Get ready for the next industrial revolution. Change is inevitable. Get over it! And in today’s world, it will happen quickly. The drivers for it are not only structural, political, scientific and economic, but also cultural and social. They are manifested through such things as products and services, platforms and processes, as well as how people, governments and organizations are willing to accept and work with them. On the horizon is a phenomenon that is already changing the way we live. Billions of machine–to-machine (M2M) connections are actively connecting devices and applications that people use everyday such as Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Nest, or Apple’s HomeKit. On the Smart City scene are digital programs ranging from water and air quality sensors to sensor-enabled trash collection, using data to improve efficiency, reduce costs and make better use of our limited resources. The Internet of Things (IoT), which includes M2M connections and sensor-enabled environmental data generators, will probably be one of the most revolutionary impacts on our communities and on our lives since the broad-scale adoption of the Internet. While over 15 billion devices are already connected with one another today including computers with mobile devices, medical and environmental sensors, and industrial and commercial machines, 85% of these devices and other things are still unconnected. It is expected that 50 billion devices and applications will be connected by 2020. The growing adoption of IoT is driving businesses of all makes and sizes to bring about changes in the way they do business, service customers, attract and retain talented workforce and deal with supply chains.
According to Gartner, Inc., the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, IoT is also one of the most active areas for innovation. Gartner analysts say that IoT has potential as a breakthrough technology, but its complexities make it a high-risk endeavor. Nevertheless, according to Cisco, the IoT market will be worth $19 trillion, including the private and public sectors by 2024. Soon, entire companies will dedicate their focus on the IoT marketplace. For instance, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Samsung said that by 2020, every product the company makes will be “smart” devices.
In Waterloo Region, we have a rich history of being successful and entrepreneurial makers which our Mennonite and Germanic heritage can attest. Fast forward to the 21st century we too are entering the next industrial revolution…the Internet of Things. There are many local players making an impact in the IoT space. Technology developed by companies like IMS, Miovision, Aeryon Labs, Clearpath Robotics alongside startups like Alert Labs, StressWell IQ, Konectera, Medella Health to name but a few. We can reap the economic benefits of bringing to Waterloo Region investment dollars and creating an environment of success and support by local stakeholders and organizations like the Accelerator Centre and Communitech. Most importantly, we should attract top talent from all corners of the globe to live, innovate and work here.
Our academic institutions are continuing to invest in research, infrastructure and training the 21st century knowledge worker. Before IoT became the buzzword of the day, our schools had the expertise to educate at the nexus of hardware and software. Conestoga College has woven electronic & mechanical systems programming into their curriculum, and is well positioned with software development, sensors, prototyping and additive manufacturing labs to meet the demands of the marketplace. Truly one of the leading outfitted colleges in the nation and true to their roots, they’ve been working with industry to pull in projects that focus on high performance ICT enabled manufacturing. University of Waterloo is building a $70m facility, Engineering 7, with the mission of “educating the engineer of the future”. They’re providing students cutting-edge research labs including those in emerging and disruptive technologies; garages for student design projects and specialized spaces such as machine shops, an electronic components shop, and the RoboHub for aerial vehicles and robotics testing. Business and computer science acumen developed at Wilfird Laurier University round out this robust technology ecosystem.
By combining our solid roots in manufacturing and engineering with existing strengths in ICT, a qualified workforce and specialized IoT relevant disciplines, we may well have the ingredients for success. Our forefathers from another industrial era of innovation would be proud.
This article first appeared in MyLivableCity (www.mylivablecity.com).