The Internet of Things is making a big splash in K–12 school districts. Connected IoT devices provide school IT pros with helpful real-time data to share with educators and students. Some of those connected systems include smart lighting and HVAC, facial recognition technology, wireless door locks and temperature monitors, interactive whiteboards, IP surveillance cameras and other sensor-equipped items.
Schools are even using IoT technology to monitor and track school buses and student attendance, according to a survey by Extreme Networks.
IoT especially impacts physical security. To prevent school shootings, school spending on security measures is increasing nationwide, creating a $2.7 billion industry that’s expected to grow through at least 2021, according to a Marketplace report.
Changes in IoT Investment Shift Leadership Demands
This tech spending shift will change education and the role of today’s K–12 IT director.
For instance, to minimize frustration, IT teams can merge their physical security systems with their building automation systems. This reduces labor costs while allowing IT departments to oversee both systems with one dashboard, according to an article in EdTech magazine.
“With all its benefits, it’s easy to see why building automation is the way of the future, and it can be customized to meet clients’ specific needs, allowing efficient running of a business and property,” Campus Safety reports. “Building owners, facility managers, security directors and IT professionals see the value of converging potentially dozens of systems onto one network with a single control point. Security integrators and their customers both stand to capitalize.”
Segment IoT Devices for Increased Security
To be a modern classroom is to be connected, but more devices mean more opportunities for cyberattacks. Schools have been behind the curve when it comes to cybersecurity, and many are simply not prepared for an eventual attack.
“There have been some major-headline hacks that have happened because of Internet of Things devices that weren’t properly segmented or weren’t properly patched,” says Michael Lane, CDW·G senior field solution architect.
To protect IoT devices, IT professionals should limit bandwidth access and employ user verification — similar to how they secure other technology. Erik Kron, a security awareness advocate, also suggests using multifactor authentication and password locks.
Prepare the Network for Devices First
Before incorporating IoT devices, school districts should assess their current networks. From there, the IT team can decide what needs to be updated to securely support the devices.
A virtualization technique to separate IoT devices while allowing them to remain on the same physical network — IoT containment — will limit the network’s exposure, according to a recent study from Alcatel Lucent Enterprise.
“This is beneficial as it minimizes any potential damage resulting from a malicious attack, by limiting the number of devices accessible within the same profile,” the report states. “If a breach occurs, the rest of the network is not exposed, as other devices are contained in other parts of the network.”
The Internet of Things ultimately will benefit K–12 school districts, but bandwidth and security must be taken seriously before implementing IoT devices. With worldwide spending on IoT hitting $772.5 billion this year and rising, IT pros need to prepare devices, local networks, the internet and enterprise data systems to take on these interconnected products safely.
This article is part of the "Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology" series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.