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The Internet of Things (IoT) Will Create the Need for the Cyber-Physical System Technician

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Gainful Employment: Preparing Technicians to Satisfy the Needs of Industry

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1232.1 - 24.1232.10



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Paper Authors


Gary J. Mullett Springfield Technical Community College

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Gary J. Mullett, a Professor of Electronics Technology and Co-Department Chair, presently teaches in the Electronics Group at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) located in Springfield, MA. A long time faculty member and consultant to local business and industry, Mullett has provided leadership and initiated numerous curriculum reforms as either the Chair or Co-Department Chair of the four technology degree programs that constitute the Electronics Group. Since the mid-1990s, he has been active in the NSF’s ATE and CCLI programs as a knowledge leader in the wireless telecommunications field. A co-founder of the National Center for Telecommunications Technologies (now the ICT Center) located at STCC, Mullett also played a principle role in the development of the innovative and long running Verizon NextStep employee training program. The author of two text books, Basic Telecommunications – The Physical Layer and Wireless Telecommunications Systems and Networks, Mullett did both his undergraduate and graduate work in the ECE Department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he also taught the undergraduate sequence of courses in electromagnetics. He has presented at numerous local, regional, and national conferences and also internationally on telecommunications and wireless topics and on the status of the education of electronics technicians at the two-year college level. His current interests are: the adaptation of a systems-level approach to the education of electronics technicians, applications of the emerging field of wired and wireless networked embedded controllers and sensor/actuator networks, and cyber-physical systems.

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The Internet of Things (IoT) will create the need for the Cyber-Physical System TechnicianDuring this decade and for the foreseeable future, we will witness the implementation of severallarge scale technically enabled innovations involving the world’s electrical power grid and ournation’s interstate highway system and many other smaller, discipline specific, intelligentinfrastructure systems that will enhance the efficiency, safety, and security of human endeavors.Many describe the process of adding intelligence and connectivity to these systems as thecreation of the “Internet of Things” or IoT. Already, academic and industry experts in varioustechnical fields have given catchy names to these proposed systems: Smart Grid, IntelliDrive,Smart Buildings, Smart Home, e-health care, are but a few names that have made it into thepopular press. IBM calls this the building of “a Smarter Planet” while Cisco uses the term“Smart+Connected Communities.” Recently, in engineering circles, these types of systems havebecome known as cyber-physical systems. These large scale and not so large scale applicationsare becoming possible due to the convergence of several key technologies. Essentially, throughthe use of networked embedded controllers (known as ambient intelligence) and complex sensorsand actuators (i.e. sensor networks) one is able to create intelligent infrastructure systems thathave the potential to change almost every aspect of mankind’s interaction with the environment.Presently, engineering technology education at the two-year college level does not producetechnicians with the skill sets needed to install, evaluate, maintain, and up-grade these systems asthey are envisioned. In fact, our present system of training IT workers and network techniciansand those that deal with the so called physical layer (i.e. electronics/electrical/mechatronicstechnicians) tends to promote segregation of their respective skill sets. Many in these fieldsperceive a conflict (i.e. inability to communicate effectively) between the IT field and thephysical layer people when it comes to applications involving computer controlled hardware. Infact, Cisco has built up their networking curriculum with the IT needs of the Enterprise as theonly driving force while ignoring other networking applications. The implementation of cyber-physical systems, by necessity, brings these two worlds together. The understanding of thetheory and operation of networks, embedded controllers and their interaction with sensors andactuators, data acquisition, and control software will be the required skills needed to deal withthese emerging technology applications. The cyber-physical systems technician will need a skillset that spans several fields of technology. That type of curriculum does not presently exist butneeds to be developed soon if the implementation of these systems occurs as predicted. Thispaper will lay out a possible path to achieve the goal of creating a cyber-physical systemstechnician.

Mullett, G. J. (2014, June), The Internet of Things (IoT) Will Create the Need for the Cyber-Physical System Technician Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23165

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