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Leading a Faster, Smarter, Safer Future in Education

Learn how technology can transform education today.

The explosion of data in recent years is unprecedented. Data traffic on the AT&T network alone has increased 250,000 percent in the last decade since 2007. Today, the AT&T advanced network carries more than 206 petabytes of traffic on an average business day. Few people beyond particle-colliding physicists see the amount of data that crosses the AT&T global network.

With the rapid proliferation of data, the cyber landscape is also changing. New technologies emerge at an exponential rate, user expectations shift rapidly and security threats perpetually multiply. The private, hardware-centric networks of yesterday can no longer keep up with the growing demands of today and tomorrow.

As education institutions deliver content online and drive smart, connected campuses, networks will need to keep up at an accelerated rate — in scale, accessibility and security. Keeping pace requires innovation, flexibility and constant investment.

Between 2013 and 2017, AT&T invested nearly $145 billion in both wireless and wireline networks — more than any other public company.

The big bet network.

AT&T is on a mission to support education institutions in their move from hardware-centric to software-defined networks. Advanced networks, offered as-a-service, will enable schools to deliver content quickly and securely while allowing students access across the globe.

“In K-12, access to a fast, reliable network enables individualized learning, gives students access to rich, virtual educational experiences and enables the administration to more easily manage learning systems,” says Michael Keenan, technical sales manager, AT&T. “In higher education, advanced networks can enable collaboration and allow students to connect to educational resources from anywhere.”

That’s the model for AT&T’s next-generation network, powered by technologies, like software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV). SDN is an architectural framework that uses virtualization, automation and other technologies to deliver services anywhere in the network, regardless of the devices that the network connects to — and NFV replaces dedicated routers, firewalls and other hardware devices with software that runs on commercial servers.

These tools enable AT&T to “identify potential congestion and route or re-route traffic instantaneously,” says Bob Zapotocky, principal architect, AT&T. 

“Transforming our network is about providing the flexible connectivity our customers want and need,” says Sami Thibault, technical sales director, AT&T. “The world is changing at such a fast pace. Networks have to be agile so we can provide schools what they need to facilitate student success.”

The risk is real.

For technology to be effective, the digital learning environment must be highly secure. School network breaches are on the rise, and they don’t always involve cybercriminals. Earlier this year in San Antonio, a K-12 student launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on the school network, effectively shutting it down on the day of midterms. 

“That’s the new normal in K-12,” says Trent Redden, applications sales manager, AT&T.  DDoS attacks can disrupt teaching, learning, communication and other day-to-day operations at schools, colleges and universities.

In higher education, cybercriminals looking to steal personal information or intellectual property are often the culprits. Threats often take the form of ransomware. Files are accessed and encrypted by the perpetrator who can then demand large ransom payments to release the data. This can leave establishments with a stark choice — pay or suffer the consequences.

An institution would need an army of 24-hour security guards looking at network logs, firewalls, routers, servers and more. Intelligence in the network, however, can identify random malicious attacks faster than any human can alone. And AT&T secures more connections than any communications company in North America and analyzes approximately 686 billion flows of network data that represent on the order of 19 petabytes of data per day. A single petabyte is like streaming an HD movie for 45 years.

A faster, smarter future.

To meet student expectations, education institutions need to provide ubiquitous, on-demand mobile network access.  AT&T and the Institute for the Future (IFTF) recently released a report that explores the emerging technologies of 5G and edge computing with a view into the future of education technology.

Imagine if recess could become in-the-field research by superimposing a digital understanding of physics on playground equipment. Imagine high school students thousands of miles away controlling a robot inside an active volcano. Imagine graduate students across the world exploring the rain forest together and virtually discussing their findings. Each of these learning experiences will be social, connected, collaborative and immersive — driving deep engagement and elevating the human experience.

At the University of Oklahoma, AT&T and The Weather Channel collaborated to equip mobile research trucks with enhanced severe weather technology and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. These enhanced trucks will soon have cameras capable of streaming live video and near real-time radar data during severe weather events. Storm data and video will provide meteorologists with better observations, analysis and forecasting capabilities. Live video and near real-time data also can improve prediction systems, shorten warning times, and potentially lessen loss of life and property.

AT&T connects more IoT devices than any other provider in North America, and supports a range of initiatives at higher education institutions.  Colleges are also using IoT to manage campus security and detect problems with on-campus infrastructure. The same approach can be used to spot anomalies such as excessive water use that could indicate a leak.

“On a large campus, having to monitor all of that geography, infrastructure, endpoints and rooms would take a massive amount of human and financial resources,” says Nadir Khan, application sales executive, AT&T. “IoT enables a university to do that a lot easier and could potentially save a large campus millions of dollars.”

To inspire educators and the private sector to help prepare students for the future, download the guide: “Leading the Future for Students, for Educators, and in Technology – Transforming education today to build the workforce of tomorrow.” Click here to learn more.