Me: “Hi. I’m studying MSc in Embedded Wireless Systems.”
Anyone who is not from an electronic or computer science-related field: *crickets chirping*
Me: “That’s a specialisation in electronic engineering.”
Them: “Oh! Yeah! That’s cool.”
This is a typical scenario when I introduce myself. But each time I explain to people what EWS is, it reminds me why I chose this course and how cool it is.
What are Embedded Wireless Systems?
Embedded systems are simply tiny computers comprising of microcontrollers and memory and input/output peripherals. These are present in almost any electronic gadget you can think of. You would’ve seen it if you have peeked inside a computer or tv, or had the misfortune of dropping your phone and splitting it open. Wireless systems are, as the name suggests, communication systems that operate wirelessly. While the popular ones include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular networks, there are numerous others such as Zigbee, LoRa and NB-IoT.
Is that all it is?
While the course name suggests nothing more, it is synonymous with a degree in the Internet of Things. IoT is a system of physical objects and people connected in one big network. This can be as small as a home automation system to entire connected smart cities. IoT is an umbrella term for numerous technologies like sensors and actuators, embedded systems, wireless communication, cloud computing, machine learning, big data analytics, desktop and mobile applications. While all this may seem daunting, these are technologies we use in our daily lives such as camera and gyroscope sensors in mobile phones, Wi-Fi, Google and Amazon cloud services, Amazon shopping recommendations and YouTube video recommendations. IoT brings it all together to give a seamless experience.
Seems all too technical? Well, no
Unlike most postgraduate courses, all the modules in EWS are compulsory. They’re designed this way so that students from different backgrounds do not feel lost. This was particularly helpful for me since I worked in the IT sector for 5 years, and had forgotten almost all of what I studied during my undergraduate degree in electronics.
Of the 11 modules offered, 6 are technical and include Sensors and Instrumentation, Systems Programming for Embedded Devices, and Neural Networks. The course also offers management modules such as Management and Marketing of Technology, and Enterprise for people who are interested in engineering management or entrepreneurship.
One of the modules which I really liked is Personal Effectiveness and Masterclasses. It includes core academic skills and project management masterclass. But more importantly, it teaches you to identify your goals, strengths and weaknesses, reflect on yourself and come up with plans to meet those goals. The last two modules introduce you to Research Methodologies and Data Analysis.
Putting it all into practice
The final group project is where you use everything that you have learned to build an IoT-based system. This would typically have:
- sensors to detect and measure physical entities,
- an embedded system to process the signals,
- wireless communication to transmit the data between devices or to the cloud,
- cloud computing to store and analyse the collected data, and;
- desktop or mobile app development to visualise the analysed data.
Being a group project, you would employ project management practices to organise work and research methods to gather relevant information.
IoT is an immensely fast-growing industry that is expected to have a global market value of a trillion dollars by 2025. This will continue to create job opportunities all over the world. An EWS graduate can potentially move into a career focussing on any or several of the underlying technologies, a position in engineering management, or the numerous graduate roles offered by big enterprises.