Co-founder and CEO of Favoriot Sdn Bhd, Dr. Mazlan is currently one of Global Vision Board Member. Before Favoriot, he spent 2.5 years as CEO of REDtone IOT and 8 years in MIMOS Berhad as Senior Director Wireless Communications Cluster. He also spent 13 years in CELCOM (mobile operator), handling many senior management positions. Prior to Celcom, he spent 10 years as an Associate Professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. He is currently the Adjunct Professor for Universiti Malaysia (UniMY) and Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP). Dr. Mazlan is a frequent speaker in many major & established IOT, Smart Cities and telco conferences locally and globally. He sits in Industry Advisory Panel (IAP) for several local universities
IoT has hit the Malaysian scene in a big way 3 or 4 years ago (since 2014). All of a sudden there’s a huge surge of seminars, conferences, and exhibitions related to Smart Cities and IoT topics. Bear in mind that the word “Internet of Things (IoT)” has been coined by Kevin Ashton since 1999 and it took more than a decade to really take off! It seems that he public and the industry are trying to grasp the concept, benefits and the impact of IoT. However, the topics of IoT in the early days are very general and people are getting restless and want to know more how it will impact their individual business or industry vertical with real success stories.
For the last 2 years, we received a lot of inquiries regarding how to start their IoT journey, how to start developing their business case, developing IoT solutions and selling IoT products. The interest in IoT courses increased multi-fold when the government is currently pushing the agenda of Industry 4.0. That’s when we realized we have not been nurturing enough “IoT talents”. Many of the local Universities are planning to revise their syllabus contents and some even wish to introduce “IoT” courses or programmes (Diploma, Degree or Masters).
Our recommendation for any University who wishes to join the Industry 4.0 or IoT wave, they must nurture the next generation talents in preparation for Jobs of the Future with the following framework:
- Introduce the Concept of IoT or 4th Industrial Revolution in the first year first semester. Give the students the big picture and the necessary technology components in the whole IoT value chain and infrastructure. Show the students how the subjects are inter-related to their course. Many just take for granted and did not realize the importance of their subjects until they reach the final year when trying to develop their Final Year Projects.
- Introduce the Concept of 7-Layers of OSI. This will make the students understand the importance of PHY layer (fixed or wireless), MAC layer (Protocols such as Zigbee, WiFi, etc), Network Layer (IP), Transport (TCP), Session layer, Presentation Layer and finally the Application Layer. Traditionally, Faculty of Electrical/Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, have different weightage (depth) when covering courses related to the 7-layers. Students from Engineering will have more focus on Layer 1-4 whereas Computer Science will focus on Layer 3-7. But when learning topics on IoT, all of the students must be aware all the 7-layers.
- IoT Value Chain. In reality, no single company has the strength and competencies to deliver end-to-end IoT solution on its own. Thus, the need for them to partner with various parties who specifically focused on different areas such as Chipset, Device, Networking, Middleware, Cloud, Applications, Big Data Analytics, System Integration, and Solution Selling. Thus, Universities need to cover all aspects of contents to cover this value-chain.
- Hands-on IoT. However, many are still missing the key component i.e. Hands-On experience with Practical experiments using an IOT middleware. Learning how to use Raspberry-Pi and Arduino (stand-alone) is still insufficient. Sensor data need to be sent to an IoT middleware that sits in the Cloud. Application developers can use the necessary API to connect the sensors and extract the data that has been stored to derive further insights or create specific IoT solution on their Smartphones or Computers. Thus, lab sessions using an IoT middleware must be introduced in their curriculum to make it more complete.
Why Many IoT Final Year Projects Are Below Expectations?
Even though many universities have started to offer IoT as their Final Year Projects, there’s still one important element missing in their syllabus i.e. IoT Middleware. This piece of technology is one of the most important parts of the IoT value chain. In fact, it’s the one that creates an IoT ecosystem that brings multiple stakeholders together – the chipset, device, connectivity, cloud, big data analytics, applications, etc.
Below are some of the current pain-points faced by the Students, Lecturers, and Universities:
- An incomplete IoT Lab which only focuses on either standalone Arduino or Raspberry Pi devices without connecting to an IoT platform
- Students have to do their own research on hundreds of IoT middleware before choosing one for their Final Year projects. Wasting a lot of time and unable to complete the actual hands-on project in due time.
- Many IoT projects cannot complete on time because students are busy either developing their own “middleware” or server or busy in troubleshooting the connectivity between the sensor device and the server.
- If projects are completed, many left idle and unable to continue because data and source code are not managed properly. The IoT projects will never improve because no enhancement can be made to previous projects.
- Students have to use their own pocket money or use the project fund allocation to subscribe to the IoT platform since the University is not providing any such facility.
How IoT Ecosystem Can Solve the Issues?
The University needs to find ways to manage and control the project in a more systematic manner. In the industry, we normally managed via an IoT platform that connects the ecosystem of players such as developers, applications and stakeholders. Universities should do the same which can bring many benefits such as:
- Proper management of Sensor Data and Project continuity
- Standardizing tools and platform for students
- Providing better and complete IoT lab facilities
- Create better and holistic IoT talents for jobs of the future – 4IR-ready.
Only with the understanding that the knowledge gained from the previous batch of students and staff, the University can increase its value for the upcoming Digital Era.