The exploding ecosystem of internet-enabled devices that network with each other and with other web-enabled tools, known as the Internet of Things (IoT), is a major reason that competition for engineers has grown so much in the past few years. Consumers are most likely to interact with the IoT in the smart products we use – devices and apps that wake us up to our favorite music, brew our coffee and help us navigate when driving somewhere unfamiliar. For manufacturers and other businesses, the IoT provides an unmatched opportunity to streamline production as well as bring new smart products to market.
A new Gartner report estimates that 8.4 billion internet-connected “things” will be in use globally this year, up 31 percent from 2016. By 2020, that number could top 20 billion.
Engineers are driving the bulk of this innovation, whether they’re designing those smart phone programs or automating factory processes to reduce errors. Here are five growing fields that are continuing to make engineers the most in-demand professionals of recent years.Smart factories, smarter strategies
A recent report, “The Essentials of IoT for Modern Engineers,” notes that 75 percent of companies across industries are already exploring IoT. Among the first to embrace smart technology were manufacturing companies that saw an opportunity to upgrade their production facilities and refresh their product lines. This has sparked a shift in the skill sets necessary in the industry.
“We now see a higher demand for process and controls engineers,” notes Heather Brotcke, an Aerotek delivery executive who specializes in the engineering industry. “These engineers will either implement or run automated production lines. With that being said, many companies are hiring technicians, mechanics and engineers with strong electrical knowledge to be able to adapt to the industry changes. All companies are trying to do more with less, however to do so, there is a shift in the talent needed to work in manufacturing plant, she adds.Embedded systems key to personalized products
Software systems engineers are also in especially high demand, due primarily to the rapid growth of smart consumer products, says Brotcke. “See how much the phone has advanced over the past decade. To a large degree, it’s replacing the desktop computer,” she points out. “Consumers want information and functionality at their fingertips, and the industry is eager to have increased access to data that provides them more insight into consumer wants and needs.”
On the horizon are more products like a front door that can be unlocked using a Bluetooth-enabled key fob, an app-directed pressure cooker and a device that attaches to your trash bin and automatically adds discarded items to your shopping list. Software engineers who specialize in embedded systems are in especially high demand for the highly detailed work necessary for the latest wave of consumer electronics.Medical devices take health care on the road
Medical treatment is shifting from the hospital to the home as increased healthcare spending, demographic changes and technological advancements converge to spur growth in mobile health monitoring devices, notes a recent article by EASi, an Aerotek subsidiary.
Medical devices on the rise include wearable devices like blood pressure monitors, blood glucose monitors and ECG monitors that can be used to track vital signs on a continuous basis and transmit the information wirelessly to your doctor’s office.
Behind all this innovation are the software engineers who design the programs, electrical engineers who apply the electronic components and mechanical engineers who create the hardware. Outside the engineering arena, demand for professionals who can analyze all the collected data is also sure to rise in coming years.Data security in an increasingly digital world
“As more information becomes digitized and consumers adopt more smart products, they’ll increasingly demand security measures that maintain information privacy,” notes Brotcke. Even people who have become inured to high-profile breaches like the 2016 hack of 500 million Yahoo accounts will demand airtight security for their medical devices like pacemakers.
Because of this, demand is spiking for cybersecurity engineers, developers and analysts who create ways to limit the accidental exposure of private data, Brotcke says. Some of the positions in highest demand include those who specialize in threat and design vulnerability analysis, mitigation strategy and information assurance.
It’s difficult to estimate the full impact the IoT will have on companies and jobs in the future, but it’s likely that engineering skills across many industries will continue to be in high demand in a world that becomes more and more connected every day.