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Learning to Lead the Way

Dec. 13, 2018
Solutions for IoT devices and others of that ilk usually involve multiple technologies, potentially "trapping" engineers at different parts of a seemingly eternal learning curve at a given time.

One thing that was apparent from our Salary Survey results is that the latest technology can be quite a challenge, and learning about it is critical to being able to lead with products and services built on these new technologies. There’s a lot to learn even if one is trying to build a better mousetrap.

Take IoT Box Systems’ BoxSense eMitter Snap Traps that are IoT-enabled, for example (see figure). The simple spring-loaded trap is still the basis of this rodent inveiglement mechanism. In fact, all of the IoT support is related to what happens after the trap is sprung. This includes the smartphone app, cloud-based services, and wireless communication support.

BoxSense eMitter Snap Traps are IoT-enabled.

This isn’t to say that an IoT-enabled mousetrap will not be useful. Adding this type of intelligence around other devices is what’s often pushing the industrial IoT craze because the trap itself is only part of the puzzle. Responding to a fatal event and knowing which of a hundred electronically enabled devices is involved will be key to active rodent eradication.

Some may view IoT as old hat, given that the term is almost 20 years old. However, new technology and issues continue to crop up from wireless technology like LoRaWAN to the latest myths and improvements to TLS stacks.

Even the much-hawked machine learning (ML) is old artificial-intelligence (AI) technology wrought with lots of new hardware and software. AI/ML at the mousetrap edge requires a good understanding of the technology as well as the problem space. Tracking trends in mice migration is no more far-fetched than IoT devices that track air quality within a facility.

The challenge in learning about these new tools is having the time and tools to do so. Managers need to make sure these are available. Likewise, bringing in new talent is important, too, and an opportunity to provide cross-training. Co-op students and interns can learn about your company and it will help to hear about new technologies and techniques that are appearing in schools. Often hearing about new technologies and approaches is as important as learning the details.

STEM education in schools is vital, but for engineers in the field, learning never stops. Even keeping abreast of the latest tools like the latest C++ incarnation can take lots of time, not to mention those new technologies or techniques that are always cropping up be it RISC-V, hypervisors, or persistent memory.

Rarely is a solution built on a single technology these days. More often it’s a large combination, and just learning about the possibilities can help determine if a project will eventually be successful or not.

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