Engineering Inside:

2016 Issue 3
The Internet of Things

Meet Christine Miyachi!

August 2016

MiyachiChristine Miyachi has over 25 years of experience working for startups and large corporations. She is the chair of the IEEE Computer Society’s Special Technical Community (STC) on Cloud Computing  (http://www.computer.org/cc) and  writes a blog about software architecture:
http://abstractsoftware.blogspot.com/. She is a principal systems engineer and architect at Xerox Corporation and holds several patents. Miyachi graduated from the University of Rochester with a BS in electrical engineering. She holds two MIT degrees: an MS in technology and policy/electrical engineering and computer science and an MS in engineering and management.

1. Why did you choose to study the engineering field?
I took an aptitude test in high school.  I was thinking of being a journalist.  After taking an aptitude test, I scored much higher in the math and science section then on the verbal section.  I started to explore the idea of doing something in that area.  My guidance counselor suggested engineering and I was attracted to Electrical Engineering given the diversity of areas to work in.

A Xerox Multifunction Device inside a retail store. Image Credit: Christine Miyachi

A Xerox Multifunction Device inside a retail store. Image Credit: Christine Miyachi

2. What do you love about engineering?
I love the challenge of problem solving. I didn’t grow up solving puzzles or breaking apart electronics.  Engineering was something I discovered as an adult/ college student and I encourage everyone to try things they are new at!

3. Do you have a simple definition of The Internet of Things?
I use the word “Things” in software architecture and object oriented programming.  A thing is another word for an object.  So I consider the Internet of Things to be the connection of all objects.

4. How did you first get involved with The Internet of Things?  Share a project or inspiration with us please that prompted your involvement…
In 1985, I stumbled upon the “Arpanet”, a precursor to the Internet.  I connected to my first “thing”, a Unix computer in California.  I was in awe of being able to be on a machine that was that far away.  While I am not directly involved in the Internet of Things in my work, I like to say the Internet of things found me.  My work in networking and cloud computing and web services has drawn me in.

5. Can you explain a little about how you think the Internet of Things will impact everyday products or the world in general?
The world will become smaller yet again because of all these connected things.  And what you do will become less and less private. One recent IoT example I read about was with automobiles.  Most new cars collect a variety of data about the driver. One piece of information was the driver’s weight.  Some people really don’t want their weight collected by other people!  In addition, they had no idea that this data was and is being collected.

6. Is there a particular application or industry that you think could benefit the most from IOT developments in the future? 
I think health monitoring will be bigger than it is today – and especially elder care, which is close to me right now, as my mom is an elder.  Being able to monitor her care would be a huge comfort to me and give me the ability to help her more.  I’m also a marathon runner and to monitor my training with data from all the lings I interact with (the road, my heart rate, my oxygen uptake, my foot strike, my sweat, the makeup of my sweat, my recovery heart rate, etc.) would help my fine tune my training in a great way.

7. What are the current challenges to the IOT?  What’s the biggest obstacle at the moment to IOT progress?
I think the biggest obstacle is the storage and analysis of huge amounts of data.  Work needs to be done store and analyze smaller data sets. One way to address this is to break down the data as it is originally collected and get rid of what is not necessary for the analysis that needs to be done.  For example, if automobile makers want to collect how fast their cars drive, they can collect that data and throw away other data (like the driver’s weight).  At another time if they want to collect data on the heat of the engine, they can get rid of the speed of the car.

There will always be a limit to the amount of data we can store and IoT designers and data scientists will have to get innovative on how to store it.  New algorithms to compress the data could be a potential innovation.

8. Whom do you admire and why?

Admiral Grace Hopper

Admiral Grace Hopper

I admire Anita Borg and Grace Hopper – both were accomplished engineers and dedicated much of their life to inspire and mentor a younger generation of women in the field. Grace Hopper is recognized as one of the first software engineers.  She was a mathematician and she programmed one of the world’s first computers in the 1940s.  I first saw an interview with her on TV in the 1980s when I was studying engineering and was inspired by her early work.  Today there is a yearly conference for women in computing dedicated to her.   I saw Anita Borg speak at MIT in the 1980s as well, who was also an accomplished computer scientist.  She had a life goal of increasing the representation of women in technical fields and the group  Systers and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

9. How has the engineering field changed since you’ve started?
Processes for writing and designing software have improved, and tools give a strong hand in this.  I first started in writing code with punch cards in 1980 if you can imagine that.  In addition, many companies have diversified their work force which makes for stronger engineering teams and these companies reap the benefits.

10. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned through your work with the IOT?
That my field is constantly evolving and growing and I need to keep learning new things all the time, which thankfully I enjoy.  I have several ways I stay current.  First, I am a member of several professional groups including the IEEE.  The IEEE has many courses/ webinars/ and publications that I read on a regular basis.  IEEE Software is a must read for me.  In addition, I take college level courses in new areas both from local colleges and now with MOOC (like Edx.org and coursera.org.).  The Khan Institute has some great courses as well.  I’m always in the process of taking a class.

11. What advice would you give to recent graduates interested in working in the IOT movement?
Make sure you are up on the technologies you need for distributed computing like REST (Representational State Transfer) and other frameworks.  Target specific companies and study their products.  And be prepared for your interview.  We have a number of IoT companies in the Boston area and it is a great place to work and live.

12. If you weren’t in the engineering field, what would you be doing?
I’d be a journalist. I still love to write and I’m working on a book now. The book I’m working on has nothing to do with technology and is a novel, although it is a direct experience from my life. I write every day as part of my daily routine.

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