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Computer networking students make connections

13th February 2017

Through a unique partnership with Westermo Data Communications, a company who design and manufacture industrial networking equipment, some of our computer networking students have been introduced to technology which could open doors to new career paths.

Neville Palmer, Senior Lecturer in Communications Engineering at Solent University, and Antony Lane, who graduated from Solent in 2014 having studied BSc (Hons) Computer Network Management discuss how this equipment will benefit students learning and where it sits within the ‘Internet of Things’ – an important evolution in technology.

Neville Palmer with Solent graduate, Antony Lane

Tell us about the project between Solent & Westermo?

Antony: I have kept in touch with Solent since graduating and was keen to encourage students to consider all of the possibilities when they set foot on their approaching career path. The company I now work for, Westermo, has provided some of the computer networking students at Solent with industrial networking equipment.

Neville: This is a completely new project for our students. Up to now, we have been a Cisco academy and have studied using Cisco, which is mainly aimed at the business market in data communications. Previously, we hadn’t looked at industrial networking companies, such as Westermo, however, this is an important area for students to consider and I see a huge growing market.

What do Westermo do?

Antony: Westermo supply equipment that has been tested to perform over long periods in harsh environments, we work with the likes of Network Rail through to offshore oil, gas, electricity generation and other utilities. Instead of having this throwaway culture we now live in, we have products which last from ten to fifteen years, right through to twenty to twenty-five years, so it’s a completely progressive technology.

Equipment provided by Westermo to Solent computer networking students

What type of equipment has Westermo donated to our students?

Neville: Students have been provided with two complete sets of industrial networking equipment. 

Antony: In the simplest form, the equipment we have provided are switches; layer two and three switches. What that means is, it basically allows two or more devices to connect together with a resilient infrastructure but also with resilience within the devices.

Where does the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) come into this?

Neville: Many of us are familiar with the ‘Internet of Things’ - a development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. This is an evolving topic in the world of technology which allows devices to be connected. A common example to which people are familiar; your fridge is low on milk, so your phone would notify you by sending a message.

Antony: The fridge example is the commercial side to the IoT’s and Westermo sit on the industrial side, within the harsher industries; but the concept is the same. We use the description, ‘the Industrial Internet of Everything’.

Where does this sit with the equipment students are using?

Neville: Westermo operate on a much larger scale within some of the harshest environments in the world. Some of these industries operate in sub-zero and extremely high temperatures. An example is ships; they will be connected to the internet and to their own private cloud, creating much more connectivity with the world. The industrial networking equipment students are working with would essentially play a small part in this connectivity.

Antony has worked closely with Solent since graduating in 2014

You mention the Industrial Internet of Everything, Antony, tell us more?

The Industrial Internet of Everything is the same concept which applies to the Internet of Things - connecting devices over the internet, letting them talk to us, applications and each other – however on a greater and larger scale. The industrial technology which students have been provided with by Westermo will play a key component in the evolution of IIoE, since many of the devices to be interconnected operate in harsh inaccessible environments.

Antony, why did you drive this partnership?

Antony: We looked at a lot of commercial products during my time at the University, but my career in an industrial market shows there are other options, and this made me want to drive the partnership. This is an opportunity for students to look outside of the box and consider other markets, which, like myself, I didn’t know existed until I graduated.


How can students benefit from the partnership?

Antony: This partnership is allowing the students to explore other markets. There was previously a big hole in the industrial market and this is an opportunity for students to think and not just throw away products and services. The throw away culture that is currently flooding the commercial sector is slowing becoming a mind-set for the industrial sector. We want to make sure that students understand that investing in products which can last a generation, is very important.

Finally, how was your time at Solent?

Solent gave me the opportunity to not only develop my skills in Data Communication, but also to gain important life skills. More importantly, without the support of my lecturers, I wouldn’t have got the Job at Westermo and started my career. Personally this is what I feel makes Solent great, the quality of the academics.

Any other tips for students on the course?                                                                

When the right opportunity arises, take the challenge and always give it your best.

Find out more about our computing courses here.