How Technology Companies Can Connect with Generation Z

Richard Emmerson - Senior Consultant, Communications Systems

By: Richard Emmerson
Senior Consultant, Communications Systems

24th January 2018

Home » Richard Emmerson

Generation Z (referring to the cohort born between the mid-1990s to mid-2000s) is the first generation to never know life without the internet, social media and technology with high-resolution colour screens…. just let that sink in for a second.

This new wave of young people will be the future-shapers of technology and innovation in our industry and are already strongly familiar with today’s technological achievements (smartphones, tablets and VR/AR entertainment systems to name a few).

In fact, switching between screens, devices, accounts and platforms all comes naturally to generation Z, as if intuitive; all the while juggling multiple tasks and projects without, seemingly, sacrificing the quality of their work. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised, or worried, if we see them on their phones all day, it’s their default position for communicating with colleagues, taking notes and doing research. This lends itself to the question:

How do you connect with a generation that is, in many ways, already connected?

Having been an Assessor for the Engineering Education Scheme (EES) Applied Programme, an educational classroom scheme that aims to inspire young people into pursuing a career into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through carrying out projects in ‘real-life’ business conditions; I believe that first-hand experience may hold the answer.

The opportunity for young people to experience real-life exposure to our industry has, I think, a two-fold benefit. Firstly, so that they may be inspired and motivated to lead the way in the latest cutting-edge technology and secondly, so that we, collectively in the industry, may learn from a new and fresh perspective on what we are currently doing in our methods and practises.

With the latter in mind, here are 3 things I think a company in the technology/electronics industry can do to gain maximum benefit from their newest and youngest workforce.

1. Mix and match project teams

While selecting a project team involves much strategic decision-making, many project managers may favour in picking teams stocked with their most experienced and specialist experts. From personal experience during projects, I’ve found that the most effective working groups often feature a mix of top experts with junior and lower-level professionals.

2. Let Junior Engineers lead project work (when appropriate) with guidance

Giving junior engineers the chance to contribute as to what direction the project should be heading will help them integrate quickly and develop the confidence they need to bring their skills and education to the table. At the same time, gentle guidance can be given here so that they can learn from each team member’s unique areas of expertise and stay on track with the project timeline. Life skills, such as teamwork, time management, and project management skills can also develop faster.

3. Create a mentorship scheme

Similar to my previous point, a mentorship scheme goes one step further that project-based guidance. A mentorship scheme is extremely important for young people, while information is available at a touch of a button; real-life experiences can only be taught and cannot be downloaded. Such relationships encourage knowledge transfer and skills development, honing softer skills that will ease them into the established ways of working.

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Generation Z (referring to the cohort born between the mid-1990s to mid-2000s) is the first generation to never know life without the internet, social media and technology with high-resolution colour screens…. just let that sink in for a second.

This new wave of young people will be the future-shapers of technology and innovation in our industry and are already strongly familiar with today’s technological achievements (smartphones, tablets and VR/AR entertainment systems to name a few).

In fact, switching between screens, devices, accounts and platforms all comes naturally to generation Z, as if intuitive; all the while juggling multiple tasks and projects without, seemingly, sacrificing the quality of their work. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised, or worried, if we see them on their phones all day, it’s their default position for communicating with colleagues, taking notes and doing research. This lends itself to the question:

How do you connect with a generation that is, in many ways, already connected?

Having been an Assessor for the Engineering Education Scheme (EES) Applied Programme, an educational classroom scheme that aims to inspire young people into pursuing a career into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through carrying out projects in ‘real-life’ business conditions; I believe that first-hand experience may hold the answer.

The opportunity for young people to experience real-life exposure to our industry has, I think, a two-fold benefit. Firstly, so that they may be inspired and motivated to lead the way in the latest cutting-edge technology and secondly, so that we, collectively in the industry, may learn from a new and fresh perspective on what we are currently doing in our methods and practises.

With the latter in mind, here are 3 things I think a company in the technology/electronics industry can do to gain maximum benefit from their newest and youngest workforce.

1. Mix and match project teams

While selecting a project team involves much strategic decision-making, many project managers may favour in picking teams stocked with their most experienced and specialist experts. From personal experience during projects, I’ve found that the most effective working groups often feature a mix of top experts with junior and lower-level professionals.

2. Let Junior Engineers lead project work (when appropriate) with guidance

Giving junior engineers the chance to contribute as to what direction the project should be heading will help them integrate quickly and develop the confidence they need to bring their skills and education to the table. At the same time, gentle guidance can be given here so that they can learn from each team member’s unique areas of expertise and stay on track with the project timeline. Life skills, such as teamwork, time management, and project management skills can also develop faster.

3. Create a mentorship scheme

Similar to my previous point, a mentorship scheme goes one step further that project-based guidance. A mentorship scheme is extremely important for young people, while information is available at a touch of a button; real-life experiences can only be taught and cannot be downloaded. Such relationships encourage knowledge transfer and skills development, honing softer skills that will ease them into the established ways of working.

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All 'Things' to be considered in IoT

All ‘Things’ to be Considered in IoT

Richard Emmerson - Senior Consultant, Communications Systems

By: Richard Emmerson
Senior Consultant, Communications Systems

3rd May 2017

Home » Richard Emmerson

So you have a great idea for an internet connected ‘Thing’. You’ve done the business plan, you’ve raised some investment, or maybe you’re staking your own money. All you have to do now is connect your ‘Thing’ to ‘The Internet of Things (IoT)’ and get the product into the market.

Well, there are a few things you should consider before you jump in.

How will the ‘Thing’ connect?

