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VG Tuesday Tips: How Enterprise Networks Benefit from IoT

  Virtual Graffiti

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With the advent of the ‘smart’ products, people’s homes are transforming to leverage the power, comfort, and convenience of AI and machine learning-driven IoT appliances such as smart TV’s, kitchen appliances, and autonomous vacuums. And IoT, much like mobile phones, tablets, and wireless connectivity, which first saw proliferation in our personal lives, is quickly spilling over into our working environments, becoming a critical piece within corporate networks. “Smart” connected devices like thermostats, lighting, and door locks present new opportunities and intelligence for the business, along with new challenges for IT departments.

Businesses are continually looking to optimize their working environments to streamline operations, enhance customer service, and secure assets. IoT devices can effectively support businesses who have a need to reduce IT overheard as well as improve people productivity, leveraging enormous amounts of data to change the way that they run.

In a typical office environment for example, lighting sensors have historically been used to monitor for people entering or leaving a room in order to turn the lights on or off. IoT goes a step further, monitoring not only for movement, but feeding data back to machine learning algorithms that can plan and predict future usage, identify trends, or even alert facilities to anticipated system failures. Similar can be seen with heating and cooling, where IoT sensors adjust settings based not only on if someone is in the room, but also who is in the room, adapting the environment to suit personal preferences of identified individuals. With the increased intelligence fed back to centralized processing and analytics systems, organizations can enhance the experience of people in their premises and drive down the costs of energy and maintenance.

IoT-based asset tracking and security is another area that has seen a sharp rise in organizations, particularly in healthcare and retail. Monitoring the movement of both customers and assets in an environment enables organizations to optimize their layouts, locate and protect critical and expensive equipment, and understand the behaviour of people interacting with their spaces. Yet while IoT is offering enhanced methods to secure businesses, it presents challenges and concerns for the network in which they are connected to, and like business-led BYOD initiatives, the responsibility falls firmly on the shoulders of IT administrators to safely introduce IoT into the infrastructure and manage it ongoing.

IoT: Avoid Common Pitfalls

Because of the volume of IoT devices, they can be hard to identify and difficult to secure. With this in mind, enterprise networks need to be able to handle greater capacity demand and security complexity than ever before. That’s a real challenge with technology already being used far beyond what was originally imagined. The networking industry saw this coming and has been steadily introducing newer connectivity and security standards to help organizations manage IoT devices.

Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is designed to better manage large numbers of devices at once, which is a huge benefit for organizations that are quickly seeing an increasing device-to-people ratio on their networks. Wi-Fi 6 offers increased efficiency in multiple areas beyond speed, introducing new features such as Target Wake Time (TWT), which will allow for better power management, improving battery life and reducing the need for replacement batteries.

The efficiency improvements of Wi-Fi 6 also go hand in hand with the new improved WPA3 security certification. As a result, Wi-Fi 6 devices will include the latest security design features and capabilities to address modern threats that did not exist just a few years ago when Wi-Fi 5 was released. However, many Wi-Fi-enabled IoT devices do not yet support WPA3 security. Therefore, IT administrators need to ensure they have a solution that addresses both authentication identity and encrypted authorised access with what’s available today.

Enterprise network security is often compromised due to the increasing number of unsecured IoT devices. Similarly, many devices running different operating systems and versions of application software have different network access requirements, which make managing and controlling the network infrastructure challenging. On an enterprise level, IT administrators need to manage the onboarding, access, and security policies of IoT devices that connect to a corporate network.

Fortunately, modern-day network management and security solutions are already available for IoT devices. A cloud networking management platform with device fingerprinting capabilities is necessary to identify and classify IoT devices connected to the network infrastructure so that proper access policies can be enforced. Businesses should look to cloud-managed networking platforms that utilize machine-learning capabilities to identify IoT behaviour anomalies so that policy enforcement can be automated.

In summary, enterprise networks require three components to face and embrace the current explosion of IoT devices: increased network efficiencies with Wi-Fi 6, a cloud-managed network infrastructure for greater visibility, and enhanced Wi-Fi security measures including WPA3 security.