Is your campus ready for the Internet of Things (IoT) -- the swarm of everyday devices (e.g., phones, watches, cars, buildings) that now interconnect with each other via the web.
Earlier this year, Gartner Inc. estimated that there would be 8.4 billion IoT devices active by the end of 2017, up 31 percent from 2016. And that number is expected to jump to 20.4 billion by 2020.
These devices are popping up all over today's campuses, and there are countless opportunities to incorporate this burgeoning technology into the classroom, such as the recent efforts of the University of Southern California to track student physiological data to create personalized learning experiences.
Of course, the IoT can also lead to benefits outside of the classroom. For example, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are working with other schools and Google to develop a new IoT application platform that will allow the campus to better capitalize on this new trend. So far, the school has already deployed the Snap2It app, which lets users link to campus printers and projectors simply by taking a photo of the device with their smartphone.
Similarly, the College of the Holy Cross will soon allow students to use their smartphones to check whether washers are free in the dormitory laundry room. And the school has also set up the freezers in its biology lab to send email alerts when temperatures shift out of an acceptable range.
Given the love of young people (and everyone for that matter) for new technology, the addition of these IoT devices to your campus network is inevitable. Rather than reactively responding to public demand and proceeding haphazardly, establish clear IoT guidelines for your campus.
Your school's IoT policy should define:
More access points means more opportunities for cybercriminals, particularly since most non-traditional "smart" devices lack sufficient security controls. Last October, hackers used more than 100,000 compromised IoT devices to lead a crippling distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on various popular websites, including Amazon and Twitter.
To better protect your network, limit online access only to those smart devices that can be properly secured. In addition, invest in analytics and monitoring tools that can accurately track who is connecting to your network and what information is being accessed. With a tiered security architecture in place, your campus can more easily limit the likelihood of a successful intrusion.
Many of the headaches and complications that are created by increased IoT traffic can be reined in by transforming both students and faculty into technology-savvy consumers. With an effective security awareness program in place, your school can make all users aware of the importance of keeping their personal data secure, using strong passwords, and avoiding social engineering schemes and other scams.
By removing user ignorance and naivety from the table, your school can make it much more difficult for criminals and hackers to penetrate campus systems.
Obviously, as the number of web-capable devices on your campus increases, so will the amount of information being transmitted and shared. And as more IoT devices are being brought into dorm rooms -- gaming consoles, personal health devices, smart TVs -- the less this information will be directly related to academic pursuits.
In one interview, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Drury University, David Hinson, indicated that video streaming services, such as Hulu and Netflix, could monopolize up to 40 percent of the school's bandwidth over a 24-hour period.
You can, of course, just throw money at the problem, but if your school doesn't have an unlimited IT budget, you may need to look to alternative solutions. One option is to work with service providers that offer caching options or on-demand bandwidth, since demand can vary dramatically throughout the day. Or you could use virtual LANs to separate student residence traffic from classroom activity.
Given the increase of devices accessing the system, it might also be wise to reevaluate the type, number, and location of wireless access points throughout your campus to better align coverage with demand.
This flood of devices offer your campus the chance to provide students and faculty with increased convenience and a more personalized education experience. However, no innovation comes without a corresponding cost.
To learn how we can help prepare your campus, staff, and students for the Internet of Things as well as the next cool technology trend, request a demo of our data privacy and security training today.