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BW Businessworld

Emerging Technologies To Shape The Future

With smarter factories, smarter production and smarter supply chains, running autonomous production and delivery of manufactured goods, the question is bound to arise – what are the engineers supposed to do?

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We are on the definitive cusp  of the fourth Industrial Revolution. Industry 4.0, defined by breakthroughs in emerging technologies such as Robotics, AI, Internet of Things, 3D Printing, Autonomous Vehicles and Quantum Computing – will yet again create a massive shift. It is increasingly common news that a manufacturing major is introducing robots on the production line. With smarter factories, smarter production and smarter supply chains, running autonomous production and delivery of manufactured goods, the question is bound to arise – what are the engineers supposed to do?

Embedding AI in engineering streams: Artificial Intelligence is the cornerstone of this new wave of industrialisation. Embracing emerging technology areas will ensure that the engineering workforce is relevant for the jobs of the future and their knowledge needs to be embedded in traditional engineering syllabi. It is commonly assumed that AI only happens at the intersection of computer science and mathematics. While that is somewhat true at present, other streams, too, are looking at developing topical AI programmes. Let us look at these other engineering fields and how AI can be embedded into their existing coursework.

Civil or Construction Engineering is often considered to be far removed from AI disruption. However, AI is already making inroads into this field. With geo-spatial intelligence and historical earthquake data, civil engineers can make better decisions on assessing the landscape available for projects, understand the materials required to withstand environmental conditions, or at times drop a risky project that might be too dangerous to develop.  Chemical Engineers with an understanding of AI can reduce the time for new chemical development, by modelling the impact of chemical combinations. AI can help predict and test the quality and resilience of new formulations.

Finally, in certain streams within engineering – Mechanical, E&TC and Electrical – AI lends itself more naturally. Mechanical Engineers need to upskill themselves to develop and run autonomous robots that can do complex assembly and integration tasks. Education in Electronics Engineering needs to tend more in favour of developing industrial IoT, quantum computers and advanced chipsets that can handle the large scale processing required to run cross platform AI applications.
Leading the way: A substantial chunk of upskilling needs of existing engineering graduates are handled by online courses. We are seeing increased proliferation of AI, machine learning, cyber security, IoT and robotics courses delivered by online platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, UpGrad. Some of the other prominent academic institutions and academies – ISB , Manipal Global Education, Jigsaw Aacademy, IFIM , Institute of Product Leadership, UPES, Praxis Business School, Shiv Nadar Engineering School, IITD have taken vantage position in imparting AI, Analytics programmes.

A structured learning and innovative pedagogy is needed from traditional educational institutes for skilling new engineering graduates. They need to alter their curriculum to ensure that the next generation of engineers are equipped to handle the next generation of opportunities. It is also very important that other institutions also  promote the cause of AI education. AI will usher a new beginning in the education arena and the ones that have ability to learn, unlearn and relearn will succeed in the professional spheres.