Cisco has rapidly been evolving its user event, Cisco Live, away from being a hardcore network engineering show to one that has broader appeal to IT individuals, line-of-business managers, and even corporate executives. Cisco Live Europe this week has been highlighted by a number of pre-packaged, integrated solutions, such as the Customer Experience ones I discussed in this post.
One of the more intriguing solutions for the company's customers and its partners is the Cisco “Digital Ceiling.” The solution is IoT-based and connects all building services in a single, converged IP network. Every building already has multiple networks in it, including HVAC, security, building controls, and other systems. Also, more and more organizations have been moving to connected lighting solutions as older lights are being replaced with LEDs. There are many reasons why organizations are switching to newer LED lights, including the fact that LEDs tend to be at least 20% more power-efficient.
Cisco has been one of the most successful companies in capturing opportunities created by markets in transition, and the shift to LED lights is no different. As organizations go through the process of switching to networked LED systems, the new smart lighting solution will act as the aggregation point for all of these other building networks. The lighting network is the fastest way of creating a Digital Ceiling, since lights are pervasive and spaced within eight feet of each other, making it the only viable system to act as a central connection point. The solution also includes a number of sensors to monitor things likes proximity, temperature, carbon dioxide, visual light communication, presence, and Bluetooth Low Energy.
The connection of all of the sensors to the other building networks will provide rich data regarding building traffic, occupancy, and resource utilization. With Digital Ceiling, Cisco is looking to transform traditionally low-value, “dumb” endpoints into a smart IoT system.
However, as is the case with all IoT solutions, the value of Digital Ceiling goes far beyond just converging networks. The combination of the data generated by the system and analytics enables organizations to make better, more informed decisions. For example, in most buildings the air conditioning, lights, and other systems are set to turn on and off at the same time every day, regardless of whether people are in the office or not. With a smart building, all of the systems could stay off until a proximity sensor notices someone in the building. When this happens, it could trigger the security cameras, Wi-Fi access points, lights, and AC systems to be turned on in that zone only. Over time, the building can learn what normal usage patterns are and become more predictive.
Cisco provides a number of building blocks required to make the journey to a Digital Ceiling. These include:
- Network infrastructure. Obviously Cisco will provide the network switches to enable Digital Ceiling. However, for this offer, Cisco has optimized its switches. These devices are easy to deploy and offer Smart Install, FastBoot, Perpetual PoE (ability to power the end points even if the switch is not running), support for PoE+ (30 Watt per port) and Cisco's own UPOE (60 Watt per port), as well as the necessary security to protect the system.
- Protocols and APIs designed for IoT. This includes CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol) over UDP for resource-constrained, low-power sensors, LLDP, and open APIs for third-party integration.
- Open Information Exchange. Cisco will use this to establish a common protocol for things to communicate over CoAP, enabling more devices to be connected into Digital Ceiling faster.
- Ecosystem of partners. Cisco can't deliver on the vision of Digital Ceiling alone, but it can bring together leading vendors in their respective areas. At launch, Digital Ceiling includes such partners as Philips and Cree for lighting, Johnson Controls for building automation, and Relayr for ISVs, among others.
- Validated architecture. Similar to the other digital offers, Cisco provides a validated, tested architecture to help businesses deploy the solution without the associated risk of having the initiative fail because of integration complexity.
Digital transformation was one of the main topics at Cisco Live Europe, with many organizations focused on building digital workplaces. The first step in this journey should be to converge all of the building systems together on a single, converged network and then use analytics to gain new insights into how the facilities are being used. Cisco's Digital Ceiling leverages the lighting transition that is already underway and provides a turnkey, low-risk, multi-vendor architecture to accomplish this quickly.