When companies invest in IoT, one of the first questions that come up is who are the key people you need to have on an IoT project?

Here are the seven players you need to build your Internet of Things dream team in 2018.

1. Solutions Architect

A seasoned Solutions Architect is a game changer. He or she is the lead engineer who is going to plan out the system, coordinate efforts across the tech stack, and get their hands dirty building stuff out as needed. Typically, the design requirements will cover:

  • Device Software
  • Communication Networks
  • Cloud Platform & Infrastructure
  • Application Development
  • Analytics
  • Security, Sourcing, and Scale

Solution architects design the building. They decide how the roof connects to the walls, and how the structure keeps itself from falling. They don’t necessarily have to hammer all the nails or pour the concrete. Hence, a Solutions Architect with a solid understanding of every part of the system with deep knowledge of at least a couple parts is required.

Moreover, architects are wizards at transforming the business case into tangible technical use cases. Hence, they eat, sleep and breathe the four capabilities of smart connected products (monitor, control, optimize, and automate) and know how to transform them into actionable value.

Beyond that, it is imperative for the architect to identify talent gaps in the team. Knowing this they can hire new talent, contract out or rescope the solution so they can deliver on the project. In this regard, they are the technical leader which requires delegation, strong communication skills, project management, and vision on how to carry a project forward without getting stuck in the weeds.

Every great IoT project starts with a solid design. Your Architect is the leader who delivers on this objective.

2. Software Engineer

Without your talented Software Engineers, your dream team is just a dream.

The software is an essential piece of the IoT. Data models, rules engines, analytics, connectivity protocols, server infrastructure, and app development all come to life with software development. In this space, full stack development, with an eye for exchanging data between different systems, is the key.

When looking for the right Software Engineer for your team, there are many skills to keep an eye out for:

  • Experience in common web languages such as (JavaScript, Java, Python)
  • Solid organization schemas to manage incoming data
  • Knowledge of building scalable cloud infrastructures
  • Experience integrating systems via RESTful APIs, Web Sockets and other web-based communication protocols
  • Automated testing expertise
  • Understanding of software lifecycle tools such as GIT, NPM, Gradle, etc.

The Software Engineer works to make your physical product, a smart, connected product. By connecting to the cloud, businesses can gather valuable data and display that data in dashboards through desktop and mobile applications.

In this space, the Software Engineer is going to spend a ton of time building out the digital model that defines the properties, events, and services associated with IoT use cases. This process turns all the data streaming from the products into actionable analytics as well as information that is ready to be consumed on end-user devices.

Based on the size of the project, you may have two or three engineers for initial proof of concepts and pilots, and as you scale (e.g. use cases, product lines) you will bring on more engineers to get the job done.

Without Software Engineers, the project will never get off the runway.

3. Data Scientist

IoT is all about leveraging value from data. It could be something as simple as knowing the status of a product and sending software updates to improve it, or more advanced features such as automating self-driving cars to react to object detection.

Behind this scene is the data guru who sets up the logic, rules, and algorithms to make this happen.

Your Data Scientist’s experience should be as follows:

  • Ability to analyze, extract, normalize, and organize relevant data
  • Deep knowledge of descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive data analytics
  • Industry experience in data science and analysis
  • Bonus if they have experience developing Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) models

One thing to keep in mind is Data Scientists are going to bring the most value to IoT apps that focus on optimize and automate use cases. If you’re simply connecting a product up and monitoring its behaviors or sending remote commands, there’s less of a need for a Data Scientist. This is something to keep in mind as you plan out on your IoT project.

Data Scientists are not a common talent pool these days (it’s growing!). But there are related fields that often step into this role such as statistics, economics, research science, software engineering, and business intelligence.

If you want to have a powerful and high yielding business model, hire a top Data Engineer to dig out the value.

4. Embedded Developer

The Embedded Developer builds agents and other software that operate on the devices themselves. These edge software systems collect the data and get it ready for transport and in many cases do local processing such as analytics.

The Embedded Developer has these skill sets:

  • Experience developing agents with SDKs for different programming languages (Java, C, .NET, Lua, etc.)
  • Strong understanding of network protocols, policies and best practices
  • A good sense of how to optimize data flow by thinking about time, quantity, and quality of data
  • A strong understanding of the trade-offs between local and cloud level processing and how it can optimize data traffic

Now in some cases, the Embedded Developer may not be required if you are connecting your IoT application to existing software infrastructure such as your manufacturing execution system (MES) on the manufacturing floor.

