Students on campus using devices on ResNet

May 31, 2024

Emerging Technologies and the Future of Campus Networks

By: Peter Casanave

The next era of campus networking is already here. It’s full of exciting new technologies and—decidedly less exciting—ubiquitous cyber threats.

While there are many factors contributing to rising security risk, a key challenge is that as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), and Internet of Things (IoT) devices become more prevalent on university campuses, these technologies introduce more complexity, too. Campus IT teams need to think through how to integrate emerging technologies into existing network infrastructure and plan for potential vulnerabilities that these devices introduce to the network ecosystem.

Let’s explore how emerging technologies impact campus network design, security, and user experience. We’ll also explain how your teams can best prepare for the future of network infrastructure and digital innovation in higher education.

Identifying emerging technologies on campus

AI, AR/VR, and IoT devices are already on college campuses—in classrooms, dorm rooms, the library, faculty offices, and more. In the coming years, usage will only increase. In EAB’s Campus 2030: Envisioning Tomorrow’s Multi-Modal Campus infographic, they report that 82% of institutions plan to upgrade tech in classrooms, including emerging technologies, by 2030.

Here’s how students, faculty, and staff are using AI, VR/AR, and IoT in higher ed today.

AI on campus

On college campuses, AI technologies can change relatively every aspect of campus life, from research to administrative tasks. Here’s how:

VR / AR on campus

Virtual reality (VR) puts users in the middle of a computer-generated environment, while augmented reality (AR) overlays digital information in the real world. Both can be used in higher ed, where they offer interactive and engaging experiences for students both in and out of the classroom, such as:

IoT devices on campus

In a university setting, IoT technology can create smarter campuses, optimize classrooms, and improve overall operations. Here are a few examples:

How emerging tech impacts the future of campus networks

Now that you have a better understanding of the emerging technologies that already exist on campus, it’s time to consider how you need to change your networks to accommodate them.

Impact on network design

Network design is the process of planning, designing, and implementing computer networks and associated infrastructure that support your university’s various technology needs. This includes everything from wired and wireless networks to internet connectivity, data centers to security systems. 

When designing a campus network, it needs to be scalable to support future growth, flexible to accommodate new technologies (like the emerging tech we’re focused on in this article), and well-connected with strong internet across campus.

All emerging technologies have significant computing needs. To process large volumes of data, AI algorithms require substantial computing power. To render realistic graphics in real-time, AR and VR technologies require high-bandwidth, low-latency networks. To allow effective communication between devices, IoT systems require strong connectivity. 

To adapt to the influx of emerging technologies, higher ed IT leaders might consider upgrading their network infrastructure—including implementing context-aware, intent-based networking (IBN). An extension of software-defined networking, IBN is an advanced network management approach that replaces manual configurations with automated, controller-led operations, translating business intent – the goals and objectives of the organization – into network policies. Simplified management, continuous monitoring, and enhanced security are just a few of IBN’s benefits. 

As an IT leader, you can also look for providers who take a student-centered approach to network design, like Apogee ResNet—Wi-Fi managed services that ensure students can easily connect and use all of their devices.

ResNet services include a customized, scalable network design built to withstand the test of time. We incorporate regular bandwidth upgrades and technology refreshes as part of our managed service, ensuring your network can readily adapt to the growing demands of your university campus.

As the number of devices on campus increases, your network capacity seamlessly expands to meet the demand. By assigning a personal area network (PAN) to each student or room, we prioritize student privacy without sacrificing the convenience of home-like connectivity. This allows students to print wirelessly, connect wireless Sonos systems, or enjoy Apple AirPlay, all while maintaining a secure and private network environment.

Impact on security

The fusion of new tech into higher education is a mixed bag. While it opens doors to incredible improvements in learning, research, and campus life, it also brings a complex web of security risks. Emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality, coupled with the widespread use of internet-connected devices, are transforming the educational landscape. However, this transformation also expands the potential for cyberattacks.

The sheer number of devices now found on campus, from student laptops and smartphones to smart sensors and VR headsets, creates a vastly larger attack surface. Traditional security methods, designed for simpler times, struggle to keep up with the constantly evolving threat landscape.

The need for a new approach is clear. University network security practices must evolve to account for the unique challenges of the digital age. This includes not only robust protection for sensitive data but also the ability to adapt to new threats as they emerge.

Artificial intelligence also has a role to play. AI systems can sift through massive amounts of data to spot unusual behavior that might signal an attack. But AI isn’t a silver bullet; the models themselves can be tricked, so careful setup and constant oversight are key.

Additionally, the unique nature of new technologies like AR/VR and the internet of things (IoT) adds another layer of complexity. These technologies can collect sensitive data and often lack strong built-in security, making them prime targets for bad actors.

There’s a laundry list of potential security challenges associated with emerging technologies:

To mitigate these challenges, IT teams need to reevaluate their campus network security policies and look at ways to adopt and integrate modern security principles—such as multi-factor authentication, role-based access controls, and backups.

