Many of the things we use every day are being labeled “smart” - as in smart phone, smart watch, smart car, smart thermostat.
More and more of these smart devices are being designed to communicate with each other. For example, your car may send a message to your coffee pot to start brewing as you pull into the driveway. Collectively, these smart devices have become known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
So, in a sign of the times, Florida International University (FIU) in Miami is getting ready to launch the country’s first IoT bachelor’s degree program, with eventual plans for a master’s degree.
“Smart devices are becoming prevalent in our daily lives. They have computation capability, they have communication capability, they can talk to each other through wireless and through the Internet,” says Kemal Akkaya, an associate professor at FIU and program director of the IoT degree. “There will be a lot of new technologies that will be depending on IoT devices. So there will be an increasing need for a workforce who will work for these companies doing IoT related technologies.”
The 120-hour degree program will address what Akkaya calls the four pillars of IoT – software, hardware, communication and cybersecurity.
The program is expected to attract students who want a STEM degree - STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math - but choose not to pursue engineering because of the heavy math requirements.
“Right now it is going to be offered as a hybrid program, which means some of the courses will be face-to-face and some of them will be online. But eventually our goal is to make it fully online,” Akkaya says.
He expects approximately 50 students when the program launches in Spring of 2018. “We might have students starting college as a freshman, but you might also have transfer students who completed an associate’s degree or two years from other colleges.”
Potential jobs for IoT degree-seekers:
- Hardware engineers working on microcontrollers and sensors.
- Software engineers programming smart devices.
- Wireless communication specialists focusing on how the devices communicate with each other.
- Cybersecurity professionals protecting the data and keeping consumers safe from hackers.
- Data analysts dissecting the information collected by smart devices.
“When you look at the different tools becoming available for these devices, it's really incredible. When you teach these to students you are basically teaching state of the art,” Akkaya says. “I mean, it's the technology of here and now, and there's no textbook on this. So we are building our own materials here.”
With advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, machines are becoming more human - or at least they’re seemingly starting to think like us. Akkaya says the goal is for machines to make decisions so humans don't have to.
Take the smart thermostat in your home, for example. It can collect information about your temperature settings, “learn” your behavior, and eventually start adjusting the temperature settings for you.
“You can imagine lots of different applications where this will happen. So basically the machines are now in control of your life because they can learn, they can communicate with you and they can take actions,” Akkaya says. “But of course, there are disadvantages, like you're increasing the venues for attackers to attack through these devices. Obviously there are such risks, but I think it's going to be fun to have those devices in our daily lives making most of our decisions.”