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So You Want to Be an IoT Architect?

By   /  April 4, 2017  /  No Comments

Micheline Casey, Data Analytics and Strategy Consultant, says in the DATAVERSITY® CDO Webinar: 2017 Trends in Data Strategy that: “The Internet of Things (IoT) will be hot. It is a game changer.” Evidence from IDC Research and Forbes magazine agrees with this statement. IDC predicts that the “worldwide Internet of Things Ecosystem and Trends market continues to see broad interest and momentum, with an expected market size of $1.5 trillion in 2020.” Mike Krell, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy and writer at Forbes acknowledges that 2017 will be another year of growth for IoT. At the forefront of this new Internet wave into the future, stands the IoT Architect.

The IoT Architect leads the charge, using the massive amount of data collected by all sorts of gadgets onto the Internet to solve business problems. While the business world considers the IoT Architect in its infancy, Gartner suggests that an IoT Architect could commend a salary of $160,000 per year.

What Does an IoT Architect Do?

To understand what an IoT Architect does it first to help understand the IoT Concept. Keith D. Foote describes the Internet of Things as consisting of:

“Any device with an on/off switch connected to the Internet. This includes almost anything you can think of, ranging from cellphones to building maintenance to the jet engine of an airplane.”

Given the massive number of gadgets sending data across the networks through the Internet and into the Cloud, someone needs to make sense of this information and use it to benefit the business.  The IoT Architect leads the way through “the vision, strategy, architecture and shepherding of IoT solutions from inception to deployment.”

For the IoT Architect, this job description is a tall order. Andrew Sohn, in his blog on how new IoT data is driving your day-to-day, cites that IoT and other sources will generate about 44 Trillion gigabytes annually. Some of this data needs to be dealt with in real time. Not only will the IoT Architect need to rein in this information, people lives will depend on them. For example, say a person planning a barbecue, needs to know whether to get a new propane tank before the event. By using GasWatch, the amount of propane in the tank can be safely monitored by the party host, predicting when a replacement propane tank, for the barbecue, would be needed. The IoT Architect would provide the means for the consumer to do this successfully.

Becoming an IoT Architect requires several strategies:

  1. Learn good Internet of Things Data Management practices
  2. Develop communication and leadership skills.
  3. Become an expert in differing technologies.

Learn Good IoT Data Management Practices

An IoT Architect needs to engage in continuous learning about IoT businesses and its Data Governance. Not only is this training necessary to gain new businesses but also to prevent unintended consequences. Kelle O’Neal, in the CDO Webinar: 2017 Trends in Data Strategy, states that the requirements of understanding data about the Internet of Things is becoming much more complex and the market is responding to that. This means understanding Data Quality, Data Governance, and Metadata standards.

IoT security provides a good example why keeping up with Data Governance and the IoT is important. PC Magazine reports that millions of insecure Internet of Things devices became vulnerable to the Mirai Botnet. This attack “knocked out Etsy, GitHub, Netflix, Shopify, SoundCloud, Spotify, Twitter, and a ton of other major websites.” Better knowledge about Data Governance could have prevented such negative consequences with the Internet of Things.

Keeping up to date on the latest IoT Data Management Practices means joining an association and sharing knowledge with other IoT Architects. Interacting with other Data professionals, through DAMA and the trade association, the Internet of Things Consortium (IoTC). A membership to these organizations will provide access to conferences, such as Enterprise Data World, networking opportunities and industry resources to understand the newest Data Governance and IOT trends, in addition to certification. These associations are good ways to find out information about IoT Architect job opportunities. Enrolling in DAMA and the IoTC would provide knowledge for good value.

Develop Communication and Leadership Skills

A IoT Architect cannot rely on just a deep understanding in IoT Data Governance and great programming skills. They must have great communication and leadership skills, socialize well with a variety of people. As Gartner reports, IoT Architects:

“Help the organization solve various business problems by building discrete IoT solutions. This requires a certain skill set including: collaborating with business leaders to determine their top business problems…”

In addition, the IoT Architect sets and communicates the overall “IoT vision, message — and most importantly — architecture.” To do this, an IoT Architect must interact with a broad audience.

By joining and actively participating in a professional organization an IoT Architect can gain these leadership and communication skills. Various organizations provide mentors, who will generously donate their time, and opportunities for people to practice presenting in front of a knowledgeable and general audience. Participants can learn everything from persuading an audience to motivating and organizing members through a series of manuals or by rehearsing speeches. Many companies and organizations have clubs in locations across the world. In addition, towards assisting the IoT Architect with presentations, such organizations provide a venue to connect with other business and technical peers who interact with the IoT Architect’s world. Whether it is through professional communities or other opportunities, the IoT Architect must keep his or her communication and leadership skills fresh.

Become an Expert in Technologies

Gartner recommends that IoT Architects have a B.S. in Computer Science/Engineering or Technology as a baseline. As Reich states, IoT Architecture may take mechanical and electrical engineering, in addition to Web API programming, depending on what IoT product the business supports or sells.  Some IoT Architects may be programming experts, use open source Data Management solutions like Hadoop, or be versatile in different programming languages like Java, Ruby on Rails, Python, CSS, HTML5 or SQL. Others may be hardware experts. While having specific technical expertise can be helpful, an IoT Architect must know what technologies to apply in solving an IoT business problem, its strengths and weaknesses, and how to apply the technology.

To become an IoT Architect requires getting one’s hands dirty with the data by developing, debugging applications and/or devices, and releasing these products to customers. This also means working with business requirements, sometimes vague ones, to make IoT useful. Consider using spare time to work with prototyping tools, such as “Electric Imp, Tessel, Spark…or some of the TI launchpad or the Cypress PSoC BLE Pioneer kit.” Learn technologies that make it easier to track streaming data from the IoT, like Tableau 10. But most of all, push to tackle the biggest, messiest, most complex and ambiguous problems that can be done. Learn how to govern Big Data. That will prepare the IoT Architect to engage successfully in the business world.

The IoT Architect stands at the forefront of a new Internet Wave, where gadgets of all shapes and sizes feed Data into the Internet. To positions oneself as an IoT Architect, a person needs to learn good Data Practices, build communication and leadership skills, and develop technical expertise. The path is certainly demanding, but the resulting energy and momentum of the IoT Architect’s role would lead to an interesting and ever growing career path.


Photo Credit: archimede/Shutterstock.com

About the author

Michelle Knight enjoys putting her information specialist background to use by writing technical articles on enhancing Data Quality, lending to useful information. Michelle has written articles on W3C validator for SiteProNews, SEO competitive analysis for the SLA (Special Libraries Association), Search Engine alternatives to Google, for the Business Information Alert, and Introductions on the Semantic Web, HTML 5, and Agile, Seabourne INC LLC, through AboutUs.com. She has worked as a software tester, a researcher, and a librarian. She has over five years of experience, contracting as a quality assurance engineer at a variety of organizations including Intel, Cigna, and Umpqua Bank. During that time Michelle used HTML, XML, and SQL to verify software behavior through databases Michelle graduated, from Simmons College, with a Masters in Library and Information with an Outstanding Information Science Student Award from the ASIST (The American Society for Information Science and Technology) and has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Smith College. Michelle has a talent for digging into data, a natural eye for detail, and an abounding curiosity about finding and using data effectively.

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