Joseph Micallef

Chief Operations Officer at BEAT

Ing. Joseph Micallef is Chief Operations Officer and Partner at BEAT, a Maltese niche-based consulting firm specialising in the provision of project management, strategic advice and business transformation solutions.

IoT And The Future Of Jobs

Friday 14th December 2018

Along with Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) technology is designed to increase automation, and it is predicted that these two advancements will have a central role to play in the near and distant future. The rise of automation through AI means that machines are already able to do many jobs previously done by humans, particularly in manufacturing. Further developments mean that many jobs are at risk across various sectors, with one study suggesting that up to 800 million workers will lose their jobs to automation by 2030.

However, while many job roles may become obsolete, this does not necessarily mean that there will be 800 million of us out of work. Although retraining may be required for a lot of people, new technology means new opportunities, and therefore, new jobs.  After all, the point of automation is not to destroy the global economy, but to enhance it. As with all economic revolutions, this means a lot of change along the way.

IoT as an economic revolution

The Internet of Things represents another potential economic revolution, following in the footsteps of previous movements. While bringing about great periods of change, particularly with regards to job roles, these previous revolutions ultimately increased economic productivity, simultaneously pushing forward standards of living as well. The IoT economic revolution is predicted to be no different, potentially increasing average income in the USA, for example, between 20-30 per cent by 2030.

As with the industrial and computer/communication revolutions in the past, IoT is designed to increase productivity. Through connected technology and increased data, automated technology will be far more efficient, meaning less waste (both in terms of materials and workers’ time) and better results.

Greater automation of previously human-intensive work means that, in theory, workers are freed up to invest time elsewhere, creating better productivity and therefore further opportunities.  IoT will potentially lead to huge developments across numerous industries, affecting many job roles. However, If this economic revolution follows in the footsteps of previous periods of transformation, then rather than being a cause for concern, the IoT could affect job prospects in a very beneficial way for those willing to adapt and embrace new opportunities.

Changing the very nature of jobs

Existing estimates suggest that 45 per cent of work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology. In addition, it is also no longer the case that only routine activities are susceptible to automation. The jobs that are less likely to be automated are the ones relying on specific human attributes that are not easy to replace by machines, such as creativity, intuitiveness, and empathy. Have you ever considered how often you use these attributes in your own job?

IoT also makes it possible for workers to be monitored to prevent injury from falls, overexertion, heavy machinery and other risks. Companies also increasingly use IoT to gather data about their employees’ activities in the workplace. That data can help companies adjust policies and optimise their work spaces. At the same time, employers will also have to properly defend their employees’ privacy and secure their networks against hackers.  Finally, C-level executives will have to master new management areas, specifically with an ability to find the best, fastest, and most efficient ways to put the new technology to use in their companies.

What kind of jobs will be driving the IoT boom?

Thanks to IoT, there will be an explosion of data to be interpreted. This will inevitably mean an increased need for data scientists to formulate the algorithms needed to synthesise this data. Data analysts will, in turn, analyse data on an on-going basis to help businesses make informed decisions. Business analysts will become increasingly important, as they understand what it is that the business needs to get from datasets, and their own ability to interrogate data will become part and parcel of their role like never before.

Much of the IoT information will be stored in the cloud, so experts in providing cloud-based solutions will need to create storage big enough to host this volume of data, as well as enabling accessibility to facilitate a two-way process so that the provider of the data (you or me) is also able to consume the data. Hence, we will see an increase in SAN and server consultants.

Security professionals will be needed to guard against breaches in data protection, and to offer us some peace of mind that our data is not being accessed by those we would prefer not to access it. Back-end developers will be required, with skills in languages like NoSQL and, as we accumulate greater amounts of unstructured data in the form of sensory information, in developing non-relational databases. Meanwhile, mobile app developers will have the opportunity to create apps that can harness data to provide live, up-to-date information that can inform our daily decision making.

Drones are also set to be central to IoT, replacing sensors that would have been at rest on buildings, bridges or other infrastructure, and offering flexibility in information gathering due to their mobility. They will require infrastructure to host data – usually in the cloud – which in turn will generate more work for the aforementioned storage and server consultants.

Not only in IT

However, the array of jobs that will have direct connections to IoT does not stop at IT. Take traffic management as one of the most practical examples of how IoT is going to assist us all in our daily lives. In a few short years, you will most likely have an app on your phone that, each morning, will suggest the best way for you to commute to work. That app will be developed by a mobile developer with skills in programming languages. However, the sensors will most likely be attached to the vehicles and buildings by engineers, who will have to include the addition of sensors as part of the construction process. Planners will utilise the data provided to produce traffic management plans. Savvy business owners will use the data to increase their sales by targeting customers with special offers as they cycle to work.

Another example of where IoT will combine IT with business change is in marketing. The ability to analyse data and send marketing content to consumers at the optimum time will be business critical. For example, your trusted fridge will have a sensor that knows when you have run out of milk. This information will be sent to the cloud, and will be available for mass consumption by big business. So, as you’re walking past your local supermarket, minding your own business you will get an alert on your phone telling you that there is a special offer on milk. IoT will combine information like never before to revolutionise the way that we consume goods and services.

The insurance industry is also set to be transformed, as no longer will premiums be calculated on demographic, but rather on the exact data that individual drivers have generated. For example, a sensor will be fitted to your car to document your driving patterns. Smooth take-offs, not exceeding speed limits and no sudden impacts will potentially see your premium come down, while driving as if you’re in Formula 1 will, in all likelihood, not go in your favour.

IoT presents the opportunity for all of us to no longer work off assumptions, but to work off what the data is telling us, which will make decision making in our daily lives that bit easier. We will continue to see an expanding range of skills within IT and within the broader economy, which will be critical to making this futuristic paradigm a practical reality over the next 10 to 20 years.