Internet of Things Labs Give Engineering Students an Edge
Meghan Brown posted on January 08, 2016 | | 9309 views
Will Caldwell and Katie Miller prepare their Safe Cycle device for demonstration at the Internet of Things Lab Open House. The system is designed to alert a cyclist to traffic behind them. (Image courtesy of David Tenenbaum/University of Wisconsin-Madison.)

Will Caldwell and Katie Miller prepare their Safe Cycle device for demonstration at the Internet of Things Lab Open House. The system is designed to alert a cyclist to traffic behind them. (Image courtesy of David Tenenbaum/University of Wisconsin-Madison.)

Talk about the Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere these days, and this growing industry is becoming more influential all the time. 

At it’s simplest, the idea behind IoT is to unite the things around us – cars, clothing, appliances and even industrial machines – with each other and with the digital sphere.

“The skepticism about IoT has vanished,” said Sandra Bradley, research director for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Internet of Things Lab.

Although they are still in the early stages, IoT technologies are already beginning to appear in consumer products and the manufacturing industry.

But that’s just today. According to Bradley, imagination is the only limit to the future of IoT.

The IoT Lab that Bradley oversees is part of the Mechanical Engineering department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is one of a number of similar academic and corporate labs that share a focus on the research and development of products and technologies for the emerging IoT industry.

The lab at UW-Madison functions like a “pre-incubator” where students with big ideas can team up to innovate and advance technology. This brings engineering students into a growing industry and places them at the forefront of innovation and new developments in IoT.

The lab offers encouragement, technology and advice to its students. This year, 230 students attended UW-Madison’s information session and 60 spent the fall working on nearly two dozen device and software app projects.

Some of the IoT Lab’s recent projects include:

According to Bradley, the lab is expanding in a new direction this year by integrating corporate partnerships. Corporate “members” can pay an annual contribution to then take part in workgroup projects, learning events and other activities. 

A small group of companies, the “core partners” are expected to make a more substantial investment, but that will enable them to help guide the IoT Lab’s strategic direction. They will also be able to use the lab as a resource to enhance IoT talent, capability and innovation.

Students with the opportunity to work in a lab like UW-Madison’s IoT Lab will gain experience and industry contacts that will be beneficial in the future when looking for employment. They may also have the opportunity to work at an IoT lab operated by one of the corporate partners or other industry heavyweights. 

For example, both Bosch and Microsoft operate their own IoT research and development labs, and students with experience in a university IoT lab can leverage their knowledge for a better chance at employment with these companies.

“I am pleased with how the lab has grown from a technology sandbox into a growing community of students, faculty and industry-leading companies,” said Bradley. “As many as 35 companies have confirmed interest in joining the lab. American Family Insurance, A.O. Smith Corp., Andersen Corp. and Rockwell Automation have already joined.”

“We have a diverse group of companies that share the same questions around IoT,” Bradley continued, “We will provide the tools and resources to give them a competitive edge. The Internet of Things is not just a fad. We hear from students and industry that we are focusing on the right things.”

To see what other projects the University of Wisconsin-Madison IoT Lab is working on, visit their website.

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