Key indicators and inflection points for embedded engineers and IT

January 19, 2018 Curt Schwaderer

The Gartner Group’s now-famous “Hype Cycle” research methodology and resulting graph sets an important foundation for understanding historical events and emerging trends in the technology market space. The graph is predicated on walking a certain technology from its innovation trigger point through inflated expectations (i.e., market claims that the technology will be worth billions and solve every existing problem), to the trough of disillusionment (i.e., there are too many holes or issues with the technology to do anything useful), through the slope of enlightenment (i.e., hey, we can solve these issues and do a proof of concept that shows the technology is useful for this application!), and, finally, the plateau of productivity (i.e., the hype is over, it’s being used, and generating revenue in specific markets and applications).


Figure 1. Gartner’s Hype Cycle graph.

In Gartner’s “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018,” the first three trends listed are:

1.  Artificial intelligence (AI) foundation – Decision making, changing business models and ecosystems, and remaking customer experience depends on machine learning and cloud solutions that can make sense of data

2.  Intelligent applications and analytics – Gartner asserts that “over the next few years, every app, application, and service will incorporate AI at some level.” These applications are foundational components of technologies ranging from embedded systems to cloud services.

3.  Intelligent “things” – What many industries have coined “smart sensors” or “smart devices” are really connected embedded systems that provide information and execute new tasks based on cloud analysis.

Gartner goes on to say that this relationship isn’t going to simply look like a chain from embedded smart device to network to cloud and back. These systems will actually interconnect a “swarm of collaborative intelligent things” that will “work together, either independently or with human input.”

This sets the stage in 2018 to progress the Internet of Things (IoT) trend from a grouping of technical embedded device, network, and cloud capabilities to a mesh capable of paradigm-altering results.

The evolution is not just technology

Technology advancements are just one enabling factor. Today’s technology also requires domain expertise in embedded, networking, and enterprise/IT cloud. This is causing an interesting shift that is not just affecting embedded engineering organizations, but IT organizations and the staffing services companies that support them as well.

Vanick Digital illustrates how IT/enterprise organizations are changing to address the entrance of embedded and IoT in the enterprises they serve. Particularly interesting is the prominence of their API management initiatives, which illustrates the need for enterprises to manage APIs beyond the traditional IT realm. These APIs may address smart systems or devices that require an understanding of embedded systems, as well as the networks that connect them to the enterprise. This is a trend that will not only continue to evolve, but become commonplace for enterprise-oriented technology services companies.

NexTech Solutions is a staffing solutions company that specializes in the placement of contract and permanent employees in the technology and accounting/finance arenas. While they compete with national staffing firms, their smaller size gives them the ability to adjust to paradigm-shifting trends more quickly than national agencies.

IT staffing is no longer a laundry list of Microsoft enterprise software and databases/mainframes. While those still exist, what’s evident from NexTech’s staffing capabilities is the extension and support for a new breed of IT systems engineer that understands embedded and networking environments – both corporate and LAN/WAN. Positions like “Network Engineering and Administration,” “Project Management,” and “Software Development and Engineering” positions are on this list, all with a dimension of being able to understand, deploy, write software for, and manage projects relating to IoT and new enterprise systems that bring businesses closer to their customers that use smart devices, networks, and cloud applications.

Trends point toward 2018 being an inflection point

IoT systems are rolling out in many industries, and embedded technologists have been working with networking and cloud engineers to create version 1.0 of IoT systems. While technologies, systems, and processes have been fined tuned in the embedded space for many years now, IT companies and staffing organizations are showing that mainstream enterprise environments are starting their shift towards supporting the IoT and its new set of challenges. 

About the Author

Curt Schwaderer

Curt Schwaderer is a Technology Trends Specialist at OpenSystems Media. With over 25 years of development experience in the embedded industry, Curt has R&D experience in RTOS, WAN/LAN communications, and deep packet inspection software development for networked embedded systems from industrial control to smart devices, IoT, and set top boxes. For more information, contact Curt at cschwaderer@opensystemsmedia.com.

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