Minding the Gap: Three IoT Skills Your Business Needs Today

Organizations looking to exploit business opportunities around the Internet of Things need to fortify their workforces with expertise in cloud computing and NoSQL, network security, and rapid prototyping.
By Ryan Johnson

Imagine a smart car that generates a constant stream of metrics about its performance. That's a lot of noisy data to send, store and sort. This kind of real-time data puts added pressure and demands on networks, making infrastructure upgrades inevitable. To this end, application programming interfaces (APIs) will facilitate secure communication between devices, and data centers will most likely lean toward a more distributed approach, with tiered mini centers to tackle data processing. IT infrastructures will need to be more elastic and more secure. As a result, skills like back-end programming and processing for big data have seen a 17 percent increase* year over year to meet the demand.

The IoT also opens up new security and privacy concerns. According to a study conducted by Hewlett-Packard (HP), 70 percent of IoT devices are vulnerable to an attack. Any time we're advancing the way we monitor, detect and track ourselves and the things around us, what we do with the data—and how it's sent across networks—can get sensitive. The key is to minimize security issues and protect networks and customer data at the same time. Two solutions? Encryption can prevent network-connected devices from making home Wi-Fi networks vulnerable to hackers, and anonymizing customer data keeps personal information safe and confidential.

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As hacking becomes increasingly common, businesses will have to implement long-term security plans. There's a need for secure systems and the people to audit them regularly, driving a demand for security infrastructure professionals (up 194 percent*), security engineering experts (up 124 percent*), and network security experts, who saw a 46 percent* increase in demand for their expertise.

Rapid prototyping of smart devices will call on the skills of 3D designers and electrical engineers.

What makes an IoT object "smart?" Embedded programming and the skilled engineers who build these objects, which are equipped with hardware and software systems, sensors, and network connectivity. IoT devices are becoming smaller, smarter and more affordable to build, thanks to more accessible hardware and the use of more common programming languages that aren't IoT platform-specific, like Python and C++.

Engineering and prototyping IoT devices like wearables require a unique set of skills. 3D design professionals are in strong demand, up 29 percent as new device requirements constantly evolve. GPS development is also up 65 percent*, a common component in wearables and Bluetooth-enabled IoT devices.

For consumers, the "connected home" is another exciting aspect of the Internet of Things. Futuristic devices, like networked thermostats and digital doorbells, are fueling 41 percent* of the IoT year-over-year growth. The microcontrollers, sensors and circuit boards that make these objects "smart" are driving serious demand for electrical engineers (up 159 percent*) and circuit design professionals (up 230 percent*). Two of the most popular hardware platforms for building these embedded IoT devices are Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Keep an eye on Raspberry Pi—demand for developers who can program this tiny powerhouse has seen an increase of more than 200 percent*.

As the future becomes "now" for the Internet of Things, there will be a ripple effect in terms of infrastructure, data and security that will translate to new roles and skills in the marketplace. Access to a deep talent pool can bridge the gap between this new technology and the dearth of skills needed to fuel the advances we can only start to imagine at this point. The key? To start planning for the tide of IoT advancements and identify those key players you should have on board to ride the wave.

*Data is sourced from the Upwork database and is based on annual job growth, specifically on the number of job posts on Upwork from October 2014 to December 2015.

Ryan Johnson is the categories director at Upwork, a job service firm for freelance technology workers. Johnson leads a team of managers who are responsible for initiatives for a number of work categories, including information technology, sales and marketing, design and creative, and administrative and customer support. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in decision sciences and management information systems from George Mason University.

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