So keep this in mind: Embedded Developers are only necessary if you have to make the software bridge between the sensors on the product and the cloud platform that collects the data for your IoT application.

5. IT Administrator

Finding a seasoned IT Administrator is important to ensure the reliability and safety of your business.

Maintaining the company’s IT network, servers, and security systems are nothing to take lightly. Companies who are building IoT teams from existing employees will find that the IT Admin plays a very large role.

Here is what you should look for when recruiting an IT Administrator:

  • Ability to maintain infrastructure security and integrity
  • Experience keeping systems scalable and performant with a specific focus on the added challenge of high scale connectivity.
  • Knowledge to avoid system/network outages
  • Understanding of security challenges in IoT environments

The IoT landscape is starting to mature, so we have limited operational best practices. This grants a large opportunity for IT Administrators to develop management processes from the bottom up.

One thing to keep in mind is that the IT Administrator can play a role in both building and operating the IoT Application. On the build side, they are responsible for installation, setting up infrastructure (servers, data storage), permissions and control as well as security. Whereas on the operating side, they will focus on granting access to the platform, maintaining software updates, scaling the solution and any type of service that keeps the system optimized.

Even though the world of IoT is young, your IT Administrator should be a veteran of the game.

6. UI/UX Designer

IoT devices should be simple, beautiful and enjoyable to use. You can have the most effective product on the market, but if it’s difficult to interact with, it will fail. This is where your UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience) Designer comes into play.

The UI/UX Designer plays a significant role in the product development lifecycle. They are often part of early conversations when the use cases are defined and the product experience is envisioned. During the latter stages of development, they continue to bring value to the team by designing interfaces that bring a product to life.

Here are some skills that your UI/UX Designer should have:

  • Proficiency in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Experienced in Sketch
  • Comfortable with web design and development
  • Good grasp of a product development process
  • Experience designing mobile, tablet and desktop applications.

The UI/UX Designer is going to be a game changer if you are working in the consumer space. This means you need mobile developers who can design cross-platform, make simple and elegant interaction experiences, and create helpful design requirements that get passed off to the software team.

On the industrial side of the house, consumer-like experiences are becoming more common since that is what we are all getting used to and expect. So, don’t count the need to have some killer design treatments on your manufacturing app or smart city dashboard. This could be the difference maker in your value prop while also supporting customer lifetime value.

In some cases, companies contract out for this talent since UX research, visual design, and UI best practices are a niche space that many companies don’t have. If you do decide to hire a UI/UX Designer, you will reap the rewards as they often have creative talent in other areas that will benefit your brand and customer experience.

In today’s world design and engineering go hand in hand, so don’t miss out on this essential business requirement.

7. Mechatronics Engineers

If you are building new smart, connected products, Mechatronic Engineers are a must. The connected devices of the future require expertise in electrical and mechanical engineering.

Here are skills you should keep in mind when recruiting a Mechatronics Engineer:

  • Experience developing embedded systems and sensors
  • Substantial working experience with embedded software development
  • Experience designing and modifying printed circuit board (PCB) layouts
  • Ability to work directly with part suppliers on design for manufacturability (DFM) and tool/part
  • Knowledge of evergreen design strategy

In addition to these valuable skills, Mechatronics Engineers should know about wireless networks, computer and communication networks, and different programming languages.

Side note, with the expansion of pre-built solutions or flexible hardware out there, there is less of a need to design your own. So if you want to skip some costs, you can leverage these pre-built systems and slap them onto your product.

That said, if you want a highly customized solution at the hardware level, be it to save money, gather different data, or meet special requirements like being waterproof or solar powered, you’ll need someone who can design from the ground up.

Mechanical and Electrical Engineers are pivoting to IoT as new product development includes both software and hardware features.

To Sum it All Up

Bringing disparate players together to build an end-to-end solution is the name of the game. There is a ton of talent out there. Your goal should be to attract them to your team by sharing the explosive growth of IoT, the opportunity to work in a cutting-edge field, and showing how this is a great place to challenge yourself and build new skills.

And as you dive into this space, keep these core players in mind when building your 2018 IoT dream team.

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