It’s essential that engineering firms stay on top of the latest advances in technology while addressing security concerns and other challenges unique to the industry. So, what IT issues and trends should engineering firms be thinking about in 2024?
Artificial intelligence continues to transform the engineering industry, and companies who effectively leverage the technology have a clear competitive advantage. Its most common current usage is in gathering and analyzing vast data sets at superhuman speed. While its ability to identify patterns and detect anomalies within millions of data points is impressive, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that AI is a tool, not a one-size-fits-all solution. In this use case, success depends entirely on the quality and quantity of data input to train the algorithm.
AI has been used widely to aid engineers in designing complex systems. A clear advantage in AI’s ability to rapidly simulate and test systems is that it nurtures human innovation. This potentially gives engineers the freedom to be more creative and to “fail” more productively. Ideally, AI will complement, not replace, humans in the workplace–performing menial tasks efficiently and fostering a culture of experimentation that leads to new ideas and inventions. Generative AI is here to stay, and as more firms embrace the technology its full potential will emerge.
Reducing Technical Debt
As your company grows, new tools and software are added to better help employees do their job. But it’s easy to lose track of which department uses which software and many companies end up buying multiple unnecessary licenses. Reducing your technical debt means consolidating these tools, finding more efficient technologies, and ensuring you are running the latest version of each.
Technical debt is a business risk and it’s important to take a close look at your technology to find inefficiencies. As your tech stack grows, so does the likelihood that something will fail or become a security risk. Adopting newer, better technology will reduce overall costs, improve workflow and limit security risks. The more efficient your tech stack, the more likely you’ll stay on top of required updates to keep you and your staff safe.
Internet of Things (IoT)
In an environment increasingly driven by connectivity, the Internet of Things (IoT) has profoundly impacted the engineering industry. As the market expands, so does demand for expertise in the field. Device integration requires infrastructure solutions that facilitate the collection and transmission of data, and its processing for practical use.
The ability to gather real-time data from an array of interconnected devices and sensors has given engineers unprecedented insights into systems, structures, and processes, allowing them to optimize operations and predict maintenance needs with greater accuracy. IoT technology facilitates rapid testing and prototyping, giving engineers the ability to quickly iterate and refine designs. Preventative maintenance can be highly targeted, addressing issues before they become critical, and reducing downtime.
IoT also plays a pivotal role in sustainable engineering. The proliferation of smart building systems that can adjust lighting, heating and cooling based on occupancy and environmental conditions has led to significant gains in energy efficiency. The demand for “green” technology in residential, commercial, and industrial settings will only continue to grow. Whether it’s optimizing traffic flow in smart cities or designing efficient supply chain networks, IoT insights enable engineers to make data-driven decisions that lead to better solutions. With applications for a wide spectrum of industries, from medicine to aviation to city power grids, IoT will continue to evolve in 2024.
Cybersecurity tops the list of challenges for engineering firms, and adopting a proactive approach to threat detection is crucial. As cyber-attacks become more sophisticated, the risks and potential consequences become more severe. Strict access control is essential to reduce risk and ensure that only authorized personnel can access critical systems and data. Multi-factor authentication and role-based access controls should be used to limit permissions.
Regular software updates and patch management are important to limit vulnerability to cyber-attacks, and sensitive data should be encrypted when in transit or at rest. Network security should include a robust firewall, intrusion detection system, and intrusion prevention system, and regular updates to policies and configurations to stay ahead of emerging threats. A proactive approach to cybersecurity should include regular audits and vulnerability assessments to identify and mitigate weaknesses in security.
Lastly, businesses need a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines the steps to take in a cyber-attack. The plan should include roles and responsibilities, communication protocols, and strategies for minimizing downtime. Cybersecurity is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment to safeguarding digital assets in a landscape of rapidly evolving threats.
Addressing Remote Work Challenges
Remote work has become a defining aspect of the modern workforce and though many companies have encouraged a post-Covid return to offices, a hybrid model will likely be the norm going forward. Along with its numerous benefits, remote work presents unique challenges for IT for engineering firms.
First, collaboration is at the heart of many engineering projects, so investment in up-to-date infrastructure that includes collaborative tools and video conferencing is crucial. Regular check-ins and team meetings will help maintain community and create a virtual environment where ideas can be shared seamlessly.
Ensuring that remote employees have secure access to software, data, and computing power is the second crucial component of the remote work puzzle. Engineering firms have increasingly implemented cloud-based solutions and the use of VPNs, as well as providing home-based workstations that can run resource-intensive applications.
The third challenge to remote work is ensuring privacy and security. Giving remote workers access to intellectual property and sensitive client data means strict cybersecurity protocols must be in place. Training in best practices, secure password management, and avoiding phishing attempts should be mandatory for all employees. Remote work is here to stay and engineering firms that embrace it with strategic planning will be positioned for long-term success.