The Internet of Things (IoT) is at the peak of the Gartner Hype Cycle, and at this point it’s safe to say, believe the hype. Most experts agree that the number of connected products will continue to grow across every industry and will affect many aspects of everyday life; smart products will make life more efficient for consumers, and developing and producing them will transform traditional business by blurring the line between products and services. But what do we know about how IoT will affect the job market? It seems that it will follow much the same path as machine learning and automation — eliminating the need for certain types of jobs, while also creating entirely new ones.
What jobs will be in demand as IoT grows?
Michael Porter, one of the world’s foremost experts on strategy and competition, has some ideas. In a recent Harvard Business Review webinar, Porter said companies who wish to bring connected products to market will need to merge the areas of hardware, software, and data science. And he said many of the experts needed to do so — particularly sought-after data scientists — will be found outside of the United States. So a global workforce will become more important than ever.
Porter also said that “customer success management” will become an important job function as the predominance of IoT grows. Because of the increasing number of functions and services that will accompany connected products, fostering the customer-brand relationship will become more important than ever. Customers who receive great service will be much more likely to buy additional features and services for their connected products, and will be more loyal to a particular brand. And even in a digital world, great service cannot be provided without the human element.
Blue-collar jobs will be impacted too
Although the first wave of IoT will create higher demand in more advanced fields — like programming and engineering — as connected products become more widespread, opportunities for workers with less formal education will also be created. They’re called “smart products” for a reason; they contain processors, sensors, and software that allow data to be sent to other connected products and systems. So for blue-collar fields — like home appliance repair or HVAC maintenance — less diagnostic skill will be required. We are already seeing this change occur in the automotive industry. Just a few short decades ago when you would take your car to the repair shop, the first thing the mechanic would do was look under the hood or roll under the body to diagnose the problem. Now, the first thing they do is plug the car into a computer.
IoT will reduce demand for certain types of jobs
In a recent article for Computerworld, Patrick Thibodeau described how a town in North Carolina eliminated 10 meter-reading positions by installing a water meter system that automatically radios water usage to the public works department. Workers were previously checking 60,000 water meters every month, but with the new meters, water usage is recorded every hour and data is transmitted 4 times a day. By knowing hourly water usage, the department can quickly identify abnormalities and be more proactive with customers. Although the initial investment was substantial (about $18 million) the town expects to save $28 million over the life of the meters. This is a perfect case of how connected products improve efficiency, while also a glaring example of how IoT may eventually eliminate certain jobs.
To quote Porter, “We’re still in the early innings of IoT.” As IoT becomes more of a reality than a concept, the outlook on jobs will surely become clearer. What is certain is that the job market will change, but exactly how is still up for debate.