Guest Column | July 25, 2014

Is Your Workforce Ready For The Internet Of Everything?

The Internet Of Everything

By Sudarshan Krishnamurthi, Product Management — Cisco Services at Cisco Systems

Futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate — about 1,000 times greater than the 20th century. In just the first two decades of the 21st century, the pace of this progress has created opportunities as well as challenges for businesses and governments around the world. A primary driver of these changes is the Internet of Everything (IoE).

IoE brings things, data, processes, and people together into a vast web of connectivity via IP-enabled devices ranging from tablets and smartphones to weather monitoring systems, smart parking meters, and more. Cisco predicts that there will be 25 billion devices connected by next year and 50 billion by 2020. Every industry and company will have new opportunities to create smarter products and services, create better customer experiences and transform the concept of work-life integration. Finance, manufacturing, retail, and energy in particular will benefit from this level of connectivity. However, these benefits are not automatic. Organizations must prepare IT staff with the new skills that IoE calls for.

New Skills Required By The IoE

The Internet of Everything will require more of the network than ever before, demanding greater intelligence and efficiency. The network will 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 in IoE. 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.

In a similar vein, the volume, variety, and velocity of data will increase as the number of connected devices increases. The role of the data scientist will therefore be crucial in terms of converting this data into usable information. Manufacturing is just one area that stands to gain dramatically from improvements made from the data gathered during the manufacturing process. Ultimately, IoE is about connecting people, process, data, and things; ensuring that the connections are secure; and making the network programmable so that information gathered from data can be more intelligently applied to devices rather than having to configure and manage them manually.

IoE is still a largely unknown quantity at present. However, it is clear that it will bring immense challenges for the workforce, not only in terms of security and data handling issues but also in terms of being adequately trained to take advantage of it. 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. And lastly, it will be vital for the current generation of students coming out of colleges and universities to have the networking skills that will enable them to address this convergence of operational technologies and IT.

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