There was a time when making a grocery list before you went to the store was a typical way of shopping. Then, cell phones and texting became widespread and people could actually go to the store without a list and make or receive a call from someone at home to see what items they should purchase. That all changed with the advancement of what many now call the Internet of Things (IoT). Instead of someone calling you to buy some milk at the store, your intelligent computer-integrated refrigerator will call you instead. Its whole purpose is to monitor the contents of your refrigerator, watching for patterns and variability. This appliance is a personal assistant, in that, if you allow it to access your contacts in your phone, might be able to place an online order to a food delivery service and skip contacting you altogether. In this world of interconnected technology, it is no wonder that machines are becoming our trusted consultants and even our new best friends. Social interactions with our devices have reached levels where we cannot function without them, or at least cannot function at the efficiency levels they provide. They route our travel, give us our restaurant choices, and manage our social networks. With large volumes of products being integrated with wireless internet connectivity and personal data analytics, even your microwave oven will know more about you than your close friends and relatives, redefining the definition of close personal relationships. After all, your digital companion was with you when you were doing your internet searches, guiding you to your desired selections of data, and even providing suggestions that might interest you. Some might say that your automated devices are way more than personal assistants, they may even be considered part of the family.
The reality, however, is that these machines are electronic devices created by industry and will require technical services from a skilled workforce. These machines will need hardware repairs, software updates, and data security. They run the risk of being hacked, data-mined, and infected from viruses from the multiple third-party programs that gain access into your devices through the countless user agreements you have to accept that allow the buying and selling of almost all of your privacy and personal data. These machines now play an important role in our daily lives. They have responsibilities. We rely on them to provide us with knowledge and direct us in our decisions. The fact remains, however, that these devices and their automated programs are not perfect. They have glitches and malfunctions all the time and they are becoming increasingly technologically complex every year. Strengthening a STEM workforce that will be able to address these issues is a crucial step to meeting the demand for these IoT jobs of the future.