It’s Begun: Executive Education in IoT at Ecole Polytechnique

At the time when this posting goes live, I’ll be in the middle of teaching Day-1 of a 4-day marathon in the Ecole Polytechnique Executive Education program in IoT (Internet-of-Things). This program is structured into two “Levels”, which can be followed independently or together.

A LoRa End Device
A LoRa End Device

Today starts, then, a “Level 1” – which is a highly interesting program in its own right. Seen from afar, the goal of this program appears to be to learn “the how of the IoT protocol stack” – and, indeed, the program ensures that students will, at the end of Day 4, have learned that: IPv6, LOADng, RPL, 6LoWPAN, IEEE 802.15.4, Bluetooth/LE – and also LPWAN, LoRa, etc. all are on the program.

However additionally, and in my opinion perhaps more importantly, Level 1 of the program focuses on “the why of any protocol stack“, trying to understand the assumptions underlying a protocol (stack) design.

hardware-and-cryptoDevices in “the IoT” have constraints: on power, on computational capacity, on memory, on connectivity, etc. This is, in part, why “the Internet of Things” is different from “the Internet”, and why an adapted “IoT protocol stack” is relevant. Meeting these constraints requires that compromises are made – and one of the important lessons when making compromises is, that it’s rarely the same compromise that applies in every possible situation.

Given that IoT technology is rapidly developing, and (almost) every week sees a new IoT technology proposed, which promises to “revolutionise everything”, developing a critical understanding of constraints, compromises in protocol designs, and consequences in applicability and application space, appears primordial – and is the ambition of Level 1 of this IoT program.

When teaching “regular”, full-time students at engineering schools and universities, the teacher will usually know the background of the students (which tends to be fairly homogeneous across the student body), all students will be “in the habit of learning” – and, all students will have the same goal of “getting a good grade, and graduating”.

jeudix-audienceIn an Executive Education program, the only thing that is guaranteed is, that students will have vastly different backgrounds, experiences, approaches, and goals. Some follow the program out of intellectual curiosity – others, because they have a need for a specific skill-set. Some are practicing engineers who want a short-cut to entering a new (sub-)field – others are engineers moving towards technical management, who need to understand the “buzz words”.

This diversity makes teaching Executive Education programs a particular pedagogical challenge – an exercise in trying to gauge the intent of each individual student, and to adapt so as to (as far as possible) satisfy the expectations of all of them.