Don’t be a dummy, join the ro­bot rev­o­lu­tion

Au­to­ma­tion means more smart jobs, writes Me­lanie Burgess

The Courier-Mail - Career One - - Tertiary -

JAMES Cook Univer­sity in Cairns is launch­ing an Aus­tralia-first en­gi­neer­ing de­gree de­signed to place grad­u­ates on the right side of the tech­nol­ogy rev­o­lu­tion as it gath­ers pace.

Econ­o­mists across Aus­tralia, the US and the UK are pre­dict­ing as many as 40 per cent of to­day’s jobs will not ex­ist within 15 years as ro­bots and au­to­ma­tion re­places the need for hu­man labour.

The jobs of the fu­ture will look very dif­fer­ent.

Pro­fes­sor Wei Xiang, who has ar­rived in Cairns to lead the pro­gram says JCU’s new Bach­e­lor of En­gi­neer­ing (Hon­ours) in Elec­tronic Sys­tems and In­ter­net of Things is about stu­dents buy­ing them­selves job se­cu­rity for the fu­ture.

“The in­ter­net al­lows peo­ple to talk to each other but the In­ter­net of Things (IoT) al­lows peo­ple and things to talk to each other and for things to talk among them­selves,” he says.

“Thirty years ago, no one would have ex­pected the in­ter­net to have such a huge im­pact on so­ci­ety and in an­other 10 to 30 years, IoT will be­come a part of ev­ery­day life.”

Xiang says an ex­am­ple of IoT tech­nol­ogy is wear­able sen­sors that col­lect real-time biomed­i­cal in­for­ma­tion and trans­mit that to doc­tors who can then at­tend to care im­me­di­ately if some­thing goes wrong.

An­other ex­am­ple is us­ing sen­sors on cars so they can com­mu­ni­cate with each other and pre­vent col­li­sions.

“The job prospects for IoT grad­u­ates will be vast,” Xiang says. “They can walk into any in­dus­try of their choice be­cause in IoT we’re trans­form­ing all of them.

“It’s not like a tra­di­tional me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer, for ex­am­ple, who has to find a job in man­u­fac­tur­ing.”

He says univer­si­ties in Europe and China are al­ready of­fer­ing IoT qual­i­fi­ca­tions, ac­knowl­edg­ing the grow­ing shift to­wards au­to­ma­tion around the world.

The JCU de­gree will com­bine the study of elec­tronic en­gi­neer­ing with in­ter­net tech­nolo­gies, wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions, sen­sor devices, in­dus­trial de­sign and cloud com­put­ing.

First-year en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents Cameron Gauci and Brendan David­son plan to spe­cialise in elec­tronic sys­tems and IoT when it be­comes avail­able in 2017.

Gauci says he has al­ready seen the ef­fects of au­to­ma­tion in the min­ing in­dus­try, where he worked for 10 years.

“With au­to­ma­tion, em­ploy­ers don’t have to worry about in­juries and things like that,” he says.“Un­skilled work­ers are out of work . . . I was a site man­ager but tech­ni­cally I was un­skilled so I think (the de­gree) is a smart move.”

David­son, who be­came in­ter­ested in elec­tron­ics as his father was an elec­tri­cian, says he be­lieves IoT is go­ing to be a big deal very soon.

IN­TER­NET OF THINGS: James Cook Univer­sity stu­dents Brendan David­son and Cameron Gauci. Pic­ture: JUSTIN BRIERTY

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