How upcoming smart home technology will influence remote working

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A few years back, remote working was just another niche workplace trend reserved for indie software developers in Silicon Valley. Today, however, on the backdrop of a coronavirus mandated remote work culture, both business leaders and employees alike now see the benefits of working from home.

If anything, the coronavirus has shown us that we can work from home and still be productive. Business leaders embrace it for the cost savings on office infrastructure. Every year, Sun Microsystems, creators of the Java programming language save more than $68 million, all thanks to a remote workplace policy it implemented in 2007.

For employees, it’s a refreshing tale of several benefits that are not just improving productivity but also ramping up job satisfaction. Per one survey by Fluent, employees cite the opportunity to spend more time with family (34%), no commuting (29%), flexible schedules (17%), and costs savings (11%) as major reasons why working from home sounds appealing. And that appeal is strong too; of the surveyed participants, 44% were willing to take a pay cut to keep their work from home status post-pandemic.

About the author

Shaul Levi is founder of Gamgee

It’s evident now that remote work is more than just a trend. Post pandemic, it will be a definitive workplace culture. This reality ushers in new challenges, as well as opportunities for enterprises, employees, and service providers alike.

The challenges of remote working

In creating a fully functional home office environment, two categories of problems must be addressed: that of effective online management and communication and that of guaranteeing fast and secure infrastructure for data transfer.

The challenge of online management and communication has already been addressed. There’s a huge cache of communication and online management solutions delivered by vendors from the world over available today. From project management tools to enterprise ERP solutions, video conferencing and collaboration platforms, the list is extensive.

The effectiveness of these solutions at creating the ideal remote workplace environment is, however, jeopardized if remote workers cannot connect through a fast and secure network. When fast broadband connection is a given, safe and private data transfer must be reinforced by further security measures – the most largely implemented being VPN.

Secure home office network

Virtual Private Networking - or VPN for short - creates a secure channel for data transfer amongst work devices into their company gates where all security policies are in place. Data handled by a VPN is fully encrypted and protected from third-party hacks or intrusion.

Companies use VPNs to connect office networks at different locations or facilitate remote workers with VPN software on their devices. This way, they can make sure that only trusted, safe and protected devices can communicate with their office servers, avoiding a risk of a data breach or a cyberattack.

There are plenty of VPN solutions on the market that allow companies to enable safe access to their employees while working from home. These solutions can be categorized as 1) VPN applications installed on devices, 2) VPN browser add-ons for safe and private browsing, or 3) VPN routers creating protected Wi-Fi networks.

The problem with the currently available solutions is that they either require significant set-up time, a certain level of IT skills, are limited in their functionality or are unnecessarily expensive.

However, there are new creative solutions on the market that use already existing technology and turn it into a sophisticated data privacy protection tool. The latest ones allow remote workers to use a separate network on their router and create a fully VPN protected “home office network”. Companies then can enable access to all the devices connected through this trusted network, thus creating a direct extension to the office environment in compliance with workplace-specific policies and regulations.

Employees then can safely communicate from all their (even personal) devices, while the rest of the personal network remains unaltered serving the needs of other connected devices at home.

Preferential allocation of bandwidth

Fast and stable network connections are critical to the proper functioning of remote working tools. But more often than not, many remote workers struggle with broadband internet that’s both laggy and unstable.

Once the “home office network” is separated from the “personal network”, as described above, employees at home can allocate the bandwidth preferentially to the home office network at the expense of the personal network.

This setup makes it sure that the home office network and whatever remote working infrastructure it hosts receive relatively superior network bandwidth. In practice, this fosters improved network performance even in times when the overall network connection is poor.

Smart office

Creating the perfect home office for remote working doesn’t end at providing fast connections and ensuring network security. The ideal work from home environment is only perfect if it is smart. Smart, in this context, means a home working environment where data transfer is seamless, intuitive, and stress-free.

Solutions that are currently being developed integrate protected WFH environment with 21st century smart tools that are “sitting” on the same router. Consumers at home then receive services such as user and device management, multi-level cyber protection, content filtering, 24/7 customer support and enterprise management console together with their “WFH toolkit” all accessible through an intuitive mobile app. The digital expectations of consumers at home are becoming much greater than simply having a functional Wi-Fi, and so the industry delivers accordingly.

The opportunity for ISPs

To conclude, there’s no doubting the fact that the work from home trend is here to stay. With the many benefits (both for institutions and remote workers) brought on by the new culture, it’s hard to imagine a future where it’s not relevant.

ISPs can exploit this situation to their best advantage by debuting and offering Work From Home network and infrastructure services bundled with their broadband service offerings. Many providers already offer technologies like this, but for the ISP looking to go above and beyond the goal will be to debut a work from home services package that packs the full complement of network control and safety features. This will include everything from network segregation services to network security services, performance optimisation services, and enterprise security integration that all combine to provide a richer digital experience for remote workers.

Shaul is a serial tech innovator and expert on the cybersecurity industry, the founder of Gamgee, Gilian/Breach Security Inc and Sightix Ltd, and the former Chief Scientific Officer for AVG.