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Cisco flexes some Internet of Things muscle

The networking giant finally starts to show how it will move the Internet of Things from concept to reality.

internet of things
Credit: ITworld/Steve Traynor

No company has been more aggressive with promoting the Internet of Things (IoT) than Cisco. The company started the Internet of Things World Forum events to promote the concept, and has done a number of studies looking at the financial impact of the IoT. In fact, Cisco's outgoing CEO, John Chambers, has reiterated over and over that the IoT will have a bigger impact on the way we work, live, learn and play than the Internet did, and that the total economic impact will be in the neighborhood of $19 trillion. This is a similar number to the $11 trillion in impact touted by McKinsey this week.

Frankly, throwing around numbers like $11 trillion and $19 trillion is a bit meaningless. The fact is the impact is going to be really big and game-changing. I've used the analogy that it would have been like trying to predict the impact of the Internet back in 1985. No matter what projections were made, they were likely low given the fact that the Internet is now pervasive and integrated into almost everything we do. The Internet literally changed the way we live, so the economic value in some ways is almost every dollar spent. I believe the same to be true for IoT. Let's stop trying to measure the impact and accelerate the path to adoption.

As I said earlier, Cisco has been a strong advocate for the IoT vision, but how exactly the company monetizes the opportunity hasn't been clear. Conceptually, it makes sense that, if we live in a world where everything is connected, a company that makes its money connecting things would flourish. But that's still a somewhat vague statement.

This week, Cisco finally provided the industry with some details on how it will help move the IoT from vision to reality by announcing a new System framework, which provides a foundation for implementing IoT. Similar to other Cisco architectures, its IoT system brings together elements of hardware, software, and services with the goal of simplifying the journey to IoT.

As part of the launch, the company announced 15 new IoT products that fall into a six-pillar approach to its IoT system:

  1. Network connectivity that includes purpose-built routing, switch, and wireless products available in ruggedized and standard form factors. The new products include a new industrial Ethernet switch, wireless access points for city Wi-Fi and mass transit systems, seven new industrial routers, and a number of mobile solutions. The ruggedized products become increasingly important as more outdoor systems get connected.
  2. Fog computing to enable distributed compute capabilities for IoT applications. Over 25 products are now enabled with Cisco's fog computing or edge data processing platforms to extend computing capabilities. One of the primary components of a successful IoT implementation is analytics, but not all analysis needs to be, or should be, done in a data center. If actions are taken at the edge, then the processing and analyzing of the data should be as well. The fog makes this possible.
  3. A security plan to bring together the worlds of cyber and physical security. This will not only protect physical and digital assets but also make things operationally simpler than managing these as discrete elements. The new products include IP surveillance cameras, security analytics, and the extension of TrustSec to the industrial Ethernet products. If IT and OT are going to come together, physical and security must as well.
  4. Data analytics enabled by optimized infrastructure so customers can implement analytics to gather actionable data. Cisco is introducing its own Connected Analytics Portfolio but will also support third-party analytic software.
  5. Management and automation tools that provide improved security, control, and support for siloed functions. This includes a highly intuitive system to manage the expected explosion of connected endpoints and applications.  
  6. An application enablement platform delivered via a set of APIs for different industries, cities, ecosystem partners, and third-party vendors. This provides the foundation for Cisco partners to develop and deploy their own application using Cisco's IoT system as a foundation.

The era of IoT is here, but its complexity will overwhelm most organizations. Cisco's architectural approach should greatly benefit its enterprise and service provider customers as the IoT system will lessen the reliance on middleware or custom code to get the disparate systems to work together. Cisco has always been strong on IoT vision, but now it has the framework and products to back it up.

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