By Adam Popescu
George Bernard Shaw once said, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” The tongue-in-cheek phrase is a common insult in academia, but when it comes to advances in the field of the Internet of Things (IoT), it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The academic world is in many ways leading the way in innovation – both in the classroom and through research.
To Arif Ansari, associate professor of clinical data sciences and operations at the University of Southern California (USC), this shift couldn’t come soon enough. “The United States faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep data analytics skills, and 1.5 million managers and analysts to make business decisions based on their findings,” said Ansari.
To help bridge that gap, Ansari put together an undergraduate class addressing big data and analytics at the Marshall School of Business at USC. He’s trying to lead and shape the minds of young students and notes “there is more work to be done, and it is being implemented.”
Similar innovation is going on at Syracuse University in New York, where students and faculty have been researching machine-to-machine (M2M) communication for the past decade. The school is supported by the National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation program, and is at work on the Wireless Grid Innovation Testbed project.
“More than 100 partner campuses, companies and communities have been engaged in the efforts, which have led to a number of patented innovations, new companies and diverse novel applications,” explained Lee W. McKnight, a professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Syracuse. Those applications include a social radio, which debuted at TEDxHarlem, as well as “cloud to edge” services, or what McKnight describes as “edgeware.”
“What will be most useful is the ability to combine several of these disciplines and to create rapid prototypes of new things,” noted Kelly Lux, McKnight’s colleague and the School of Information Studies’ director of social media. “We are not just following industry trends,” clarified McKnight, an outspoken advocate for IoT. “Students and faculty are actively experimenting with a wide variety of new IoT and M2M applications and open specifications.”
Also at Syracuse, Dan Pacheco, a chair in journalism innovation in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, teaches a tech for new media course. He’s working with students on using Arduino microcontrollers and sensors to “measure everything from air quality to temperature,” he says. “When you connect the Arduino to the Internet, it can upload data to a database so that others can see it and compare to their own data. These citizen sensor networks provide an alternative to government-reported data sources,” he says.
Initiatives like those at USC and Syracuse demonstrate the opportunities that can be forged when academia works to keep pace with industry. Far from reinforcing Shaw’s famous dictum, they offer a welcome opportunity to rewrite it – just in time for the IoT age.
Adam Popescu is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in the BBC, Fast Company, Mashable, LA Weekly, Marketplace Radio, and Los Angeles Magazine.
Image Credit: John Marino/Flickr Creative Commons