Partnering with Apogee’s Managed Network Services helps you build a strong and secure campus network that meets key security standards like NIST SP 800-171 and GLBA. Our comprehensive security features include:

The constant influx of new tech on campus demands a robust, tailored security strategy. Apogee’s services, like network segmentation for IoT devices, secure Wi-Fi with pre-transmission encryption, advanced firewalls, and network access policies designed specifically for your institution’s needs, create a multi-layered defense against threats. By partnering with us, you not only get these vital tools but also the peace of mind that your defenses are constantly evolving alongside the technology landscape, ensuring a secure environment that supports your unique educational goals. In the race between innovation and security, we ensure you’re not just keeping up, but staying ahead.

Impact on user experience

User experience, or UX, is the overall experience and interactions that students, faculty, staff, and other users have with the university’s technology resources. This includes ease of connectivity, overall satisfaction, and usability/accessibility.

Emerging technologies can vastly improve the user experience on campus, including:

However, it’s important to consider the potential negative impacts emerging technology might have on the user experience. Users with diverse needs and abilities might struggle with AR/VR device interfaces. You might not have proper data governance policies in place regarding the collection and use of user data stored in IoT systems. Those who began their careers in the pre-digital era may initially be hesitant to embrace new AI solutions due to a lack of familiarity or comfort with these tools.

To optimize new technologies on campus, IT teams need to consider the user first and prioritize their needs, continuously gathering feedback to iterate and improve the user experience.

Apogee ResNet and Managed Campus Networks are both fully customizable so that your stakeholders can work with our experts to personalize your network design and security posture to your students, faculty, and staff’s unique needs. For instance, the ResNet Student Portal allows quick and secure WiFi connection along with easy SSO authentication, giving students fewer passwords to remember and an easy way to access the internet from anywhere on campus.

Preparing your campus network for future technology trends

The future of campus technology is clear: more devices, more connections, more data. Students won’t just bring the usual smartphones and laptops; expect a wave of new gadgets demanding network access, posing unique challenges for universities:

Campuses will increasingly rely on WiFi for everything from door locks to thermostats.

This explosion of connected devices, both known and unknown, brings both opportunity and risk. Network capacity, security, privacy, and regulatory compliance are just a few of the challenges that universities must address to ensure a smooth and safe transition into this new technological era.

Keeping your technology current

Moving forward, Wi-Fi is clearly becoming the main way people connect on campus. It is not just about laptops anymore – everything from smartwatches to security cameras relies on wireless access. This means your Wi-Fi network needs to be rock-solid, able to handle a growing number of devices and the ever-increasing demands they place on bandwidth.

Keeping your Wi-Fi up to date is crucial. New Wi-Fi standards are released regularly, and each one is designed to handle more connections and faster speeds. Also, do not get left behind with outdated infrastructure, especially if you are still relying on outdated copper and legacy multimode fiber infrastructure.

Outsourcing campus network management

Outsourcing campus network management to a specialized provider like Apogee, a Boldyn Networks Company, is an effective way to prepare your university’s network for these future trends. With Apogee, you’ll get access to two decades of higher ed networking experience without the cost of a full-time network or cybersecurity expert. 

Partnering with us, you’ll gain:

For universities striving to prioritize education and research, outsourcing network management can be a strategic move. By handing over the complex and ever-changing task of network maintenance and support to experts, IT leaders are freed to focus on strategic initiatives that directly contribute to the institution’s core mission. Instead of getting bogged down in the daily grind of port-changes, troubleshooting and patches, they can turn their attention to innovation, long-term planning, and enhancing the overall digital experience for students and faculty. Outsourcing can also provide access to the latest technologies and expertise, ensuring your network stays ahead of the curve without straining internal resources. While it may not be the right fit for every institution, it’s a compelling option for those seeking a sustainable, efficient, and future-proof solution for their network needs.

The future is calling: Embrace emerging technology trends today

In today’s fast-paced world, technology changes daily, and people’s expectations change right along with it. Students want their dorm room gadgets to work just like they do at home, and faculty expect to teach in a tech-forward environment. This puts a lot of pressure on campus networks to keep up.

Your network needs to be ready for the demands of today and tomorrow. It’s about more than just keeping the Wi-Fi on; it’s about providing a smooth, secure experience for everyone on campus.

Ignoring these upgrades isn’t an option. New technologies like AI, AR/VR, and IoT are already here, and they’re only going to become more common. If your network can’t handle them, you could be looking at major problems down the road – data breaches, regulatory headaches, and a frustrating experience for students and staff alike.

That’s where we come in. We’re experts in building and managing modern campus networks. We can help you stay ahead of the curve with the latest technology, without breaking your budget. Let us take the burden of network management off your shoulders so you can focus on what really matters: education and research. Learn about Apogee, a Boldyn Networks Company, managed network services today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Casanave

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