Yes, the Internet of Things is a thing at FIU

At Florida International University, Professor Kemal Akkaya and his colleagues are redefining the way we conceptualize technology.

FIU will be the first school in the nation to offer a new bachelor’s degree next spring known as the “Internet of Things”. It’s a degree that combines electrical and computer engineering to recognize how smart devices connect with each other through the Internet.

“In the future, machines will be more human like and make decisions for us so that we don’t have to,” said Akkaya, the director if the IoT program.

The interconnection of technologies and machines through the internet allows users to complete a variety of tasks more efficiently. (Graphic by Bianca Mangravite)

IoT will be applied in agriculture, transportation, medicine, smart homes and energy systems through the study of smart watches, drones, Smart Grid testbeds, smart thermostats and other technologies such as motion sensor lights, 3D and self-driving cars.

“The Internet of Things is going to connect anything together in our daily lives. People will be able to make timely decisions and machines will adjust to human behavior and responses,” Akkaya said.

However, because these technologies are corruptible, they also present dangers to society. Students will subsequently learn by breaking the systems they create. By doing so, they will learn to recognize possible security threats and loopholes in technology.

“You have to be creative. You have to be interested and think of new things constantly. It’s crazy how technology advances compared to the past, and now we can do things we never knew we could do,” said Esteban Leon, a high school student from Terra Research Institute who plans to enroll in the program.

Students will master the four skills — hardware, cyber security, software and communication — that are usually taught separately in contemporary programs. Subsequently, businesses can save money by hiring one broadly skilled person instead of hiring many to do the same jobs.

“It will be an amazing asset for small businesses. It is something any company leader can afford.The more knowledge, efficient and advanced they are, the faster the economy will grow,” said David Ramirez, manager of the Sprint smartphone store in West Kendall.

FIU students will learn in a hybrid environment, learning online and in the classroom. The program will also be fully online to accommodate students who cannot attend in person.

“The advantage of the program being online is that it is accessible anywhere in places like South America and the Caribbean,” Akkaya said.

The program has an opening enrollment of about 30 students. However, program directors expect these numbers to grow rapidly.

“I would definitely apply for this course,” said Anthony Martinez, a rising freshman at FIU. “Not only will the job be on demand, but it will help people understand technology and put it into one seamless experience.”

Akkaya and other FIU staff members predict that by 2020, there will be 4.5 million IoT jobs in the United States and 1,000 in Florida.

“I think it’s growing very quickly and creating a renaissance of smart devices,” said Tom Morton, a programmer and app developer for Esto Vir Youth Group. “The market is on fire and it’s great. FIU is the first university to do this and creating a foundation for the rest for the nation, and that to me creates more job opportunities.”

Programs like this already exist in China, Australia and Ireland. The IoT degree program will help American universities keep pace in this vital 21st century field.

“This is the technology of the future,” Akkaya said. “If students in this field start early, they will have an advantage over everyone else that joins later. We can create new technology, teach and educate ourselves in things we never knew about. It’s impressive how fast this is going to spread, and I’m very excited.”

Watch this video to learn more about her story.