VIDEO: Reno-based programs aim to boost local workforce for booming Internet of Things, blockchain industries | nnbusinessview.com

VIDEO: Reno-based programs aim to boost local workforce for booming Internet of Things, blockchain industries

RENO, Nev. — Unless you reside under a disconnected rock, you're likely attuned to the Internet of Things (IoT) — you know, the billions of physical devices around the world that are connected to the internet, collecting and sharing data.

And these devices are doing so — connecting, collecting, sharing — at a rapid rate for consumers and businesses alike. According to global research and advisory firm Gartner, about 8.4 billion IoT devices, from smart luggage to smart jet engines, were in use in 2017. By 2020, the number of devices is projected to jump to a whopping 20.4 billion.

While consumers purchase more devices, businesses spend more on the IoT industry. Gartner puts spending from both segments — consumer and business — on track to reach almost $3 trillion by 2020, more than double that was spent in 2016.

Simply put, the IoT industry is growing in every corner of the globe — and Northern Nevada is no exception.

Just ask Sam Dolan, chief technology officer at Breadware, an IoT development company based in Reno. Since moving from Santa Barbara to Northern Nevada in April 2017, Breadware has hired 21 employees, including five in the past two months, Dolan said.

The company even outgrew its startup location at the University of Nevada, Reno Innevation Center. In October, Breadware announced it's now leasing 6,911 square feet of office space in downtown Reno.

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Finding qualified local hires to fill their operating space, however, has been a challenge for Breadware, Dolan said.

"Because we're expanding super quick, we kind of saturated the whole market of every experienced person we could find," Dolan told the NNBV. "It's been very difficult to find people, and they're all from out of town. Already, we're starting to look in California, down in L.A. — it's just the fact of the matter."

'A CENTRAL FIXTURE OF THE NEW NEVADA ECONOMY'

A new training program being offered in Reno is aiming to change that mindset, however, by building a trained IoT workforce in the Silver State.

Thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED), Reno Technology Academy at Multnomah University is launching IoT and cybersecurity specialist certification training programs in January 2019.

With the grants, Reno Technology Academy is able to provide scholarships for the first 40 IoT and 25 cybersecurity students in the programs, said Steve Andreano, the school's director of technology programs. He said both programs should take roughly four semesters to complete.

"For us, it's a central fixture of the new Nevada economy," Andreano told the NNBV. "IoT affects a broad scope of industries — everything from smart thermostats to smart toilet paper rolls to 500 things that have not yet even been invented. And as manufacturing moves into needing predictive maintenance, as hospitals move into needing to know where a patient's things are … this business segment is going to grow astronomically."

All told, Reno Tech Academy's program will be one of the first of its kind in the country, putting Nevada ahead of the curve in not only attracting IoT startups, but also preparing a workforce for jobs with an average salary of $80,000 in Northern Nevada, said Mark Anderson, director of Nevada Industry Excellence (NVIE).

Notably, NVIE garnered support for the grant proposals from many companies in the state and will be involved in matching trained students with industry jobs.

"We found that there's nobody in the state that is creating this pipeline for this particular piece of business," Anderson said of IoT. "You're looking at an industry that's exploding and we have it right here in Northern Nevada and Southern Nevada. We're going to be matchmaking these students with the companies that we've been talking to that are waiting for this pipeline to be built."

In Northern Nevada alone, Anderson said, there will be roughly 80 IoT job openings over the next two years at companies such as Breadware, Groupgets, NevadaNano, Filament, Elemental LED and SimpleSense. On the cybersecurity side, NVIE has identified 27 openings at Blackridge Technology, Renown Health and NV Energy.

SO … WHAT SKILLS ARE REQUIRED TO WORK IN IOT?

Dolan said it requires multiple disciplines, ranging from coding to hardware/software engineering to a deep understanding of APIs (application programming interfaces).

The Breadware CTO helped develop the curriculum for Reno Tech Academy's IoT certificate program, which is composed of 50 units (750 class hours).

"People usually specialize, but you have to know how pieces fit together," Dolan explained. "And it's a lot of learning. It's like 10 disciplines, so nobody can know it all. But through one of these curriculums you get exposed to all of it and you can focus down into what you're more interested in."

Reno Tech's hands-on lab, Andreano said, will include $200,000 worth of equipment, including electronic measuring devices, 3D printing machines and programmable logic controllers for industrial automation, among more.

Dolan noted that Breadware often gets applicants who just graduated from a four-year university, but lack the base knowledge required to work in IoT. With that, Dolan feels the soon-to-launch program at Reno Tech Academy is exactly what the state — and IoT industry as a whole — needs.

"We can't wait four years for the university to put out a workforce," Dolan said. "So a two-year intensive (program) … it's the way I would teach my engineers. So I'm really excited about it."

Whether having such a program aimed at engineering an IoT workforce will result in more startups booting up in Reno remains to be seen. Anderson, for one, is confident it will be a "game-changer" for Nevada industry.

"If we build that workforce, they will come," Anderson said. "I think these companies will keep on coming, and not just from California. This is going to become where international companies are going to want to set up shop because they know that this is the hot spot for what's happening."

Reno Technology Academy's IoT and cybersecurity programs are slated to start in January 2019. For more information, email information@renotechnology.academy or call 775-849-4983.

MEETING BLOCKCHAIN BUZZ

Meanwhile, the Extended Studies program at the University of Nevada, Reno is launching a certificate that examines another much-hyped business topic: blockchain technology.

Originally devised for the digital currency Bitcoin, blockchain is a public electronic ledger that can be openly shared among distinct users and creates an unchangeable record of their transactions, each one time-stamped and linked to the previous one.

Robbie Moen, creative technologist at Sagebrush.Consulting and one of the instructors of the blockchains class, said the class will serve many purposes for those who enroll.

"It's to help people understand what blockchain is, what blockchain can be applied to, what it can improve, and how each of us are going to be interacting with blockchain technology in the very near future," Moen told the NNBV. "It's for people to gain an understanding, so they can bring that back to their organization or simply use it in their own lives or in their business — it has applications across the board."

Indeed, adding blockchain to one's intellectual bandwidth is especially vital for business leaders involved in the "technical decision-making and technical infrastructure of their business," Moen said.

According to Gartner, the business value added by blockchain will grow slightly over $360 billion by 2026, then surge to more than $3.1 trillion by 2030. And Northern Nevada is staged to become a blockchain hub. Startup Blockchains LLC announced on Nov. 1 that it plans to build a blockchain-centric "smart city" on its 67,000 acres at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center.

"It may seem complicated," Moen said. "But as quickly as technology is moving — especially blockchain in everyday enterprise uses — the people who start learning now and start engaging now are going to have a leg up in the next five or 10 years as the world moves in that direction."

The Blockchain Basics certificate program will take place 1-5 p.m. Jan. 22-23 and 29-30 at UNR's Redfield Campus at 18600 Wedge Parkway in south Reno.

BY THE NUMBERS

8.4 billion: IoT devices in use in 2017

20.4 billion: IoT devices projected in 2020

$1.7 trillion: Consumer and business IoT spending in 2017

$3 trillion: Consumer and business IoT spending in 2020

Source: Gartner