Poised for smarts: Away from the traditional campus

Industry experts weigh in on the pros and cons of tapping into emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and Wi-Fi 6 to enhance efficiencies, achieve cost savings and improve learning outcomes

Smart education, Education, Fortinet, Huawei

Today’s networks are becoming increasingly complex with a growing demand for digital terminals and applications. Enterprises are thus striving to build better networks with one-stop network management and cloud management architecture.

Organisations in the region that are going beyond digital offices to digital production and operations require a multifunctional, all-wireless network that can quickly connect people, things and environments. A traditional campus operates multiple networks, which can be difficult to manage. Network construction and O&M costs often remain high, and are unable to meet the increasing network requirements of the digital era. The cloudification of application systems, exponential growth of service traffic, and the widespread use of AI applications based on big data are also straining enterprises’ current campus networks.

According to Huawei’s Global Industry Vision 2025, 100 billion connections will be created by 2025 across multiple  industries such as public utilities, transportation, manufacturing, healthcare and finance. With more connected devices being used on campuses, there is also a need to prioritise automation and intelligent O&M of campus networks for faster service provisioning and increased security protection.

Application of emerging technologies in education

Successful digital transformation involves a comprehensive technology, personnel and budget strategy. This is especially true in education, where common transformation efforts range from content conversion to automating administrative processes and integrating systems. One of the main drivers of technology adoption in education is the desire to enable personalised learning. New tools and applications are helping educators to customise learning plans for students based on their strengths and weaknesses.


Alaa Bawab, vice president, Enterprise Networking Business, Huawei Middle East.

According to Alain Penel,  regional VP, Fortinet, enabling personalised learning is the number one priority for schools, says. “This has led to blended learning curriculums that combine face-to-face teaching with online activities and instructions, and the increased use of artificial intelligence in education.”

AI can facilitate individualised learning by understanding the needs of each student to ensure that they are provided with the material they need to succeed. Additionally, AI can be used to speed up the grading process, giving teachers more time to focus on student needs.”

Companies like Huawei are leveraging cutting-edge wired, wireless, big data, AI and cloud technologies to build an experience-centric campus network that is powering digital transformation across industries. “Such an advanced network delivers low latency and zero packet loss required for real-time decision making applications,” says Alaa Bawab, vice president, Enterprise Networking Business, Huawei Middle East.

“We also implement end-to-end automation covering design, deployment, service provisioning, and optimisation, which in turn simplifies operations and maintenance,” adds Bawab.

Digital innovation is accelerating, causing the transformation of networks and their underlying security systems at an unprecedented rate. Technology is pervasive in many facets of learning, from the physical layout of classrooms (with computers and smart boards) to how lessons are planned and results evaluated (automated grading, and engagement tracking).

Network technologies such as 5G-powered Wi-Fi 6 will support in constructing an experience-centric network that’s focused on the user. The underlying network’s performance is enhanced in terms of less blocking of large-capacity switching, ultra-low latency and zero packet loss.

Bawab adds that in addition to wireless and wired convergence, the deployment of AI in the underlying network is incredibly valuable. “Powered by AI and machine learning, today’s solutions can deliver quantifiable experience assessment, proactive identification and remediation of potential faults, and dynamic discovery and proactive defense of unknown threats.”

Traditional campus border security approaches are becoming inefficient -- Alaa Bawab, Vice President, Enterprise Networking Business, Huawei  ME

Fortinet’s Penel highlights that big data is also being leveraged by schools to measure and improve courses and curriculums. “While personalised learning focuses on the needs of individual students, big data can help educators improve classes on a broader scale. As information about student engagement and success is collected through IoT devices and AI interfaces, this data can be analysed to understand trends demonstrating where students are most engaged or areas where improvements could be made,” he adds.

Security

Campus life from an administrative, teacher and student perspective is targeted for a vast disruption. To remain competitive, institutions need to keep pace with digital innovation without losing sight of security. As new learning applications, media channels and communication and collaboration technologies emerge, IT teams are faced with a re-evaluation of security, personnel, budget and operational issues.

The convergence of the IoT and campus networks brings challenges to campus network security. Identifying devices, segmenting users and updating protection policies are three critical components to securing the digital ecosystem.

Smart network cameras can provide more than just live video feeds or recorded clips -- Alain Penel,  regional Vice President, Fortinet

According to Bawab, traditional campus border security approaches are becoming inefficient. Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) attacks and intrusions into the intranet using encrypted traffic can quickly infiltrate enterprise intranets and threaten enterprise terminals and data.

“Facing this, we need to introduce a new security solution to the campus network and build a zero-trust cyber security architecture. Intranet elements, such as switches, are the first line of security detection and defence, and they need to be deeply integrated with security capabilities,” explains Bawab.

On the other hand, Network Elements, local security analysers, network controllers and intelligence centres on the cloud need to collaborate and build a ubiquitous, proactive security defence system.

In this new digital world, security needs to not only be integrated into the network but also help drive its development. That requires a strategy that integrates security and networking together into a single system ensuring that whenever the networking infrastructure evolves or expands, security automatically adapts as an integrated part of that environment.


Alain Penel,  regional VP, Fortinet.

Many schools are looking to outfit ‘smart classrooms’. Smart classrooms are those that track and measure performance and efficiency through various connected IoT devices. These smart classrooms often include tablets and eBooks enabled with educational software and applications, smart whiteboards, attendance tracking capabilities, and more. Aside from IoT devices that specifically facilitate learning, schools are also incorporating connected HVAC and lighting systems, as well as waste management systems to optimise efficiency. However, as schools embrace these technical advances to improve the success of their students, they are also embracing a host of new threats.

“Incorporating new technology that collects large quantities of data about individual users into the network opens schools up to cyberattacks. This does not mean that they should stop pursuing digital transformation initiatives, rather, this makes strong network defenses integral,” adds Penel.

Endpoint protection is also crucial when securing the digital transformation and the IoT devices involved with it. With smart campuses and classrooms growing, more endpoints are connecting to education networks than ever before. From smartphones and tablets to wireless printers and lighting systems, all of these endpoints serve as entryways into the network. Strong endpoint protection provides end-to-end threat visibility and automated protection from malware and exploits.

The convergence of wired, wireless, and IoT networks greatly reduces the CAPEX of enterprise network construction while raising requirements for network capabilities. Driven by heavy traffic pressure, enterprises would do well to remember that the network architecture will constantly evolve toward simplicity and flexibility.

The wireless network is obviously crucial to improving enterprise productivity and efficiency. All-wireless networks are an inevitable trend. The last wave of wireless reconstruction mainly occurred in enterprise office and guest networks. And the next wave of wireless reconstruction will happen in enterprise production networks, especially with the mature commercial use of the next-generation Wi-Fi technology — Wi-Fi 6.

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