong business acumen will also be a key differentiator, particularly for BI executives tasked with divining additional opportunities in the burgeoning internet of things.

Hot business intelligence skills in the IoT area will likely include:

  • QlikView, Tableau, Cognos. Data visualization is a hot skill and these are arguably the most popular products right now for this purpose.
  • SSAS, SSIS, and SSRS. There are various database management tools such as SQL server analysis (SSAS), integration (SSIS) and reporting services (SSRS) that are extremely useful in developing and managing organization reports. Similarly, SSIS and SSAS come in handy when analysis and integration of large data sets is required.
  • Advanced SQL and SAS. SAS are statistical analytic systems that perform analysis at various levels in a large data set and include a variety of modules such as business intelligence, data management and predictive analysis. SAS and advanced SQL have wide applications in the IoT domain.
  • Predictive analytics. Predictive data and analytics are now considered the backbone of the rapidly growing IoT. Over the next few years the internet will be full of information from millions of devices across the world. Businesses will be more concerned about what they should be doing with this plethora of information.

In Part 2 we will delve more deeply into the critical importance of big data and IoT cross-skilling of hardware and software engineering skills. We'll also examine the disruptions these will create in the typical organization striving to build and support the internet of things. 

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