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Internet of Things

Researchers Say It's Time to Build an IoT Engineering Discipline

internet of things

Three researchers argue in a recent article in the IEEE magazine that it's time to create an engineering discipline in more colleges and universities as well as vocational schools focused on the Internet of Things (IoT) and cyber-physical systems (CPS). According to engineering faculty members Joanna DeFranco and Mohamad Kassab from Penn State University and Jeffrey Voas, a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) computer scientist and IEEE fellow, new engineering disciplines tend to "follow the newest technologies," and these two fit that bill.

Voas and another expert, Phillip Laplante, a Penn State professor of software and systems engineering, have identified five core topics that would describe a "Network of Things." Those include, in some combination:

  • Sensors, for measuring physical properties;
  • Aggregators, software that works with data from a sensor;
  • A communication channel, such as wired or wireless;
  • An "eUtility," software or hardware that executes processes; and
  • A decision trigger that generates a result, such as an actuator.

Voas and Laplante also compiled 18 knowledge areas already existing in computer science studies "that correspond well with understanding IoT," including algorithms and complexity, graphics and visualization, human-computer interaction and social issues and professional practice.

The article offers a list of IoT/CPS course examples as well. For example, classes might focus on designing embedded and CPS systems with real-time behaviors; CPS architecture and vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks; or the integration of robotics, sensors and actuators into a cloud computing environment.

IoT and CPS-related programs aren't unheard of. The authors reported that a review of IoT/CPS programs at 50 top universities found that 28 have relevant courses, most at the graduate level.

The article proposes that development of curricula for IoT and CPS begin with electives. But that won't be a "long-term solution," the authors noted. An option for growing beyond one-off courses would be to offer a certificate program that could "eventually grow" into full degrees. Another approach would be to integrate the concepts of IoT and CPS into existing courses through the creation of learning modules that highlight specific concepts. Virginia Tech, for instance, has introduced into several existing courses CPS security-focused modules that include specific learning objectives and exercises to provide hands-on experiences.

The article is openly available on the IEEE website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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