Waterford Institute of Technology has kicked off the world’s first internet of things degree designed specifically for computer science students. Silicon Republic spoke to course leader Eamonn de Leaster.
The first thing to note about the degree is that it embodies a fusion of skills previously seen as separate, in particular programming and the world of analogue electronics. Waterford Institute of Technology is home to the prestigious TSSG which has spun-out successful tech companies including Feed Henry which was acquired by Red Hat last year for €63.5m.
The programme will explore the software and devices that are transforming the way we live, work and interact. Graduates will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to become a new type of Software Professional.
They will possess an in-depth understanding of how connected devices can interoperate with mobile and cloud applications to deliver new categories of product and services.
According to de Leaster a major change is underway and students with a precise understanding of software, hardware and communications will have the edge.
“We’re big fans of Moore’s Law here and the doubling of the density of transistors every two years, but we’ve also seen a collapse in the price of chips and at the same time an incredible increase in the power of computer equipment and non-traditional equipment proliferating in a whole range of industries like home automation and agriculture.”
“When you think of how internet of things is transforming whole industries like agriculture with low-cost devices and sensors generating data from fields and milking parlours and we are seeing vast amounts of data being generated.
“That data is revolutionising lots of other industries that have learned how to do analytics and we think it is going to be very important to lots of industries being touched by this.”
De Leaster said that originally computer science degrees had combined hardware and software modules but this trend died off in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Our particular internet of things programme is dominated by software but includes carefully selected slices of electronics. About a third of the course is hardware-oriented, particularly around digital and analogue aspects of controls, sensor design and the general context of which communications takes place in the physical layer.”
Looking ahead to the kind of careers graduates of the first degree in internet of things can enjoy, de Leaster believes it could be a mixed bag.
“All the multinationals would have internet of things strategies and we see this demand from Intel, Cisco, IBM and Tyco.
“Some of the students may go on to become entrepreneurs, some will be builders, some will be researchers and others will have the skills they need to take conventional roles in software if they so choose.
“We are looking at giving them a fairly comprehensive skill set that would leave them well-positioned for the future.”