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Teaching IoT (Internet of Things) in our Courses and Classrooms

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Forecasts for the growth of the Internet of Things (a.k.a. IoT or IoE, as in the Internet of Everything) suggest tens of billions of devices will be connected as spending grows to exceed a trillion dollars by 2020, according the 2017 NMC Horizons Report for Higher Education.

As IoT becomes entrenched on our campuses (I wrote about this for University Business last month), it’s not surprising that it is also finding its way into our classrooms as well.

IoT College Courses

Last spring, the McCormick school of engineering at Northwestern University in Illinois introduced a new course offering: EECS 395/495: The Internet of Things, focused on exploring the ecosystem surrounding this new paradigm. Drs. Lawrence Henschen and Goce Trajcevski developed and delivered the course, in which students worked in groups to develop IoT-based projects. Some of these projects could have commercial potential and some could have applications on our campuses. One project involved using cameras and object recognition to identify students losing interest during a lecture based on changes in head and body positioning, according to Dr. Henschen. Additionally, several groups worked on projects intended to increase the efficiency of garbage collection using sensors in collection bins. This project raised interest in the local community.

One student is still actively engaged in research on her project, which seeks to bring automation to gauging and adjusting to a crowd’s interest in music, explained Henschen. DJ’s are quite adept at this as they regularly take the pulse of club goers and adjust what they play. This project utilizes beacons that look for Bluetooth wireless devices to sense how many people are “on the floor”. Combining this data with other information like noise levels can help to enable the automation of changes in the music being played to encourage more people to dance.

Courses like the Northwestern offering are becoming increasingly common in engineering schools across the country. At UC Berkeley School of Information, students can take Info 290 – Internet of Things: Foundations and Application. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst offers CS390N: The Internet of Things, and Purdue Polytechnic has CNIT 58100-IOT: The Internet of Things, which “explores the top-level problems that IoT promises to solve, the business drivers, the attributes of IoT enabled enterprise and consumer markets, and how IoT is different from the contemporary Internet.” MIT is offering a course through its edX platform titled, “Internet of Things: Roadmap to a Connected World” and it is being taught by none other than the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, along with other tech luminaries.

Privacy and Security Concerns

IoT really is everywhere. Of course, it's not simply “all good”. There are plenty of security consideration to pay attention to. Not only is a questionable volume of of data about us being captured and shared, IoT is also rapidly increasing the number of highly vulnerable end points on our networks. As IoT use continues to grow, we need to keep security and privacy considerations at the forefront of our implementation efforts.

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