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Enhancing the Customer Experience with Data & Analytics

Last month, I had the honor of presenting at the Internet of Things (IoT) World Forum in Chicago. The event gave me the opportunity to do one of my favorite things, collaborate and network with all of my peers who are doing creative work within the world of IoT. One of my colleagues, Kowsalya Arunprakash, Lead Architect of Virtual Data Integration Services for Time Warner Cable, co-presented and shared a use case in which Time Warner is utilizing Cisco Data Virtualization to enhance its customer experience with analytics. In today’s blog, I’d like to share more details about this use case, because I think it’s a great example of how organizations are leveraging IoT solutions as a way to better serve their customers and separate themselves from their competition.

Time Warner Cable IntelligentHome is a home security and energy management system which TWC IntelligentHomeusers can control from their smartphone, tablet or computer to do things like view live video, arm/disarm their system, turn their home lights on/off or adjust the temperature of their thermostat. As you can imagine, each one of these pieces of equipment creates a fair amount of data through radio-frequency identification (RFID) and sensors. On top of this, as consumers generally do, users are going to social media to share their experience.

Utilizing Cisco Data Virtualization, Time Warner is able to couple this data along with sales, marketing and historical customer data to get a full 360 degree view of operational analytics. By operational, I am TWC IntelligentHome 2referring to intelligence like customer trends, sales analytics and resource allocation management.

This combination is an extremely powerful tool to understand the customer in order to create and adapt products and services that cater to their wants and needs. It’s an opportunity to see how the product is being used, via RFIDs and sensors, coupled with customers’ feedback and experience shared on social media as well as their long-term history of usage and preferences.

During her presentation, Kowsalya shared that by leveraging these insights Time Warner is able to improve sales, reduce customer churn and even work with local law enforcement and emergency services to respond faster to current events. To hear more, I encourage you to watch the video interview of Kowsalya and learn about how Time Warner is using Data Virtualization to derive value for their customers.

 

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Building the Platform for the Internet of Everything

We are embarking on a new technological journey that will fundamentally change forever the economy, society and the way that we live.  Wired magazine described a new era where “the most mundane items in our lives can talk wirelessly among themselves, performing tasks on command, giving us data we’ve never had before.”  The Internet of Everything (IoE) is a world where up to 50 billion things (or devices) will be connected to the Internet by 2020; or, the equivalent of 6 devices for every person on the planet.

Businesses are beginning to completely re-design their processes, operations and business models to benefit from this new era.  We are already starting to see the emergence of smart cities, connected utilities, connected railways, connected factories, connected cars, and even connected mines, to name but a few.  All industries are looking to IoE as a breakthrough technology to help them optimize their business, enter new markets and enhance their relationship with their customers.  This is why industry analysts, like IDC, estimate that businesses will spend up to $20 trillion over the next three years to realize the promise of the Internet of Everything.

But, The Internet of Things is More Than Just “Things”.  As I described in this recent article, the Internet of Things is really a short-hand for the four technology pillars (mobility, cloud, big data and things), wrapped in security, that are forging a revolutionary new, and revolutionary, connected world.  Successful IoE implementations don’t happen in isolation or independently.  Cisco is discovering that successful implementations require a technical and business platform into which different solutions can be easily plugged to efficiently and effectively achieve the promised business benefits.  The cornerstones of this IoE platform include a robust connectivity and technology infrastructure, operational and management services and a range of vertical and horizontal solutions.

IoE Impressions 11.6

In Cisco’s experience, all IoE implementations require all of these technical and business elements to be successful.  Our vision is that effective IoE deployments will build an IoE platform that can be extended across the business, or even entire industries, to deliver a range of unique, value-added IoE solutions.

Starting from the bottom, the layers comprise:

  1. Network Connection – connecting all of the solutions, data and applications through fiber backhaul or licensed cellular.
  2. Network Access – a managed Wi-Fi, or other unlicensed wireless network, to connect all of the sensors and applications.
  3. Technology Platform – a platform to allow new devices and solutions to readily and securely “plug and play” into the overall architecture, and to connect to cloud storage and compute services.
  4. Vertical and Horizontal Solutions – the combination of devices and applications that deliver the unique solutions for different vertical and horizontal industry segments.
  5. Platform Monetization – in some verticals, like smart cities and B2C, opportunities exist to leverage the platform and network to create new sources of revenue.
  6. Shared Operating Platform – a shared platform to consolidate the management, customer care and service issues across all of the solutions.
  7. Professional Services – services to support areas such as systems integration, planning and design.
  8. Program Leadership – services to program manage the entire implementation, operations and partner ecosystem.

Successfully deploying and capturing the tremendous potential benefits of IoE is not just about cool things and applications.  A comprehensive technical, operations and management IoE platform is required to turn vision and promise into reality.

Want to learn more and chat with our Cisco subject matter experts? Tweet us @CiscoSPMobility.

