In my last blog, I outlined the current campus technology landscape and hinted that I am seeing ten emerging technologies that will soon, if they haven’t already, begin to transform learning, the student experience, academic and scientific research and provide strategic value to the mission of the university – whether we like it or not. In this blog, I’d like to spend some time discussing the first five that will impact the daily decisions we make about how we manage our campus network environments.
10. Consumerization of Wearable Technology
A few years ago my daughter gifted me with a personal health tracker wristband. At the time, I went through something like the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief before arriving at the joy of being my own borg. In other words, I didn’t think I was going to use the tracker, but once I started, I quickly became addicted to it. Intel’s recent acquisition of Basis, the highly anticipated Apple Watch, and dozens of other new products on the market all presage an explosion of wearable technology that will represent an exponential growth of devices competing for bandwidth on campuses. As the majority of students are already bringing 4 or 5 devices with them, university IT departments need to consider how all of these devices will be tracked and managed and the impact they can have on WiFi signal strength.
9. Identity management, biometrics, and the balance between openness and security
Universities are unique by virtue of their commitment to scientific research and exchange of scholarly ideas. Campus IT departments contend with a tension between a need for openness and a need for both personal privacy and security. At once, the campus network must be secure, but also must allow administrators, faculty, students and research teams to access the network and the data that sits on it as simply and as reliably as possible. Federated identity management systems (e.g., InCommon Federation), hold both promise and potential challenges for identity management across campuses. Biometric technologies that differentiate individual attributes of our faces, voices and 3D scans of other anatomical features also have the power to transform network and computer security. Campus IT departments must consider how biometric and identity management tools can add extra value to the university and solve some of the biggest challenges campus IT staff currently face. What if identity management tools could reduce the number of help desk calls for password resets from 50% to 5%? This could save schools a significant amount of time, resources and keep users happier.
8. Campus Safety and Emergency Mass Notification Systems
I simply can’t overstate the importance of campus safety and emergency mass notification systems. We tragically all know the events that took place on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007, as well as what happened during Hurricane Katrina. No matter where you’re located, there is always the potential for a natural disaster, pandemic, or other emergency situation and IT departments can never be too vigilant in preparing for campus incidents or closures. Most of you reading this probably have a mass notification system already in place, but the success of such a system depends upon a reliable environment that can prioritize network traffic and withstand failure to make sure critical applications always perform when needed. Campus IT staff must routinely test all of their communications and notification systems to ensure quality of service for all forms of emergency communication.
7. Science Big Data: Leveraging Campus and National Networks
For Science-Driven Applications Researchers in astronomy, biotechnology, medicine, genetics and so many other disciplines are increasingly reliant on the collection, analysis, visualization and storage of large amounts of data that even a few years ago would have been inconceivable to manage anywhere but the largest and most well-funded universities. But now to remain competitive, all universities must maintain currency in scientific discovery and research efforts. In fact, it is now the expectation from many funding opportunities that schools have Science DMZs – a segregated part of the campus network that serves to provide high throughput, low latency and highly secure data flows for science applications. If your institution is looking to expand, fund more opportunities, and enable data-driven science, network administrators must learn how to design and manage highly reliable networks that can support the efficient transfer, analysis and distribution of scientific data.
6. Business Big Data: Advancing The University’s Mission Through Business Intelligence
Both public and private universities are under increasing pressure from their board of directors, donors and tax payers to optimize for growth in enrollment and minimize administrative spend. Business intelligence (BI) has emerged as a way to harness data for driving efficiencies at universities, and the need to have instantaneous access to this data is especially important for timely data-driven decision-making. Increasingly, colleges are making investments in cloud-based data warehouses for the following purposes: enabling predictive analytics for enrollment management and growth, enabling business analytics for improving efficiency and reducing the bottom line, satisfying compliance with federal state and other regulations like FERPA and HIPAA, ITAR, achieving competitive advantage in research by having a data repository that satisfies grant solicitation requirements and preserving scholarly records and enabling collaborative access to research and the data it entails to other academics and also the world. Campus IT departments need to be able to effectively support business intelligence data that lives in the cloud, as well as data that lives on campus, and manage and prioritize traffic to and from the business intelligence engines and data stores.
In my last blog in this series, I will be looking at five other emerging trends that are poised to impact the daily decisions we make about how we manage our campus IT environments.