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The (secure) modern office connection in a mobile world

It’s clear that our lives are getting smarter — just ask Alexa.

From predictive mapping to intuitive temperature control to refrigerators that automatically order your grocery list, we’ve become accustomed to connectivity in our personal lives. The internet of things has been a revolutionary driving force in the way we consume entertainment, participate in the consumer economy and simply exist on a day-to-day basis.

This new dawn of interconnectivity does not stop when we leave the house in the morning, however. Increasingly, IoT is presenting companies with chances to make unparalleled strides in creativity, productivity and collaboration by connecting employees to their surroundings, and one another, in ways unlike ever before.

The modern office, after all, is no longer built around four walls. The rise of mobile computing means that critical elements of the workday happen curled up on the couch at home, huddled in the corner of a local coffee shop or co-working center, or even in the back of an Uber or on an airplane. For these reasons, it is vital for companies to understand the ways IoT is already affecting the modern workplace, and how it will continue to impact the future of work.

Mobility: Not just a millennial trend

It is important to put this trend in perspective — while we often associate the rise of smartphones and connected gadgets with millennials, in reality, workers across generations have been adopting these devices as a hub of how content is generated and consumed for almost two decades.

In fact, a study done by Ryerson University estimated that more than 70% of Canadian workers are mobile in some capacity. As advancements in the design of operating systems encourage even greater mobility, we now recognize the modern worker as someone constantly on the move — unfettered by age or office walls.

To truly utilize the benefits of IoT in the workplace, it’s vital to understand the importance of the cloud and how it can serve us at work. The number of connected devices estimated to already exist in the world is approximately 23 billion (a staggering number which is steadily increasing). Investing in cloud infrastructure allows businesses to offer more innovative capabilities to their customers, through an unprecedented level of insight into their needs. As a result, they are more competitive against peers who do not invest in such customer insight and service levels.

For example, we’ve enabled IoT capabilities in printers that ensure customers never run out of ink, as the printer is cloud-connected and will reorder supplies before they run empty. We are able to perform sophisticated remote diagnostics on cloud-connected office printers, auto-deploy self-healing capabilities and inform service partners about parts to be replaced before they actually wear out. This increases uptime for customers and cuts service costs for partners.

Securing an expanding network of connected devices

It is important to note that while we have access to more information than ever, utilizing IoT in this way requires a thoughtful approach to data management and security.

With more and more connected work devices (smartphones, PCs, tablets), security is a growing concern — one which, so far, has been underestimated. Security should absolutely be at the forefront of any company increasing their reliance on the cloud. Any device that connects to a corporate infrastructure poses a potential security threat, putting both companies and clients at risk, which is why cloud and endpoint device security is of the utmost importance.

Considering that most companies simply don’t have this kind of security thinking in their DNA at the moment, the most prudent course of action is for dedicated IT workers to team up with professionals who specialize in device as-a-service models. This can provide valuable insight into what kind of devices to use, how to secure them and how to optimize the infrastructure from a cost perspective, while staying ahead of security threats in this ever-growing hacking space. A holistic mindset is important here, and senior management should work with IT professionals to make technology purchase and deployment decisions. After all, IT security threats put the whole brand at risk.

Looking to the future, employers who want to be on the frontline of the connected workplace will need to be competitive about attracting talent and appealing to a new generation of workers that is already used to a mobile-heavy environment. That effort however, needs to be balanced with a thoughtful and realistic approach to integrating IoT in a productive, secure and creative fashion. Embracing the latest technology is important, but only when it can be integrated safely and effectively. That sense of authenticity and attention to detail will both serve businesses in the long run, as well as appeal to the growing talent pool of millennials and Generation Z.

As the workplace of the future evolves, beginning to take a mindful shift toward practices that support this new technology and mobile work environment is imperative. Being on the forefront of the evolving office of the future will reap great benefit for your employee base and your brand reputation down the road.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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