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How is the digital era changing Engineering?

13/12/17

The way we work is changing. With the invention of computers, software and ever-more advanced technology, we have entered the digital age, where multinational businesses and ordinary people alike use technology to transfer money, conduct deals and go about their daily lives. Last year, foreign and local businesses invested £9.2bn into the technology sector, whilst the digital economy continues to grow at twice the rate of the wider economy.

So what does this mean for engineers- and the engineering sector as a whole? The engineering industry is of vital importance to the UK, contributing a whopping 26% of the UK’s GDP, so being able to keep ahead of the curve is of paramount importance. As the engineering industry is characterised by innovation and progression, the digital revolution presents enormous opportunities for businesses and engineers alike.

With the advanced capabilities presented to us by technology, expect engineers to be at the forefront of many new developments in the coming years. Here are four key areas where we expect to see significant change:

 

Digital Engineering

The digital sector is perhaps the place where engineering is expected to undergo the biggest changes- and have the most impact. The role of the digital engineer is changing at an unprecedented rate, thanks to rapid developments in technology and software. The digital sector is ripe for innovation: with new start-ups exploding in popularity and new inventions and apps able to generate millions of pounds in revenue within months, the digital engineering space has never been more exciting, especially given that there are now jobs that didn’t exist even five years ago.

Of particular importance is the development of concepts like the ‘Internet of Things’ and cloud-based storage: the ability to develop software that will be able to keep up with the rapid changes that are taking place in the industry and usable five years from now has become a vital skill. Likewise, AI has become a huge area of interest, with Hanson Robotics debuting its robot Sophia, the most advanced robot in the world, earlier this year, and revolutionising the way many see artificial intelligence.

 

Defence

The rise of digital technology has the potential to transform the Defence sector over the coming years, with 80% of executives within the industry anticipating that the pace of technological change in Defence is going to increase rapidly over the course of the next three years.

The rise of artificial intelligence will allow big data to be mined to analyse and predict events before they happen, or sense incidents that standard intelligence methods can’t sense. Furthermore, the rise of big data also has the potential to help streamline production processes, as well as upgrading the equipment in command and control systems to ensure a faster and more comprehensive ability to predict attacks, and respond quickly and effectively to them. This will undoubtedly give rise to a new generation of digitally controlled weapons systems, IT applications and even devices like drones and sensors, all of which will contribute to an overall ‘Cloud’ database for rapid information sharing.

Engineers will almost certainly be at the forefront of this shift to a more digital frame of mind, with companies recruiting digitally-savvy software engineers, people who are skilled in IT systems, and especially personnel who will be able to adapt quickly to the changing market and technology.

 

Aerospace

The aerospace sector is making the most of the new opportunities presented by the surge in digital technology: with a projected growth rate of 5.1% over the next decade, manufacturers are revolutionising their digital manufacturing processes to keep up with demand, streamline production processes and cut down on costs.

Inventions like 3-D printing are now more viable than they’ve ever been, and engineers are capitalising on this boom to create high-quality prototypes quickly and cheaply; indeed, 3-D printing is especially well-suited to the aerospace industry, which often produces products that are tailored to different clients. Using this new method of printing can reduce material costs, labour costs and create specialised components more efficiently, and quickly, than ever before. Even better, this new demand is creating a need for software and hardware engineers, attracting fresh talent and opening up new areas within the industry.

 

Bio-engineering

The rapid development of advanced technology is allowing engineers to take massive strides in areas like electronics. Nanotechnology has been making unprecedented breakthroughs. With more advanced software comes the ability to manipulate matter at a molecular level, resulting in inventions like tissue nanotransfection, which reprogrammes skin cells, or tiny chips that can be implanted in the skin which could replace contactless cards. One substance, graphene, can even be used as a molecular electrical conductor, giving electrical engineers the chance to shrink down software- for instance, nanotransmitters- even further.

Nanotechnology is hugely versatile. With the ability to create clear nanoscale films for glass, making it both waterproof and UV-resistant, or develop nanoparticles used as catalysis to boost chemical reactions, nanotechnology can be used across a huge range of industries. The possibilities are limitless, and with every new invention comes the chance to explore an avenue of technology as-yet unopened. As technology develops, nanoengineers will be in more demand than ever.

 

What’s next?

We are at the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Technology is transforming the way in which we work, think and live, and engineers will be at the forefront of these changes, transforming the digital age in everything from manufacturing to robotics.

Engineers exist to solve problems. That need is never going to go away.

 

At Redline, we like to stay ahead of the curve, and stay informed of the latest developments in engineering, so we can continue to match the freshest talent to the best job opportunities. Find out more about what we do here, or browse our jobs in engineering here.