Every year, it seems like more science fiction dreams become reality. When Star Trek first aired, the handheld devices they used did so much more than two-way communication, seen largely as flights of fancy in the real world. Now, smartphones are so ubiquitous that they’re virtually woven into the fabric of our society.
The ‘holodeck’ on that same television show, however, still feels like science fiction — but the truth is, it’s becoming more science fact every day with the development of virtual and augmented reality. What’s more, these new tools have a big part to play in today’s business strategies.
How Businesses are Adopting VR & AR Solutions
Of course, the obvious early adopters to VR and AR solutions have mostly been in the gaming and entertainment sector. These companies, by nature, look for ways to immerse their customers more fully in experiences that increase engagement and stretch our creativity.
Tourism is another industry actively engaging in VR/AR technology trends. Dozens of museums across the world offer virtual reality tours, and other tourism experiences like snorkeling, hiking, and sailing, all can be discovered virtually these days. AR tours can also augment your physical experience. Want to travel back in time, to the early days of old Paris? There is an AR app that allows you to access old photographs of Parisian scenes, to see what the city once looked like as you walk around it in real time.
But more and more, we’re seeing that VR and AR solutions offer more to businesses than simply a fun experience for their clients. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and the pandemic continues to accelerate the developments in online VR and AR solutions for businesses. Over the past twelve to eighteen months we’ve seen the rapid innovation and adoption of solutions for online collaboration tools, remote work, and even conferences. Many conferences were forced to quickly adapt to provide virtual alternatives with the onset of the pandemic, and while early on these were similar to video conference calls, some of those conferences developed more engaging experiences by using VR and AR to better engage with the audience, sponsors, and speakers. And just last month, Facebook announced it’s latest innovation: virtual reality offices, the beginning of what Zuckerberg hopes will be Facebook’s “metaverse.”
Virtual and augmented reality is here for business — but at what cost?
The Problem With New Technology
As VR and AR use grows among corporations, so does the security risk. Online collaboration for businesses will be essential for the future workplace as colleagues, based in the office and remotely, use these platforms to work together. The key to doing this right, however, will be this: the data that’s shared within these collaborations must be done with security in mind. Every new entry point to your company network expands your network’s vulnerability; powerful tools though they may be, VR and AR expand those entry points. Not only is your data at risk, but as the use of these tools expands, the functionality of your very company could be at risk. Consider AR systems in use in areas such as warehouses, factories, or stores; without confidence in the integrity of the data they display, the entire business process around them could suffer or even collapse.
Our rush to bring new technical solutions to the market in the past has often overlooked the important areas of security and privacy. We witnessed this when personal computers first came into popular use: the lack of passwords, insecure communications, and insecure code led to many security incidents. The associated explosion in the use of the internet for personal and business use also demonstrated poor security architecture practices. These issues were repeated again with the growth in smartphones, and the recent rapid growth in the Internet of Things (IoT) has yet again shown how we repeat the same mistakes:
We engage with the tools before developing the security around them.
Keep Your Business Secure — And Ahead of the Curve
The companies that prioritize security will be the companies that thrive within these new outlets. Having secure platforms to support our personal and business interactions is absolutely foundational to the success of these environments. Customers might not always demand security — but the truth is that the stability of your company depends on it.
The first step in any security plan, especially at the enterprise level, is a strong VPN. A reputable VPN solution can protect your company data and resources, including any AR or VR tools you access.
If users are required to log into your network in order to access virtual conferencing tools, this helps to ensure you avoid the VR version of ‘zoombombing’ that became so rampant as video conferencing increased last year. Not only that, but you’ll be able to segment users and limit access to certain tools for certain groups; no need to provide the same kind of access for contractors as you do for your C-suite. Monitor your team’s traffic, block dangerous content, and keep your virtual spaces truly private within your team.
While it may be a while before we can all meet and interact in a holodeck similar to that in Star Trek, we will certainly be using VR and AR more and more as the technology develops. For businesses whose network security is paramount to their success, it’s essential that we don’t let history repeat itself — we can’t make the same mistake again.
No matter how useful a new tool is, it still needs to be secure. Otherwise, it’s just a shiny new liability.