Ask any R&D engineer these days if they are working on devices with wireless connectivity and they will likely say yes. Ask them again if they consider themselves Internet of Things (IoT) engineers and it’s a safe bet the answer will be no.
It’s easy to understand the disconnect. R&D engineers come out of college and enter the workplace ready to design widgets of all shapes, sizes and functionality. Until more recently, those widgets likely didn’t have to communicate wirelessly with other things and that was just fine, because for most, IoT wasn’t on the educational menu. In fact, it’s only recently that universities have begun incorporating IoT concepts and design practices into their curriculum.
Here’s where things get interesting. Everything is becoming wirelessly connected these days. By 2020 alone, there will be an estimated 50 billion connected devices around the world. That means one thing: It’s no longer a matter of if R&D engineers will have to work on IoT devices, but when.
What happens when these engineers, who have previously developed countless widgets, none of which ever had to communicate wirelessly with other things, finds themselves designing a widget and it has a radio. It needs to send and receive information and must work in an environment with lots of other widgets sending and receiving information at the same time, and potentially interfering with its communication. What once was a relatively straightforward design project, suddenly becomes a complicated mess.
So, while IoT may seem to some engineers like nothing more than an overhyped buzzword, it will soon be impacting every aspect of their design work—if it doesn’t already. And let’s be clear. There is a big difference between modifying a widget to communicate wirelessly and designing an IoT device to succeed in the real world.
Creating an IoT device to stand the test of time and onslaught from competing products is quite tricky. To make devices “smart,” advanced technologies must be utilized and that introduces new design and test challenges. The device may have to work unattended for long periods of time and in harsh environments, making a long battery life and reliability absolutely essential. It may have to work in networks with lots of other devices and sources of interference, necessitating extensive co-existence testing. It must comply with industry standards and regulations. And, it must be secure. How the device will be utilized in the real-world also has to be considered, so it’s design can be properly optimized.
Some of these concerns are commonplace for today’s R&D engineers, but many are not. Succeeding in this environment will require engineers to look beyond their job titles and come face to face with what it really means to design for the IoT.
For some, learning new IoT design skills will be in order. For others, it will simply be a matter of finetuning their existing skillset. Either way, make no mistake, designing IoT devices is a difficult task. It would be a serious misstep for any engineer to think otherwise and to assume that because they don’t consider themselves IoT engineers, they don’t have to deal with IoT issues. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Engineers will have to work hard to create designs to succeed in the IoT and that hard work starts with building a strong IoT skillset that’s supported by the right tools.
For more information on the designing for the IoT and understanding the challenges you face, go to www.keysight.com/find/iot and www.keysight.com/find/missioncriticaliot. And to help you down the right path to improving your IoT design skills, check out these free webcasts: Maximizing IoT Device Battery Life, Overcoming IoT Device Wireless Design and Test Challenges, and Analyzing IoT Device Power Integrity. iotinternetofthings iottest endtoendtesting iotdevice batterylife devicesecurity