By: Sharon Florentine
The internet of things (IoT) is in the midst of an explosion, as more connected devices proliferate. But there’s a problem: 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 most-cited barrier for organizations currently looking to implement and benefit from IoT, according to research from Gartner.
“Tech companies are definitely solidifying their IoT strategies, but what we’re seeing is they don’t have the processes and talent in-house to make these things happen. In fact, Gartner says that three-quarters of IoT projects will go on for twice as long as they should, because of insufficient talent in key areas,” says Rich Pearson, categories director for global freelance marketplace Upwork. By tracking data from Upwork’s extensive database, Pearson and his team have identified the top ten 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 this year from January 1
to March 31.
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, says Pearson. “Machine learning, unsurprisingly, is up more than 200 percent YoY in terms of demand for this particular skill. Every company is trying to harvest more data from connected devices and sensors, and they need expertise not just in extracting the data, but in building algorithms to help wring out insights and analytics out of that data,” Pearson says.
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, and AutoCAD allows these product development processes to make late-stage design changes quickly and efficiently, says Pearson.
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 the platform of choice for developers looking to leverage their existing expertise in building applications for IoT, says Pearson, and over the last twelve months, the environment has matured even further. “The majority of companies are using this as the foundation for their IoT initiatives, because there’s low resource overhead, and it’s become incredibly stable and accessible. That’s really important in small form-factors like wearables, but we’re also seeing it in large enterprises like Netflix, PayPal and Uber – and we use it here at Upwork,” Pearson says.
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, because of the added scale and complexity of IoT connectivity, communications, and the endpoints themselves. “Security has become paramount. Everything connected to the internet creates risk, so any skills around security, especially software and endpoint security, are critical in the IoT space,” Pearson says.
Security is a huge IoT concern. Aside from infrastructure security, recent, 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, says Pearson. To help mitigate against potential risks, companies are investing in security engineering and seeking talent skilled in vulnerability assessment to identify both physical and logical threats to embedded systems such as local controllers/gateways and determine the risk at the device level, Pearson says. “Within the larger security skills demand, we’re especially seeing an increase in the need for vulnerability assessment and endpoint security; there’s also a resurgence in the need for hardware security,” Pearson says. In just the last 60 days, there’s been a major increase in demand for talent skilled in specific IoT security vendors CloudFlare and Orbit, he adds.
IoT has greatly increased the amount of data available, and generated enormous volumes 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, including artificial intelligence, software and protocols, Pearson says. “We’re still seeing strong demand for data scientists and back-end engineers who can develop algorithms, collect, organize, analyze and architect these disparate sources of data. And using AI in combination with big data can help companies do all of that faster and more efficiently,” he says.
The GPS market is seeing a resurgence, thanks to IoT; and, 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. There is still major demand for professionals who can help develop GPS-enabled technology for wearables, smart vehicles and other IoT applications, says Pearson.
The creation of the next generation of connected devices requires both software and electrical engineering expertise, which is why there’s increased demand for electrical engineers. Electrical engineers are being hired 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, Pearson says.
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. That means greater demand within circuit design for printed circuit board (PCB) and 3D design, Pearson says.
The IoT consists 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. Microcontrollers require specific languages, like Arduino, for example, which is used in sensor and automation projects, Pearson says.