Surely that’s simple, everyone’s using LoRa (long-range, low-power radio), so I can buy some LoRa modules, connect them to my ‘Thing’ and I’m done.

Well, yes and no.

Range, Data Rate & Power Consumption

With any communications system, there is a direct trade-off between range, data rate and power consumption. LoRa is potentially a great system for IoT. When properly designed, it can achieve long range (typically 2 km in urban areas and line of sight in rural areas) and have a battery life that can last for years. However, data rates are limited to between 0.3 kbps to 50 kbps; with the longest range achieved at the lowest data rate. In the EU 868 MHz band, the duty cycle is also limited to 1%, meaning, at the lowest data rate, only 51 user bytes can be sent every 245 seconds. This is fine for a smoke alarm but unsuitable for a security camera.

For higher data rate applications, a 3G or 4G modem module may be a better choice, provided the power is available. For power limited systems, there is also the Narrowband IoT system, which uses the 4G mobile network with data rates between 20-250 kbps and offers impressive battery life.

What about base stations?

BaseStationLoRa can be used in a peer-to-peer mode (communication between nodes). To connect to the internet though requires some kind of base station. This could be a local base station installed in the home or office, or a wide area base station (LoRa-WAN). You might choose to supply customers with their own low-cost base stations, or take advantage of public networks such as ‘The Things Network’.

An alternative may be to use the ’Sigfox’ system. This has similar performance to LoRa but for a small subscription fee accesses an international network of base stations owned and managed by Sigfox. Unlike Sigfox and cellular systems, LoRa has the advantage that if there is no coverage then you can simply add your own base station.

What about the Antenna?

AntennaBoardThe antenna is a key part of any wireless system and is an area where many developers face problems. In order to work efficiently, antennas need an effective area which is made up of the antenna itself and the circuit board it is connected to. Look carefully at the datasheet for that tiny 868 MHz ‘chip’ antenna and you are likely to see that it requires a PCB of approximately 90 mm length.

However, this poses a problem for small devices operating at 868 MHz, as the antenna is unlikely to be efficient, and that 2km range you expected just reduced to 500 m or less. The antenna may also become de-tuned by the presence of breaks in the PCB ground plane, nearby components and caseworks require a matching network to compensate for these effects. For really small devices, it may be worth considering Bluetooth, which with its higher operating frequency of 2.4 GHz requires a smaller PCB, and, with the release of Bluetooth 5, can be used for local area networks.

So that’s it?

Well, not quite. LoRa and Sigfox use the licence free 868 MHz ISM band in Europe and 915 MHz band in the US. Both of which are prone to interference from other users. There is also the platform, encryption, data ownership, and regulatory approvals to consider.

So you have a great idea for an internet connected ‘Thing’. You’ve done the business plan, you’ve raised some investment, or maybe you’re staking your own money. All you have to do now is connect your ‘Thing’ to ‘The Internet of Things (IoT)’ and get the product into the market.

Well, there are a few things you should consider before you jump in.

How will the ‘Thing’ connect?

Surely that’s simple, everyone’s using LoRa (long-range, low-power radio), so I can buy some LoRa modules, connect them to my ‘Thing’ and I’m done.

Well, yes and no.

Range, Data Rate & Power Consumption

With any communications system, there is a direct trade-off between range, data rate and power consumption. LoRa is potentially a great system for IoT. When properly designed, it can achieve long range (typically 2 km in urban areas and line of sight in rural areas) and have a battery life that can last for years. However, data rates are limited to between 0.3 kbps to 50 kbps; with the longest range achieved at the lowest data rate. In the EU 868 MHz band, the duty cycle is also limited to 1%, meaning, at the lowest data rate, only 51 user bytes can be sent every 245 seconds. This is fine for a smoke alarm but unsuitable for a security camera.

For higher data rate applications, a 3G or 4G modem module may be a better choice, provided the power is available. For power limited systems, there is also the Narrowband IoT system, which uses the 4G mobile network with data rates between 20-250 kbps and offers impressive battery life.

What about base stations?

BaseStationLoRa can be used in a peer-to-peer mode (communication between nodes). To connect to the internet though requires some kind of base station. This could be a local base station installed in the home or office, or a wide area base station (LoRa-WAN). You might choose to supply customers with their own low-cost base stations, or take advantage of public networks such as ‘The Things Network’.

An alternative may be to use the ’Sigfox’ system. This has similar performance to LoRa but for a small subscription fee accesses an international network of base stations owned and managed by Sigfox. Unlike Sigfox and cellular systems, LoRa has the advantage that if there is no coverage then you can simply add your own base station.

What about the Antenna?

AntennaBoardThe antenna is a key part of any wireless system and is an area where many developers face problems. In order to work efficiently, antennas need an effective area which is made up of the antenna itself and the circuit board it is connected to. Look carefully at the datasheet for that tiny 868 MHz ‘chip’ antenna and you are likely to see that it requires a PCB of approximately 90 mm length.

However, this poses a problem for small devices operating at 868 MHz, as the antenna is unlikely to be efficient, and that 2km range you expected just reduced to 500 m or less. The antenna may also become de-tuned by the presence of breaks in the PCB ground plane, nearby components and caseworks require a matching network to compensate for these effects. For really small devices, it may be worth considering Bluetooth, which with its higher operating frequency of 2.4 GHz requires a smaller PCB, and, with the release of Bluetooth 5, can be used for local area networks.

So that’s it?

Well, not quite. LoRa and Sigfox use the licence free 868 MHz ISM band in Europe and 915 MHz band in the US. Both of which are prone to interference from other users. There is also the platform, encryption, data ownership, and regulatory approvals to consider.

Save

Save