It’s estimated that by 2025, industry and its devices, locations and users, will be connected globally via the internet of things (IoT), and in a way that the data collected can be extrapolated in a meaningful way. But before any of this can happen, software engineers have to manifest all those millions upon millions of connections.
The UK, a leader in the IoT, has fully committed to a development initiative that pledges £40m for funding science and innovation investments in healthcare, social care and Smart Cities and another £100m in what it calls “intelligent mobility” which includes driverless car technology and its integrated telecommunications systems.
While the technology could provide significant job opportunities, a lack of candidates may be the IoT’s biggest obstacle. The dearth could create a boom for skilled software engineers attracted to the idea of an articulated end-to-end ecosystem and who are looking for significant professional challenges.
Hard Skills Overview
Kurt Peterhans, CEO of Axiros, a leader in device management and IoT solutions for service providers, enterprises, and OEMs worldwide, sees things from a device specific standpoint. For his company and many others in Iot’s sphere, it’s all about small gateways in private households.
“I’m not sure if this is special from machine to machine IoT,” said Peterhans, “but the most important thing is that you are able to do holistic requirement engineering. This is really it. It’s necessary.” He continued that the overall philosophy is that as much logic and function as possible must reside on the device itself. “The software engineers need to have a very good understanding of device in programming,” he added “and how to make firmware instructions for routers, gateways, etc.”
The interface is IoT’s lifeblood. All of the devices need to work together, connecting across gateways and orchestration platforms. “These programs are very, very deeply integrated,” Peterhans continued, “so whoever wants to program must have a solid idea of how to address interfaces and how to read the specifications so that communication can flow over all this stuff.”
The Axiros backend also requires fluency in Linux and Unix, although Cloud dominates at other IoT companies such as Ayla Networks. Ayla’s Agile platform is designed to accelerate develop, support and enhance connected consumer products such as ovens.
The company’s CTO Adrian Caceres said the largest of his three engineering teams is the Cloud group because the company tends to be the entire backend for its customers.
“Our cloud guys know how to scale the server,” said Caceres. “They know how to architect things so it grows into millions and most of them have probably done that somewhere else or have had exposure to it. They also tend to be Java and Ruby guys.”
He works with a device team as well and noted, like Peterhans, that it’s imperative that the engineers who are tasked with connecting a device to the Cloud – or elsewhere – grasp the importance of developing the firmware’s embedded software.
Mobile is another integral area of IoT. Ayla’s mobile engineering team focuses on building easy-to-use applications to control and monitor customer devices. For Android Caceres noted his team leans toward Java and for iOS, it’s largely Objective-C but Swift has been making strong inroads.
Soft skills Overview
Peterhans stressed communication skills. “You cannot develop here’ in singles’ as we call it,” he said. “It’s all about interdisciplinary approaches. You must be able to express your ideas and what you really need and want to solutions specialists from every area.”
Both Caceres and Peterhans noted that the people they work with care deeply about having the system work end-to-end. That long view is really what differentiates them from other software engineers who are more likely to focus on a single element rather than the whole.
Not surprisingly, most of Caceres engineers are passionate about gadgets and what they can make them do. “They’re into connected devices and can see an ultimate benefit of being connected,” he said. “They tend to be early adopters who have created new things for personal use. A lot of our engineers have built connected stuff in their homes – often long before anyone ever talked about IoT.”