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Accelerating open innovation on all fronts at Cisco

I introduced Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (Cisco EIR) earlier this year as a cornerstone in our strategy of embracing open innovation at Cisco. I also shared how we were extending Cisco EIR and open innovation across the US through local incubation partners, and I announced the launch of Cisco EIR in Europe. Now I would like to share updates on the great progress we are making with Cisco EIR as a catalyst of open innovation at Cisco.

Startups Selected to Join Cisco EIR in Europe

Last week we were excited to announce the six startups that will be joining our Cisco EIR program in Europe at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna. The six winners – innovating in the areas of Smart Cities, Internet of Everything (IoE)/cloud and Big Data/analytics – were chosen through a rigorous multiphase selection process conducted in collaboration with Pioneers. More than 350 applicants from 39 countries applied to join Cisco EIR Europe, with 15 finalists pitching live at the Pioneers Festival in front of Cisco experts and our European partners. Winners were selected based on the viability of their business plans, the strength of their teams and their alignment with Cisco’s IoE vision and strategy.

We were impressed beyond our expectations by the vision, passion, talent and technology of all 15 finalists. These startups made us more excited and convinced than ever that Europe was the right platform to discover and nurture the next generation of disruptive ideas for our industry and for Cisco.

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Keeping Your Eyes on the Skies – A Partner’s View on SQL Server and UCS

A Guest Blog by Partner Rick Heiges of Scalability Experts: Rick is a SQL Server Microsoft MVP and Senior Solutions Architect.  He primarily works with Enterprise customers on their Data Platform strategies. Rick is also very involved in the SQL Server Community primarily through PASS and events such as the PASS Summit, SQL Saturdays, and 24 Hours of PASS.  His tenure on the PASS Board of Directors saw the annual Summit triple in size from 2003 to 2011.  You can find his blog at www.sqlblog.com.

So far, it has been another great week here at the PASS Summit 2014, SQL Server’s largest annual user and partner conference.  With yesterday’s keynote address, there is still very much a focus on getting to the cloud and new investments in cloud technology in general. Microsoft seems to be extending its data collection and storage technologies in the cloud and also on-prem.  One of the coolest features talked about was the concept of a “stretch tables” where a table that lives on your on-prem SQL Server can be “stretched” on to tables in SQL Azure Databases.  The data may be shared so that the “hot” data can stay local and the “cold” data would live in the cloud.  There were some other great demos around using the Kinect device to create a heat map of customer activity in a physical store (similar to what people linger and search for when shopping online).  You can watch the PASS Summit 2014 Keynote here on PASStv.

As a Senior Solutions Architect with Scalability Experts, I work with large enterprise customers (Fortune 500 type) on a regular basis.  There is more and more interest about leveraging the Public Cloud for some workloads and taking advantage of “on-prem” resources in a cloud-like way.  This means deploying your internal resources in a similar way – for example via Cisco’s Microsoft Fast Track certified FlexPod or VSPEX integrated infrastructure solutions –  that public cloud resources are deployed with a similar chargeback (or ‘show back’) model and automating the self-service deployment of infrastructure, and the monitoring of the entire stack.

One of the things that I really like about Microsoft’s products is a focus on ease of use, tight integration, and low TCO.  This is important to a lot of the customers that I interact with.  This is why I have seen a surge in Cisco UCS products in my customer base of the past few years.  Cisco has a similar goal to keep things simple and TCO low – read this Total Economic Impact report from Forrester on UCS ROI/TCO.  Cisco also provides Management Pack plug-ins to Microsoft’s System Center suite for tight integration so that you can manage the entire stack (Hardware, Hypervisor, Application, and even Public Cloud) with a single tool.  It is great to see how this partnership between Microsoft and Cisco can be beneficial to the customers that I work with.

Microsoft’s SQL Server 2014 also brings “In-Memory” Technology to OLTP in a cost-effective manner by not forcing a complete rewrite of the application.  In a recent Cisco UCS  on Microsoft SQL Server 2014 case study, Progressive Insurance was able to take advantage of this technology to further its strategy of its competitive advantage – ease of use.

Eventually, I see the Public Cloud taking on a more “primary” role in the future.  Similar to the “Everything on a VM unless there is a reason not to” mantra, I see an “Everything on a Public Cloud VM unless there is a reason not to” mantra on the long-term horizon.  Until then, the Hybrid Cloud will be the default stance for many large enterprises.

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The Big Picture of Big Data

The Internet of Everything (IoE) is disrupting innovation models and causing market shifts. One of the most powerful IoE-driven opportunities will be the value created from big data and analytics. As IoE gains momentum and creates billions of new connections, each of those connections will be capable of producing data. The enterprises that can unlock the intelligence within that data — quickly and effectively — will hold the key to a powerful and sustainable competitive edge. Read More »

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