Computer Engineers Can't Fix IOT's Primary Problem


With good reason, many Internet of Things lovers praise computer engineers for the development of the fantastic, future-changing tech. Most smart IOT devices wouldn’t exist without the handy mobile devices we use today, let alone the software developed to run them. However, now that the IOT is live and smart things are being used in the wild, computer engineers’ job is largely done; they can’t make it any easier or more efficient to apply their tech. What the IOT needs now is civil engineers.

Arguably, civil engineering was the first type of engineering to develop — long before modern engineers, like electrical and computer engineers, earned such a significance in society. Civilization is founded on basic infrastructures designed and built by civil engineers: roads, bridges, walls, water systems, and buildings. Without these, it’s unlikely that there would be an IOT, let alone necessities like cities, agriculture, and medicine. Now, civil engineers must assume responsibility for the advancement of the IOT and civilization as a whole by integrating the technology into those exact fundamental systems they create and maintain — meaning, they must begin building a smart infrastructure.

What Smart Infrastructure Means
As yet, the IOT network is young and small, but it has the potential to improve countless lives through data collection, machine learning, and autonomous activity. With the establishment of smart cities, everyone will have access to high-quality service everywhere, from stoplights to restaurants. The image of the smart city is one that has existed in science fiction for more than a century: sparklingly sustainable buildings, efficient, traffic-free roads, well-organized waste removal and plenty of cultural sites to spare. This utopian image is finally becoming a reality thanks to the smart infrastructure innovations of civil engineers around the globe.

Smart infrastructure, construction, and building systems attempt to integrate technology with physical objects and structures. The goal for most smart-focused civil engineers is to create a massive network — first municipally, then globally — of interconnected devices. While engineers developing the IOT might create household items embedded with sensors, electronics, software, and connective tech, civil engineers are working with bigger and less easily manipulated objects, like bridges and stoplights, pipes and sewers, gas and electricity lines, and more.

Ideally, every smart device in the world, from a wearable fitness tracker to a skyscraper’s temperature control, could be on the same network, giving people finer control over their environments while reducing the amount of time and resources devoted to actively controlling them. If sensors can detect when critical structures need repairs, cities can save billions of dollars in maintenance costs. If software embedded in traffic lights can learn when traffic changes and adapt with optimized patterns, cities can save billions of dollars more — and years’ worth of time that would otherwise be spent in gridlock. In the long-term, smart technologies will only enhance civilization, but civil engineers are necessary to integrate the tech, and not all are willing or able to do so.

Obstacles to Smart Infrastructure
Most everyone interested in the IOT knows that this move toward digital tech is not unique to civil engineering. In fact, nearly every industry is experiencing a similar digital revolution — so much so that some have begun calling our era Industrial Revolution 4.0. On one hand, this is outstanding news. With every industrial revolution of the past, humankind has attained more efficiency, better health, and economic growth. However, to ensure the revolution is successful for the IOT, we need experienced and educated civil engineers.

Fortunately, that shouldn’t be difficult to achieve. Many modern civil engineering programs are already being training young engineers in smart infrastructure strategies. Experienced civil engineers can return to school for online engineering degrees that will familiarize them with concepts and tech integral to smart cities. With all professionals working toward a broad IOT network, the future looks smart.

Still, there are other issues preventing the establishment ideal smart city — and neither computer nor civil engineers can resolve them. Cost is perhaps most cities’ primary concern: The latest tech is rarely cheap, and many American cities are already struggling to provide citizens with the bare minimum, like clean water and reliable transportation. The public also needs to fight for the implementation of smart infrastructure, for the right technology can solve even those fundamental problems.

Computer engineers imagined the IOT, civil engineers will build it big — but everyone is ultimately responsible for helping the smart network flourish.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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