15 hot tech jobs for smart cities in 2018 and beyond

Smart city growth is at a tipping point, and there are plenty of jobs in security, analytics, and IoT that will need to be filled.

There are plenty of smart city careers to consider in 2018. With smart city technology set to reach $775 billion by 2021, the advances in IoT sensors and analytics platforms will result in the creation of thousands of new hybrid positions that utilize a range of skills.

Cities are becoming "smarter," and this will spur the creation of thousands of traditional technical jobs. At the same time, new positions will arise that are more of a hybrid of two or more job categories, said Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, vice president and general manager, Cisco Services, and president and CEO of the Internet of Things Talent Consortium.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the rise of smart cities, volume 2 (Tech Pro Research)

Anil Menon, global president of smart cities for Cisco, said, "Just as you had industrial engineering and computer engineering as counterparts to computer science and mechanical or electrical engineering, there will emerge new blends of technical degrees for urban engineering in different domains of utilities, mobility, and city operations."

If you're already in a tech job and seeking to move into a new role in a smart city, it's critical to understand the applications that are the most interesting and compelling for cities, Beliveau-Dunn said.

"This includes what drives better city services for the citizens and has the best and earliest ROI. Focal points include safety and security, sustainability of resources like water and energy, and integrated/connected transportation systems. These are all high-value applications that get more traction in smart cities. Individuals who want to get involved with smart cities need to educate themselves in these areas. As with any field, mentoring, internships, and job-shadowing are excellent ways to kick-start the process of gaining this education," Beliveau-Dunn said.

SEE: IT jobs in 2020: A leader's guide (free PDF) (ZDNet/TechRepublic special report)

Here are the top 15 jobs that will be in demand in smart cities in 2018 and beyond.

1. Machine learning scientist

As cities increasingly leverage IoT deployments and are able to collect more data about weather, traffic, etc. from their assets in the field and mine it with third-party applications, data scientists are needed to analyze and create more value from that data and bridge data silos. The machine learning scientist is central to improving quality of life for citizens and enabling new revenue stream for the cities, said Remy Marcotorchino, director of industrial and infrastructure for Sierra Wireless.

Beliveau-Dunn said, "Machine learning will become a core part of how we learn, work, and interact every day and how we get information served up to us."

2. Data scientist

Bryan Ware, CEO of Haystax Technology, said, "One of the most challenging jobs smart cities will struggle to fill is that of a data scientist, often described as a unicorn because of their rare ability to transform human expertise and judgments into artificially intelligent models that can 'reason' about complex problems. McKinsey projects the job market will be short by 250,000 data scientists by next year and one industry we're seeing a tremendous need is in cybersecurity, where the skills gap is projected to hit 1.8 million by 2022. In the absence of sufficient human capital, data scientists will ensure smart cities of the future can appropriately leverage AI to run safely and securely."

SEE: Job description: Data scientist (Tech Pro Research)

3. Developer

Smart cities and the rise of IoT are creating a demand for more developers, including software developers, platform developers, and database developers. These individuals will be key to creating applications and pulling them together into new solutions that connect things that have never been connected before, Beliveau-Dunn said.

SEE: Job description: Platform developer (Tech Pro Research)

4. Cybersecurity analyst

Everything that we do as part of smart cities will need to be safe and secure. The rise of IoT adoption has created more potential attack vectors, making cybersecurity posture critical. Just imagine what could happen if a city's entire power grid was taken down. Skilled cybersecurity professionals will be in high demand as smart city growth continues, Beliveau-Dunn said.

"Analysts have estimated that globally the cybersecurity workforce will have more than 1.5 million unfulfilled positions by 2020. There is huge opportunity in cybersecurity for individuals looking to work in smart cities," she said.

SEE: Job description: Information security analyst (Tech Pro Research)

5. Cloud architect

Cities are bombarded by solution providers about new smart city applications to enable better management of their assets (parking, lighting, sensor monitoring, water management, etc.), however there is a critical need to rationalize those different applications, and to potentially create a single cloud platform to integrate with a city's applications of choice. As a result, there is a strong need for cloud architects within cities, Marcotorchino said.

6. Industrial network engineer

There are many new technologies for collecting data from a city's assets that are becoming more and more connected (cellular LPWA, LPWA, private network, Wi-Fi, etc.). The industrial network engineer is needed to help identify and select the right technology for the city based on the use case and other requirements, Marcotorchino said.

7. Alliance/partnership manager

An alliance or partnership manager is needed to select the best IoT technology to bring value to the city, based on that city's specific needs. This role will help navigate technology choices/options and take the lead on negotiating public-private partnerships when funds are scarce within the city budget, Marcotorchino said.

8. Virtual reality specialist/evangelist

Virtual reality (VR) will have multiple applications in smart cities (helping operators, technicians, public safety for medical/emergency response, etc.). It would be wise for cities to stay on top of this disruption and potentially identify areas where VR could benefit their operations to save in cost and optimize investments, Marcotorchino said.

SEE: Quick glossary: Virtual reality (Tech Pro Research)

9. Chief city experience officer

There are are CIOs and CTOs in cities, but there is also a need for someone thinking about the blending of physical and digital infrastructure, and what experiences need to be created for citizens and businesses in a city. This is particularly true with the advent of augmented reality and other digital experiences in the delivery of the urban experience, Menon said.

SEE: Louisville and the Future of the Smart City (ZDNet special feature)

10. Autonomous driving scientist and data specialist

These scientists and specialists will be responsible for enhancing automobile safety—creating a car that won't crash. They will create opportunities for people to ride in cars who cannot currently drive themselves. They will apply artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques and practices—improving quality of life, increasing safety, and bringing more comfort for all people. These scientists will develop hardware platforms and software systems for autonomous driving R&D efforts. Those platforms will apply advanced algorithms in sensors and motion planning, said Sanchit Agarwal, vice president of field operations for Nearmap.

11. Geospacial and mapping scientist

These scientists will use GIS and other software to produce, display, and analyze geographic information to propose R&D software solutions that follow emerging trends in mapping and geospacial systems. These systems will be needed to create smart cities and enhance autonomous driving systems. They will design and test algorithms and conduct prototypes, Agarwal said.

12. Energy efficiency engineer

Managing energy consumption is increasingly crucial if smart cities are to be sustainable—whether in battery-operated phones and laptops or in huge data centers that collectively use billions of kilowatts of electricity each year, said Rebecca Bagley, vice chancellor for economic partnerships at the University of Pittsburgh.

13. Network reliability engineer

Cyberattacks and disruptions are major threats to crucial infrastructure; ensuring secure, reliable communications has become vital—particularly with regard to communications networks, Bagley said.

14. Urban informatics analyst

Data collection is ubiquitous in smart cities. Making connections between data and human behavior will enable problem-solving that results in more livable cities, Bagley said.

15. Integration engineer

These engineers will work with multiple systems, sharing data and using information from one system to drive another. For example, weather sensors in streetlights can issue work orders for snowplows. This is one of the reasons Fulham has built its controls on Niagara [the de facto standard for convergent web systems], because it is a framework for integrating lots more than lighting, said Russ Sharer, vice president of global marketing for Fulham Co.

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Image: chombosan, Getty Images/iStockphoto

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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