If someone asked you if your desk was connected, you might think they were asking if it was bolted to a wall or another desk. However, soon that's going to be a question about Internet connectivity for desks, chairs and other equipment as they are increasingly becoming part of the connected world of Internet of Things (IoT).
So, why would a desk or a chair need to be connected to the Internet? There is a growing business trend that promotes workforce efficiency by managing the work environment to improve the balance of individual vs. collaborative work, owned vs. shared work, and needed rest. There is also interest in the efficient use of space and equipment where worker's varying resource needs often leave single-purpose resources idle for long periods of time.
Office furniture manufacturers are offering IoT connectivity as the solution by wirelessly tracking use of equipment and spaces. The information generated from integrated sensors in this "smart" furniture can help organizations improve worker productivity through an optimized desk layout, personalized lighting, and adjustable desk settings. Organizations can also maximize use of existing resources - for example, an under-utilized executive office could be transformed into a conference room or collaborative space.
However, this connectivity and information gathering raises security and privacy considerations. As connected furniture becomes more common, you'll want to consider potential vulnerabilities that may be integrated as part of an IoT wireless solution (e.g. the sensors themselves). Cloud infrastructures pose another potential vulnerability as more and more devices use the Cloud for data storage and are at risk for this information to be stolen. Privacy concerns may include the risk of revealing personally identifiable information (PII), through either accidental or intentional malicious efforts to extract information.
NSA is thinking about the implications of connected smart furniture because, like business, we have to buy office furniture, too! Soon it may not be feasible to procure the old unconnected "dumb" furniture, as some estimates for growth in the smart furniture area project a 20% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)i between 2018 and 2026. Not only will smart furniture be more common, it may become integrated with the rest of our connected buildings, homes, and lives to truly optimize the effects of connected things. Going forward, we will need to scrutinize all sorts of equipment to manage security and privacy implications in the workplace.
The bottom line is that connected devices provide more entry points for adversaries to attack a network than ever before. And as we enjoy more personalized care from everyday items like our office furniture, we may unknowingly be giving our adversaries more sensitive information than we intend.
Looking for more information on cybersecurity? Check out NSA's cybersecurity page, or StopThinkConnect.org.
i Global Smart Furniture Market Size, Market Share, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Growth Trends, Key Players, Competitive Strategies and Forecasts, 2018 - 2026, reported March 2018