Equipping the workforce for the Internet of Everything

The Internet of Everything (IoE) is bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before.

This turns information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.

For instance, data gathered from smart home appliances will help monitor and optimize energy usage and even turn lights off as homeowners leave for work. Connected devices in cars will search parking lots for the closest open spot and re-route drivers around traffic delays.

Cisco predicts that between now and 2022, $19 trillion in value is at stake for organisations willing to take advantage of the immense IoE opportunity. The IoE offers a faster path to strategic insights and increased profitability; rapid delivery of differentiated IoE-enabled services and experiences; integrated, open, continuous and pervasive security; and sustainable competitive advantage.

Companies across all industries have the opportunity to take advantage of the IoE’s offer, but only if they have the properly trained workforce in place.

New connections mean new skills

The network will take center stage as the IoE expands, becoming more agile and intelligent. The network will play a more crucial role than ever, needing to be more secure, agile, context-aware, automated, dynamic and programmable.

The realms of mobile, cloud, apps and big data and analytics will all be interconnected in IoE. Security will be of particular concern with the burgeoning of IoE. With so many devices all connected, the attack surface will increase exponentially, and security breaches could become even more costly.

>See also: Next big thing: Preparing for the Internet of Things in the enterprise

All of these connected devices will continue to generate and share among themselves greater and greater volumes of data. The role of the data scientist will therefore be crucial in terms of converting this data into usable information. Manufacturing is just one area that stands to gain dramatically from improvements made from the data gathered during the manufacturing process.

Turning data into actionable insight is ultimately what IoE is about. It is, however, still a largely uncharted world and one that will bring immense challenges for the workforce, not only in terms of security and data handling issues as more and more sensors relay information about us, but also in terms of being adequately trained and prepared to take advantage of it.

Getting prepared for IoE will require the existing workforce, especially in areas such as manufacturing, utilities, safety and security, and transportation, to understand IT networking to a greater degree.

At the same time, IT networking professionals need to better understand manufacturing control systems and industrial networks as IoE causes these operational technologies to converge with IT. And lastly, it will be vital for the current generation of students coming out of colleges and universities to have the networking skills that will enable them to address this convergence of operational technologies and IT.

To keep pace with the technological surge of IoE, approximately 220,000 new engineers will be needed globally every year for the next 10 years. The networker’s view is expanding to include many new technologies, and the networker’s responsibilities are expanding to include many new duties.

For example, the increase in connected things requires network professionals who will maintain a strong security posture across the expanded attack surface. Also, the ability to analyse big data and turn it into actionable information is needed to drive business outcomes.

There are many emerging roles in the future for IoE – business transformation specialists, cloud brokers, network programmers and data scientists. Cyber security becomes more pervasive and the networking career becomes much more specialised.

Networking experience is critical as IoE expands because those who understand foundational principles are best equipped to cross over from network infrastructure to the application environment.

Application developers who are implementing SDN technologies, as well as those at the business application layer, will need a tighter grasp of the new world they operate in. In addition, control systems engineers in manufacturing industries have traditionally worked on drives, motors, sensors, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to manage automated plant networks.

Now, with the convergence of operational technologies and IT on the horizon, these engineers will need to become trained in IT and networking. Companies will need to work with industries throughout the world to create the pathway for IT networking skills and talent development. Continued efficiency and productivity gains will depend upon it.

Experience is one part of the solution, and the other is educating youth from the beginning to understand the network and its underlying connection to everything. It is incumbent on IT companies to work with universities, secondary schools, networking academies, and learning partners to develop curricula to ensure that rising talent is well prepared to understand the functioning of the network and how it makes IoE work.

Universities and colleges in the United States and Europe do not emphasise IT network training in their bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in control systems or manufacturing. And such training needs to filter down to grade school as well in the age of IoE. Just as it took time for computer skills to become part of the grade school curriculum but now can be found even at the elementary school level, so it must be with networking skills if IoE and its promise are to become a reality.

IoE will affect all aspects of life and all industries, so training in managing the network as IoE’s basic platform will become essential. The evolution is already well under way, and the demand for networking talent is already being felt.

Beyond understanding network deployment and operation, those at the forefront of the change will be taking the network in new directions, using 21st century skills in the process: critical thinking, complex problem solving, data analysis, and communication and collaboration.

Connected devices changing how we learn

The ways that people access and consume education has changed significantly over recent years. As students move to a bring your own device (BYOD), anytime and anywhere access model, their needs and preferences regarding where and when they will get training are changing along with what they are learning.

Students no longer prefer traditional delivery modalities. Instead, they want mobile, video-based, game-based learning that not only is an evolution of traditional delivery but also helps remove barriers to education by making it easy, fun, accessible, and effective.

>See also: 4 things that will happen in the Internet of Things space in 2014

A 2013 survey of Cisco certified professionals revealed a strong preference for hands-on practice labs, simulations, and video-based training. Rather than attending a class on each of these subjects, this core knowledge set will be available in real time on an as-needed basis to aid in decision making.

At the same time that we observe how job roles are changing as a result of the IoE’s new requirements, we need to consider how learners prefer to receive information and adapt delivery modalities as needed. The good news is that the technology with connected devices and collaboration software can help make this happen, since the technology and infrastructure are already in place.

With a solid plan in place to help current employees transition to the new roles required by the IoE, as well as to educate the workforce of the future, we will be well positioned to fill the significant skills gaps that already exist. Part of this education process means delivering learning on their terms and in the modalities that best serves them. An educated workforce is all that stands between the IoE’s promises of better work and life experiences and their fulfillment.

Sourced from Sudarshan Krishnamurthi, product management, Cisco Services


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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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