Powering the Internet of Everything by Equipping the Workforce

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SUDARSHAN KRISHNAMURTHI<BR/>Learning@CiscoSUDARSHAN KRISHNAMURTHI
Learning@Cisco

Sudarshan Krishnamurthi is a Senior Product Manager at Learning@Cisco responsible for the Education Strategy for Security and Internet of Things (IoT).

Shelf sensors in stores create greater inventory visibility. Smart factories use machine-to-machine communication to predict maintenance needs and reduce production delays. Welcome to the Internet of Everything (IoE)—a world that brings things, data, processes, and people together into a vast web of connectivity that will transform how we live and work.

Cisco predicts that the potential gain for the private and public sectors between 2013 and 2022 as a result of IoE could be as high as $19 trillion. These gains will come from new revenues, cost savings, increased productivity and improved citizen experiences. However, software and networking skills shortages could delay the realization of these gains.

The expanding, interconnected world

The network will function as the command center for IoE and will therefore have to 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, and security will be of particular concern. With so many devices all connected, the attack surface will increase significantly, and security breaches could become even more costly.

Just as the attack surface will increase significantly, so will the quantities of data being generated and exchanged by the ever-expanding number of connected devices. The role of the data scientist will be crucial in terms of converting this data into usable information.

Gathering and processing data is ultimately how benefit is derived from IoE. In order to optimally connect people, processes, data and things, connections must be secure. Additionally, the network must be programmable so that information gathered from data can be more intelligently applied to devices rather than having to configure and manage them manually.

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. Lastly, it will be vital for the current generation of graduating students to have the networking skills that will enable them to address this convergence of operational technologies and IT.

Joining forces for network training

ManpowerGroup’s 2013 Talent Shortage survey found that IT workers and engineers were among the hardest positions to fill in the U.S. in 2013. Cisco predicts that approximately 220,000 new engineers will be needed globally every year for the next 10 years to keep up with the technological surge of IoE.

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 analyze 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 specialized.

As new roles emerge, organizations can look to their current skill sets to make a way forward. People with fundamental networking experience will lead the transition to IoE because they have the knowledge to build the bridge 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. But this is only part of the equation.

The other educational requirement is to prepare youth from the beginning to understand the network and its underlying connection to everything. It is incumbent on IT companies to work with educational systems to develop curricula that ensures rising talent is well prepared to understand the functioning of the network and how it makes IoE work.

Evolving education consumption

IoE is beginning to change all aspects of life, and how education is consumed is no different. As students move to a Bring Your Own Device, ubiquitous 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.

Figure 1

In preparing the workforce for the job role changes that IoE is creating, we need to consider the ways in which training is delivered and the ways that learners prefer to receive it. The good news is that the technology with connected devices and collaboration software can help make this happen, since the technology and infrastructure are there to move in this direction.

Figure 2

Cooperating to fill the gaps

People. Process. Data. Things. Yesterday, they functioned independently. Today, the Internet of Everything brings them all together in ways that are amazing and challenging at the same time. The network is the heart of IoE, which calls for a next-generation workforce equipped to deal with IoE’s vast data requirements and attendant safety concerns. Tremendous gains stand to be made across all industries and with regard to humanitarian concerns as well, but this vision of a more prosperous and efficient world cannot be realized without a properly equipped workforce. Enterprise, government and educational entities must come together to create strategies to fill current and projected network skills gaps.

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One Comment

  1. Raj Sharma

    Sudarshan, good thought provoking article!