A consulting engagement to identify Deakin’s technology requirements and scope out a solution proposal
Installation and integration of IoT sensors to monitor occupancy of desks, meeting rooms, kitchens, and other communal areas
Development of a custom web application that enabled staff to book desks, meeting rooms and check-in on arrival
Live Power BI reporting with data visualisation on space and asset usage for analysis by a client administrator
Deakin University (Deakin) has a flexible workforce that utilises office buildings on interchangeable days with varying schedules.
With a finite number of desks, meeting rooms, and other communal areas, they needed to find a solution that ensured their existing workspaces could support a dynamic and growing workforce. This included the ability to forecast how many desks they would need for staff on an ongoing basis.
Failure to do so would result in a costly process of expanding their office facilities and inefficient use of space.
Unico engaged in an initial consultation engagement which identified that the best way forward for Deakin would be to:
Implement hot desking as a workplace practice for designated office spaces
We also identified that this solution would have to be scalable and transferable to other shared spaces such as libraries to accommodate for future growth.
Our solution consisted of three major parts that solved Deakin’s problem of supporting a flexible workforce whilst optimising space usage of the building, including:
• Installation and integration of IoT sensors to monitor occupancy of desks, meeting rooms, kitchens, and other communal areas
• Development of a custom web application that enabled staff to book desks, meeting rooms and check-in on arrival
• Live Power BI reporting with data visualisation on space and asset usage for analysis by a client administrator
By adopting our proposed technology solution, Deakin was able to accurately forecast their workforce space and asset needs. This has driven a significant reduction in costs and optimised office space usage. Our platform also played a crucial role in enhancing the employee experience and supporting a flexible workforce model via our booking application.
How will work change in the future? COVID, the catalyst for change
How will work change in the future? The post-COVID office and flexible workforce will drive lasting changes in the workplace that businesses need to prepare for.
The world is full of examples of innovators who sensed a need for change in their environment and used it as a catalyst for lasting improvement. Those visionaries took their teams through adversity and invented a new future. We believe that in the years to come we will see that the year that everyone would rather forget, 2020, was the year that lasting change was enacted in our lives and businesses.
In Australia, the most obvious manifestation of these changes will be the move to remote and hybrid ways of working. We have seen workforces successfully move to a remote working model, but we believe that the real lasting changes from this transformation are yet to come. Specifically, we believe that:
Remote working solutions will need to adapt to better fit a hybrid working future or flexible workforce.
So exactly how will work change in the future? Today’s completely remote workforce will move to a hybrid model where employees once again seek the enhanced collaboration and social-bonding benefits of the office. Solutions that have worked fine for the fully remote workforce (e.g. desktop-based video conferencing) will need to be augmented with solutions that provide collaboration between mixed groups of remote and onsite team members.
We’ve all been part of a meeting where collaboration has suffered and failed due to team members participating online and in person, or the person working from home wasn’t invited in the first place. These scenarios will become the norm in the post-COVID office, and SMART solutions will be a necessity as it is unlikely teams will ever fully co-locate again.
On-site working solutions required for a safe and compliant post-COVID world.
The return of workforces to offices will require active solutions to balance staff sense of safety (is this building safe for me?), building practical usage limits (lift throughput, floor and meeting roaming occupancy etc.) and employers’ legal obligations (am I fulfilling my legal obligations) in an effective manner.
Our team has significant experience in SMART office solutions, which started with SMART Desks a number of years ago. Due to COVID the team saw a need for a SMART Space solution – JourneyHub was born. JourneyHub is a SMART Space solution that allows landlords and employers to manage their office space safely and efficiently through IoT sensors, AI/ML and IT integration capabilities.
Suburban and metro business adapting to a hybrid working future.
One of the few positives of COVID has been the new life that has been breathed back into local high streets and community areas. Hundreds of thousands of people who traditionally spend their days in the CBD are working from home, potentially juggling childcare, and education responsibilities. This trend of flexible working and increased activity in suburban areas will provide opportunities for local businesses to flex to growing customer demand.
A good example is neighbourhood gyms, who are poised to benefit with the permanency of flexible working, resulting in increased demand for daytime classes and gym space. This will need to be balanced by addressing anxiousness relating to over-crowding by real-time updates and allocation of their equipment to their neighbourly customers who are using their newfound work flexibility to fit in a gym session between video meetings.
