This week I’m excited to participate in an event we are organizing in Chicago, home of the 2014 Internet of Things World Forum. We’re meeting with some of our partners and customers as we make a few joint announcements – including a new IoE Innovation Center in Barcelona, and showcasing some new solutions built on our platform by some of our partners. Additionally, I’m getting a preview of some of the amazing smart & connected deployments in Chicago – a preview for the IoT World Forum.
I am writing this blog as I gear up to lead Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) Systems & Software Group. Over the last few weeks I’ve spent time getting to know the group and have been struck by the tremendous energy and focus on customers and partners the team has. I’m also excited about how dynamic the Internet of Things space is.
While we’ve calculated the total economic value at stake for Internet of Everything by 2020 – $19T – and the number of potential connected devices – 50B – these nearly unfathomable numbers may, honestly, not pan out exactly to the decimal. The Internet of Everything could be smaller or, more likely, much much larger – but the overall point is that more and more people, process, data, and things are connecting. Professor Michael Nelson of Georgetown University has said that “Trying to determine the market size for the Internet of Things is like trying to calculate the market for plastics, circa 1940.” At that time it would have been nearly unfathomable for the numbers of existing things – milk containers, furniture, industrial components – to be made into plastic. And just as plastics have pervaded every part of our lives and enabled new industries, the connections created by Internet of Everything will too. I think that’s a great way to think about the untapped potential of this market.
I’ve spent much of my career working with and for service providers (SPs). You may be wondering why an SP guy is taking on IoT for Cisco. I’ve observed a few connections between the Service Provider business we have and how we’re approaching Internet of Things:
Service Providers were one of Cisco’s first (and one of the most successful) markets where we focused on “Operational Technology” (OT) solutions.
As we look at Internet of Things, the discussion isn’t typically with the traditional IT buyer. For many of the companies that first embrace the Internet of Things, the “Operations Technology” (OT) folks are the ones who are evaluating the technology and making the purchasing decision. They determine the strategy, control the budget, and deploy and operate all the solutions. Put another way, the IoT solutions they deploy play a direct role in the quality and efficiency of the products and services that they deliver to their own customers. The IoT impacts their business model directly. This is very similar to the way Cisco works with Service Providers.
While we certainly provide the IT technology for an SP’s employees, when we talk about the Service Provider business, we’re not talking the email server that they use for their employees; we’re talking about delivering the technologies that they run their businesses on top of. In my two plus decades working with Service Providers, I worked mainly with the customers’ business, engineering, and operations teams. They were the ones buying the infrastructure, software, and devices that provide the services you use at your home and office, from your internet access to your telephone and TV services. The “Operations Technology” groups are the same ones in other industries who will be evaluating and integrating the sensors and connected components of IoT.
Service Providers will provide the backbone of IoT
Service providers have a huge role to play in the Internet of Things space because they run the public network – it wouldn’t exist without Service Providers.
When we talk about connecting the unconnected, we don’t just mean within a given enterprise. Let’s look at automotive manufacturing for an example. Ford doesn’t just connect to Ford things – for Ford it’s about connecting over the internet to the suppliers, contractors, partners, or other parties Ford works with. That’s where the Service Providers, including mobile providers, come in. Mobile will be great for IoT as costs come down and connectivity is packaged in new ways that make sense for IoT.
IoT is about connecting ‘things’, and Service Providers are going to be a big part of that connection.
I’m excited about this new role not only because it is a big opportunity for Cisco, but also because IoT is a huge opportunity for society in general. IoT is going to drive, for scalability reasons and cost reasons, whole new technologies and whole new ways of doing things that will have a huge impact on our world. Over time, IoT will change the way we work, live, learn, and play.