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Drones: Just Buzz or Real Business?

“Why Cisco?” I was asked repeatedly after speaking on a panel about drones. “Why not Cisco?” was my passionate response.

Drone 1The occasion was the recent NASA UTM Convention at Silicon Valley’s historic Moffett Field to explore creative traffic management solutions for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), popularly known as drones. At Cisco, we see a full spectrum of public, enterprise and consumer opportunities, as well as an amazing ecosystem of partners evolving around “connected” drones. This isn’t just buzz, but a real business opportunity.

After all, drones capture and transmit “ungodly amounts of data,” as Cisco’s Helder Antunes noted during his keynote session and CNBC interview. Cisco’s network backbone, solutions and applications enable the Internet of Everything (IoE) – the connection of people, processes, data and things – and drones represent important, mobile, data-rich nodes on the network. Please also read Helder’s blog on drones and the IoE here.

drone 2When it comes to drones and many other remotely connected and mobile devices, it’s really all about Collaboration, Cloud, Fog Computing – and Analytics, whether at the edge, across the network or in the cloud. To seamlessly transform raw data from sensors and images into actionable insights, an end-to-end platform is needed to optimally capture, store, share and process data most anywhere.

For example, one of the biggest challenges for drone operations today is to efficiently collect and effectively transfer colossal amounts of data over weak or non-existent network links in remote areas. Many times, these processes take days or weeks before the collected data can be processed and meaningful insights can be derived.

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Behind the Scenes at Jimmy Kimmel Live’s “Wall of America”

Two things happened this year that give me a reason to stay up past 11:30 p.m.: I had a second baby and Cisco started a new partnership with Jimmy Kimmel Live.  Usually, I catch clips of late-night shows on YouTube. But when we partnered with the Jimmy Kimmel Live team to reimagine the fan experience, I knew I would have some great TV to watch while up with my newborn.

IMG_2959What they’ve accomplished with the Wall of America, powered by Cisco video conferencing, has been truly amazing. It brings a new and different dynamic to broadcast television. Sure, video conferencing on television isn’t new. The difference is video conferencing at this scale and quality!

The show’s team had a vision to not only create a virtual audience during live broadcasts, but also to have the ability to interact with the virtual audience in meaningful (and often very funny) ways. Whether home viewers connect to participate in a funny game, or talk “in person” with celebrities, the segments never disappoint.

Things I’ve learned since the Wall’s debut: Read More »

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Determining the Value of the Virtual Shopping Experience

We are increasingly hearing about the value of improving the shopping experience by adding virtual expertise to the store. As head of Cisco’s Retail & Hospitality practice, I frequently talk to customers who are exploring this concept – though what I mainly hear are questions! While many are interested in the idea, they are still trying figure out whether or not a virtual customer expert is going to add more revenue to their bottom line.

Putting a collaborative expert into the store – virtual or physical – can actually be critical to meeting the needs of the consumer, especially during the purchase of a high-priced product or for a purchase where it is very important to make the right decision. However, very often this level of expertise is not available in the aisle when the consumer is dwelling there. And yet, the presence of such an expert can be extremely important. For example:

  1. A mother is shopping for an over-the-counter decongestant late in the evening for her child, who is also taking medication for ADD. A pharmacist is not available, but getting the wrong medication could be life-threatening.
  2. A couple is buying a printer for their college-age daughter, who shares an apartment with three other students. They need a printer that can be networked so all four girls can print their assignments and research papers.
  3. A party host would like to purchase several cases of wine that complement the menu, but are not overwhelmingly expensive.
  4. A couple is browsing the latest assortment of home security devices, trying to make sense of what will work with their current network configuration.

Savvy retailers debate how to solve the problem of providing highly paid experts to be immediately available to consumers, without footing the bill for an employee who may be idle part of the time. Additionally, it may be necessary to provide a level of privacy while engaging the expert. The retailer’s quandary is how to attractively offer this service in a way to increase basket and justify this use of valuable selling space.