To make this type of solution work, it requires clever integration of sensors to measure usage, CRM systems to keep track of customers, AI/ML modelling to predict usage and mobile applications to inform customers when the ‘coast is clear’. Unico’s SMART Space solutions are well suited to bridge the gap between innovative business ideas and technology allowing businesses to capture new customers.
Is your business grappling with the question “How will work change in the future?” If you wonder what the post-COVID office might look like and think that IT transformations can help you reach your goals, we might be the people to help you.
Four ways to protect your investment in IoT from cybersecurity threats
IT professionals are used to thinking about how to protect our information technology assets from cybersecurity threats. Data loss, data theft, exposure, identity theft and ransom attacks are the menu du jour. As we move towards Industry 4.0 internet of things (IoT) is connecting operational technology (OT) to the network at breakneck speeds, raising the stakes for cyber-attacks to the levels of tales we see in dystopian fiction.
We have seen nation-state attacks against nuclear power plants (India, November 2019), as well as widespread attacks on IP connected surveillance cameras. Just today it was announced that a major cyber security attack has been identified by the Australian government. However, threats like ransomware take on a new form: consider a farm with hundreds or thousands of IoT sensors being held ransom under the treat that their crop may be flooded just before harvest, sending them into financial ruin.
Physical security used to be the primary concern for OT managers, but now we must consider a broader landscape due to cybersecurity threats.
How do OT cyber-attacks work?
In addition to securing the back-office systems the devices talk to, OT security professionals now need to look at the devices themselves. The attack vectors can be broken into four key areas of concern.
1) Device firmware: This is the software running the device and comprises the base operating system on the device and the application sitting on top of this. Both elements will make use of code which is either subject to unintentional vulnerability via defect, or introduction of malicious artefacts through open-source libraries in use.
2) Device hardware: There are common protocols in use to communicate between the hardware elements of IoT devices which can be the subject of attack. The very common I2C and one-wire protocols connect sensors and actuators to a device and are prone to being sniffed if physical access is available.
3) Device APIs: IoT devices are useless unless they are connected to a back end, and these interfaces or application program interfaces (APIs) are often vulnerable to attack. The same attack tools used to attack web servers can be used to attack IoT devices; most common weaknesses exploited are default usernames/passwords, weak passwords, and hard-coded passwords, but buffer overrun attacks are also a concern for the transport protocols in use (HTTPS in most instances) where the attacker uses carefully constructed URLs to attempt to break into the API.
4) Radio networks: Wireless communications are a dream come true for an attacker, removing the need for physical access to carry out an attack. Open discovery protocols or weak network configuration can leave devices open to man-in-the-middle attacks which potentially expose user or API credentials, allow actors to extract, inject or otherwise change device data or allow actors to alter the state of actuators by replaying or inserting commands on the device interface.
“Physical security used to be the primary concern for OT managers, but now we must consider a broader landscape.”
So, what can you do?
We have found that there are four components to an effective protection strategy for IoT assets from cybersecurity threats.
1) URL filtering: This is the practice of recognising URLs that are known sources or destinations for cyber-attacks. In the case of IoT it is particularly important to manage this access to prevent BotNet attacks which can generate significant amounts of traffic or computational load.
2) Behavioural assurance: IoT devices are typically low power, low data bandwidth devices so many will fit into one of a few behavioural patterns. Once a pattern is selected for a device, we watch traffic for patterns outside this behavioural definition. For example, a period of high data utilisation when the device has been classed as low bandwidth, or traffic generation during a period when the device should be dormant.
3) Behavioural profiling: Patterns of behaviour can be established quickly for IoT devices. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms can be trained early in a device life cycle to understand the expected behavioural profile of a device, observing low traffic under normal circumstances, occasional high traffic due to an event, and seeing traffic to several legitimate destinations. Once established, the AI can continue to scan the traffic, watching for changes in this behavioural profile to understand when an attack is imminent, or under way.
4) Global threat profiling: If you have access to enough devices, AI algorithms can begin to learn the patterns of the threat actors as well. This can be applied to the entire population of devices under protection, meaning that new threats can be identified and acted on more rapidly than would be otherwise possible.
Choose the right protection and integrator
Unico have extensive experience delivering tailored solutions that meet the specific needs of our customers. Alongside Allot, one of our strategic partners, we have a product that provides four comprehensive modes of protection for your IoT infrastructure:
Global threat profiling
If you would like to find out more about protecting your business or your customers business from cybersecurity threats, then please get in contact as I would be happy to show you how the Allot IoTSecure Service can provide affordable, multi-tenanted IoT protection solutions ready to ship to your customers out of the box.