Corporate networks in the UK will soon come under pressure from tech-savvy employees wanting to monitor their homes Big Brother-style using webcams, analysts at Gartner have warned.
Within two years, hundreds of thousands of highly IT-literate staff are predicted to have hooked up low-cost, low-maintenance webcams with the advent of always on, low cost, high-speed internet technologies such as asymmetric digital subscriber line and cable modems.
Neil Rickard, research director at Gartner, told vnunet.com: "Companies should start to make decisions now about whether this going to be tolerated or not."
He said the issue was not as straightforward as it may at first seem as firms have to weigh the cost of providing enough network bandwidth to support mass webcam use, against staff retention and recruitment costs in a market favouring highly IT-literate staff.
He pointed to the US where home webcams accessed through office-based desktop PCs is a growing phenomenon in California IT hotspot Silicon Valley.
Staff are increasingly wiring up complex series of webcams for uses as varied as monitoring childcare, houses, cars, yachts, pets or even drinks machines.
Such bandwidth-heavy applications are said to cost businesses billions both in network infrastructure and in lost productivity.
Research from network analysis supplier WebSense puts the productivity losses from office surfing of Channel 4's Big Brother webcast, the UK's largest to date, at £1.4m a week based on a cost of £2.91 per surfer, per visit.
WebSense calculated its figure using Office of National Statistics salary figures and Channel 4's figure of 150,000 unique visitors a day each spending an average of 15 minutes online. WebSense estimates two-thirds of the total to be office surfers, based on analysis of US habits by researchers Jupiter.
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