Education, training are 2 keys to wider IoT deployment

At the 2014 Internet of Things World Forum, Cisco officials say creating global connectivity in a rapidly-evolving technology will require a deeper talent pool.
By Bob Vavra October 14, 2014
At the 2014 Internet of Things World Forum, Cisco officials say creating global connectivity in a rapidly-evolving technology will require a deeper talent pool. Courtesy: CiscoAs manufacturing, and indeed all device-driven enterprises, race toward the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT), a major barrier in the way is the human infrastructure to deliver on its promise.
That was one of the major themes on the opening day of the 2014 Internet of Things World Forum in Chicago. The event, presented by Cisco and sponsored by nearly 30 global industrial and IT companies, has more than doubled in size since the opening event last year in Barcelona, Spain. That growth is a reflection of the increased emphasis on IoT at all levels of operations as a way to collect, manage and effectively act on data throughout the enterprise.
“It’s a convergence of people, process and data,” said Inbar Lasser-Raab, vice president of enterprise production and solutions marketing for Cisco. “It’s triggered by connecting machine to machine. It triggers a whole new business outcome.”
For that to take place, however, a new generation of workers must be educated and trained around the new technology. Cisco officials noted at the event that while there are still 11 million unemployed workers in the U.S., 45% of employers across all industries report job openings they cannot fill due to the skills gap.
Talent acquisition and education
“CEOs believe because of amount of change and reinvention around IOT, talent will be the #1 agenda item for the next few years,” said Jeanne Dunn, who heads Cisco’s talent acquisition and training efforts. “If you think about process automation on factory floor, we have to get non-IP-based network professionals educated to the Internet. We need to reskill about 400,000 engineers.
“We are going to need a fundamentally different educational system,” Dunn added. “If we don’t create talent differently than we do today, we’re not going to get there.”
Among the first announcements at the IoT World Forum was the creation of the Industry Talent Consortium. The first members of the group include Pearson, the New York Academy of Science, MIT Sloan Executive Education, Xerox, CareerBuilder, Knod, GE, Udacity, Rockwell Automation and Davra Networks. Dunn expects more companies and educational groups to get involved.
But she added another place to begin is at the local level. “There is a tremendous need for upskilling and reskilling,” Dunn said. “It’s important for every company to think about their role in this.”
Those roles will rapidly evolve. Cisco officials said during the Oct. 14 keynote kicking off the IoT World Forum that 86% of manufacturing leaders and 91% of oil & gas leaders expect to invest in IoT-related technology in the coming year. That comes as IoT leaders continue to educate just about everyone as to the potential benefits and the immediate needs of the Internet of Things.
In creating industry-specific steering committees and study groups in advance of the forum, Lasser-Raab said there were five key areas of emphasis in that education process:
  • Showing the value of IoT
  • Creating a sense of urgency for adopters: to build a network now or be left behind
  • Address network security concerns
  • Strengthen the IoT ecosystem
  • Educate the industry about IoT.
It’s that last area that indicates the difference between last year’s event in Spain and the 2014 World Forum. “Last year we felt like pioneers; this year we have 250 public customers participating,” Lasser-Raab said. “We know that it’s happening now. The question now is, how do we take this from early adoption to very wide deployment? We’re seeing it happening in front of our eyes. How do we move it faster?”
– Bob Vavra is content manager, Plant Engineering, part of CFE Media, along with Control Engineering and Consulting-Specifying Engineer, bvavra@cfemedia.com.