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Of all the developments in information technology that we are being bombarded with, the ability to keep in contact with others across a range of devices – and all the time – is going to have the most profound impact on the way we work.
That’s the view of Leon Wright, country lead, systems engineering for Cisco SA.
“Constant communication with everyone you need to be in communication with is the key, and with the new technology, that generally means via video as well.”
To be effective in the new world of work, people need access to relevant information and resources, no matter where they are, Wright believes. That requires a network architecture that supports this, without compromising security and the integrity of the network.
Wright points out that the biggest change has been the proliferation of devices capable of handling this sort of communication, and their widespread ownership among workers.
This has led to demand by staff for permission to use their own equipment for work purposes, in and out of the office.
“Bring your own device (BYOD) has become a new dynamic in the workplace,” says Wright.
“People prefer to work on the equipment they are familiar with and adept at using.”
This is in line with the changing nature of work; the lines between work and the rest of life have been blurred.
“New-generation workers are willing to do work tasks at home, outside normal working hours, and the technology supports this.”
Wright says companies that want to attract the brightest talent have to make access to a network that facilitates this part of their employer proposition. “It’s also becoming clear that a BYOD philosophy is part of that.
“Research has shown that, for the younger generations entering the workforce, flexibility and the ability to work out of the office are more important in the conditions of work they seek than money.”
Statistics supporting this view include:
l The proliferation of tablets, cellphones and other smart devices as well as machine-to-machine connections are driving up the demand for connectivity.
l By 2016 there will be 3.4 billion internet users across the globe – nearly 45 percent of the world’s projected population according to UN estimates
l The average global fixed broadband speed is expected to increase nearly fourfold from 9 megabits per second last year to 35 Mbps in 2016.
l By 2016, 1.2 million video minutes – the equivalent of 833 days (or more than two years) – will travel the internet every second.
l By 2016 more than half of the world’s internet traffic will come from wi-fi connections.
The development of ITC architectures capable of handling all of this thus becomes essential.
“At Cisco we are aware that the only way it is going to work is if there is a rock-solid infrastructure underlying it all,” says Wright.
“We are not vendors of end-point applications. We are solution providers who build a solid base on which the individual components required can later be built.”
Cisco has built a platform it calls “telepresence”, which creates a seamless interface between the parties required in any business interaction.
For example, Wright explains, you can have workers in a teleconference venue at the company’s headquarters, at their desktop computers, on laptops in remote locations and on mobile devices such as tablets or smartphones, at home.
“The key is a network that can send the required data to everyone and allow them to interact, via video, with each other.”
There are two major issues in doing work this way: quality of signal and security.
“People are instantly turned off by poor-quality videos on the net,” says Wright. “So the system needs to ascertain the quality and type of signal and to seamlessly migrate users to the best that is available in their location.”
Security must be tied to a policy and permission protocols.
“Those who have a need to be included in any interaction will have access, irrespective of what device they use,” Wright says and, similarly, the security of the connection will determine whether or not a user can get into the system from a remote location.
“The greatest advantage is that face-to-face interactions are made possible, which enriches the experience and enhances productivity.”