As IoT continues to march through various enterprises, education is a space where you might not consider it being heavily implemented. While the usual suspects will be there (HVAC, CCTV, etc), there are some unique examples of IoT in education.
For the purpose of this blog, I’m going to divide my experience with IoT devices in education into 2 categories: things that end users bring into the building and devices IT deploys (corporate devices).
End User Devices
From wearables, to photo frames, to pens, everything has Wi-Fi built in these days. The issue with these devices is that they are difficult to authenticate and they are really difficult to manage traffic from. I’m left wondering, what are these devices doing? Are they sniffing around the LAN? Who are they made by? Are they phoning home?
IT departments have two choices: be the bad guy and ban these devices or figure out a way to support them (more on that later). This problem isn’t going to slow down. More users will come in with more products requiring a network connection. This list will include smart watches, smart pens, smart photo frames, and other “smart appliances” (probably a fish tank is on the horizon). The key requirement for IT is figuring out how to bring these devices onto the network while remaining secure. This reminds me a lot of when BYOD was in its early stages. IT departments had to figure out how to support personal smartphones, tablets, and laptops, while enforcing polices and security. IoT is BYOD 2.0. IT departments will have to evolve with it.
When I look at my device landscape, I’m probably maxed out with what I deploy to end users. How many devices do students and teachers really need? Due to budget requirements, one is likely the maximum I can afford to deploy.
Where I do see growth is in devices that are networked, but not in the traditional way. Here are some examples:
- AV gear
High end projectors in auditoriums are now networkable. Instead of remotes that constantly get lost, they are turned on via a digital remote on the network. We’ve got a few of these on our campus, and I have zero idea what they do otherwise. Does it phone home? Does it crawl my network for data?
- Multifunction Printers
Long gone are the days of printers that just print/copy/fax. Any printer vendor is selling a document management feature set that hook into cloud service providers. My question, like the AV gear, is what is this thing doing? Are these vendors using modern security protocols to communicate data? It reports usage and toner needs to our reseller, but what else is it doing? I’ve got no clue. I was just simply asked to put it on the network.
- Energy Management
When I first read how high our power bill was for our 100,000-sq. ft. building, I almost fell over in my chair. It was a lot of money. We’ve slowly started to implement lights with motion sensors across our building, but I see this as a short-term solution. I am sure we will likely one day deploy an enterprise version of a product like the iDevice Switch, which is a Wi-Fi smart plug that allows you to control, monitor, and schedule electronic appliances throughout your home. Like our HVAC system, we will move our lighting gear to a networked system to central management. If my experience with our HVAC system, which I discussed in a previous blog, is any indicator, it will be a clunky interface with suspect plugin technology.
We are in the early days of IoT deployments in education. The key themes will be cheap end user devices and complicated enterprise gear. One thing is for sure, it’ll be great and terrifying at the same time. IT departments need to find a way to secure the end user devices being brought in by students and secure the corporate devices that help keep the school running. By deploying ZingBox, you enjoy the benefits of this gear while knowing what it’s doing at the same time.
Note about our Guest Blogger: Bradley Chambers has been the IT Director at Brainerd Baptist School in Tennessee for 7 years. He oversees all of the technology efforts at the school including managing the network infrastructure, end user devices, student database, and online enrollment.