Forward-looking retailers recognize that this capability is part of providing a truly integrated omnichannel experience. Shoppers are no longer either in the store or online… they are both, and sometimes at the same time. Thanks to our mobile devices, consumers can research, compare prices, and shop with our mobile devices in the aisle. According to Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, retailers need to adopt a “digical” strategy – a term coined by Bain & Company’s Darrell Rigby and Suzanne Tager – meaning the seamless integration of digital with physical retail. (For more, check out the article, “The Future of Retail Will Be Won or Lost in ‘Digical.’”)

In any channel in this digical world, retailers will lose revenue if they are unable to differentiate themselves by providing excellent value, combined with the appropriate amount of customer service. And here is where the virtualized experience can drive a new level of engagement for the brick-and-mortar store. Via video collaboration on a consumer’s mobile device, a kiosk display, online, or an associate’s tablet, shoppers looking for advice can easily connect with your centralized or outsourced pool of experts for immediate assistance. Let’s go back to the scenarios above:

  1. A QR code is posted on a sign that reads: “Photograph this sign with your mobile device and you can speak to one of our pharmacists on call 24×7.” The pharmacy service immediately calls the mother’s mobile phone number to discuss which medication will be safe for her ADD son.
  2. An associate in the printer aisle approaches the couple and boots up an expert session on his tablet to discuss feeds, speeds, and price points. This helps the family determine which printer will best fit their daughter’s needs.
  3. The party host approaches a kiosk to engage a wine expert. He enters the date and time of the party so that weather can be taken into account, the centerpiece menu items, and his desired price range. He then engages with a virtual expert who provides options as well as a special discount based on the number of cases. Additionally, he is offered a 50% discount on disposable wine goblets.
  4. As the couple browses an array of home security options, the retailer pushes a promotion to their mobile device: “If you would like a complementary home security assessment, follow this link to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.” This in-home expert then cross-sells and upsells products from a tablet in the home, and schedules an in-store meeting when products arrive to discuss installation.

When used in conjunction with brick and mortar, virtual in-store and online expertise complement the natural selling journey with consumers to fill an important gap in the omnichannel experience. Click here to learn more about Cisco’s thinking in this area, or contact me at

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Which Collaboration Applications Are Right for Me?

As a member of the Sales Engineer Organization,  I spend lots of my time staying close to midsized customers observing how teams that do great work are leveraging applications to collaborate.   The number of choices available can make choosing the right tools an interesting journey.

Is there one solution to meet all needs? Midmarket organizations face these questions.   As I talked to several midsized companies this past year, I heard how improving team productivity is top of mind.  Keeping employees connected across their various workplace resources and devices is increasingly important.  Making customers happy with proactive service and quick response times is paramount to an organization’s success.

In the world of collaboration, consider the parallels between how online meetings and physical meetings take place.  Don’t you find it to be more effective to have the right setting for the meetings you attend in person?  A large group in a small space never works right.

For example, with physical meetings:

  • Large groups require large spaces, structured seating, the ability to share media, and the ability for participants to interact with presenters.
  • Fast moving small teams need rooms that are available on-demand and the ability to do real-time content tracking.

One-to-one interactions require privacy and rich-media sharing with the ability to call in additional participants as needed.

blog midmarket 2015 Read More »

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#CiscoChampion Radio S2|Ep 34: The Wonderful World of Collaboration System Release 11

CiscoChampion2015200PX#CiscoChampion Radio is a podcast series by Cisco Champions as technologists. Today we’re talking about Collaboration System Release 11 with Cisco Technical Marketing Engineer Dan Keller.

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Cisco SME
Dan Keller, Technical Marketing Engineer, Collaboration Technology Group

Cisco Champion Guest Hosts
Dennis Heim, @collabsensei, Emerging Technology Architect (Collaboration)
Josh Warcop, @Warcop, Senior Consultant
Bill Carter, @ccie5022, Senior Business Communications Analyst

Kim Austin, @ciscokima, Collaboration Solutions Marketing Read More »

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