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It’s Not Just the Connections, It’s the Applications

The Internet of Things (IoT) is connecting sensors, cameras, machines, and other devices at an amazing rate. But what drives the value of these digitized devices is not just the connections—it’s the applications that the connections enable. Think, for example, of a connected transportation system. It is not enough that buses have GPS and can connect to the Internet—what could really make a difference is an application that dynamically plans bus routes based on where people are, how long they have been waiting, and where they are going. That’s where the true value is.

You might even say that applications are the reason we connect things and collect data from those things. So those of us who are building the IoT infrastructure must understand what application developers need, and then enable them to take advantage of the IoT infrastructure and the data it carries. This means we need more than open APIs—we must make it easy for an application to get the data it requires from the infrastructure and to provide input into the infrastructure.

Additionally, we need to respond to the changing ways people want to interact with the devices at the edge. Traditionally, a process engineer might control or program a production line using a fixed human-machine interface (HMI) screen physically attached to the production machinery. Today, there is a growing need for remote and mobile interface capabilities—especially for the growing ranks of Millennials who want to be able to use iPads and other mobile devices to interact with IoT deployments. Cisco’s IOx platform is a flexible application development environment with a goal of enabling developers to connect applications with any protocol, interface, or device. In the future, this could even enable a control engineer in the factory to look at a robot’s operation through smart goggles, instantly viewing maintenance statistics and malfunction alerts.

Millennials in the workforce demand flexibility and mobility in interacting with IoT deployments

Millennials in the workforce demand flexibility and mobility in interacting with IoT deployments

It’s also extremely important to Read More »

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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.

High-value crops such as grapes may suffer significant business losses due to such time-lagged decisions. Again, what’s needed is the connection to a reliable, high-speed platform. Cisco’s hardware and software technologies enable virtually real-time decision making without experts having to physically download and tackle the data deluge challenge on-site.

drone 3

Precision Agriculture, Safety & Security and Field Asset Inspection are some verticals that could immensely benefit by leveraging unmanned aircrafts due to their unique abilities to navigate in complex remote environments.

At the NASA event, Angelo Fienga of Cisco Italy and I demonstrated an interesting use case of how one can utilize Cisco’s collaboration infrastructure to unleash “remote expert” capabilities using drones. We successfully exhibited that by relaying the live camera feed of the drone over to WebEx and TelePresence infrastructure, allowing an agronomist thousands of miles away across the globe to precisely observe, guide and control data collection operation in the field.

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So all this and more is why “Cisco and drones” make a lot of sense. I’m excited about the possibilities here, and will share some more ideas during my keynote address at the upcoming InterDrone conference in Las Vegas from Sep 9-11, 2015.  I hope to see you there.

Meantime, what applications do you think are better suited for a drone business?

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Amplify the Internet of Things in Smart and Connected Cities with Fog

When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), cities have enormous potential. A city needs to manage many different processes and priorities ranging from trash collection to traffic management, for hundreds of thousands to millions of people distributed over a large area. Many of these processes can be enhanced through the use of IoT.

During the past several years we have seen more and more technology solutions being deployed to help cities optimize these processes and provide additional value to its citizens. Smart parking is perhaps one of the best known and perhaps the most visible for city inhabitants.

Typically an IoT solution stack for these processes is build on several layers: (1) sensors to measure, (2) for each type of sensor there is typically a compute infrastructure at the edge of the network near the sensors, to perform simple aggregation, protocol/access technology conversion and local processing/analytics, (3) connectivity (wireless, backbone) to transfer data to the cloud, (4) cloud for deeper analytics, business processes and long term data access.

No two cities however are the same and each city has its own unique challenges. Backbone network infrastructures are managed in different ways, and local views on privacy and security can differ substantially. Light poles form a natural infrastructure to connect sensors with the edge of the network as it provides power and physical security. However cities upgrade their physical infrastructures with different time tables, and upgrades take time (and money), which leads to different alternative IoT infrastructure deployments at the network edge. Each city is organized differently which means budgets are managed differently. The latter can be especially challenging if new services touch multiple departments.

But cities also face common IoT challenges. Different types of sensors typically come with their own edge hardware and service management software. If a city deploys multiple sensor platforms this leads to so-called box proliferation and service management siloes (what some people call the vertical approach to IoT). This is not only undesirable from an aesthetics point of view, but makes it harder (more costly) to manage the whole city IoT infrastructure.

Challenges edge services

Challenges edge services

More sensors also means an increased security risk. Certain sensors have little processing power (to save money and battery life) which can make them targets for security attacks. While network security can filter out a lot of attacks there is still an increased risk of infecting the whole city infrastructure, specifically on an application level through data obfuscation. Sensor platforms do offer a certain level of security, but it is not always the primary focus within the solution and dealing with multiple platforms leads to multiple different security solutions.

The above challenges make it harder to scale up IoT in cities. Therefore a paradigm shift is needed towards a hyper distributed architecture of smart nodes: The heterogeneous edge hardware and software platforms should be replaced by a platform on which the virtualized services of the providers can be deployed. This so-called fog platform has hardened security as well as common libraries, features and hardware that can be used by the service providers to deploy their virtualized edge services. The fog platform also provides uniform edge service life-cycle management, policy based data and service access, as well as multi tenancy, reducing the cost for a city to manage such an infrastructure.

Fog: a platform to reduce cost, increase security and amplify IoT

Fog: a platform to reduce cost, increase security and amplify IoT

The fog platform is a win-win for the city and its edge service providers. Service  providers can focus on their core competence of sensors, data aggregation/processing and business logic while leveraging standard security and processing features from the fog platform as well as the possibility to easier share and combine data (sometimes referred to as the horizontal approach to IoT) between different services.

For the city, the fog platform will make it easier to manage and deploy new edge services, without adding new boxes on the network edge for each new service, thereby reducing the capital and operational cost for managing the city IoT infrastructure.

The value of the fog platform for a city is not only the direct operational and capital cost savings as well as hardened security,  but equally important is the shorter deployment cycle of new edge services, and easier data sharing between the traditional service siloes. With such an approach the city can become a large distributed test-bed to incubate new innovative ideas on data fusion and processing and develop new services that contribute to the overall quality of life for its citizens.

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Fog Analytics: Turning Data into Real-Time Insight and Action

The world is awash in data, and 90 percent of it was created in the last two years.1 In fact, every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data2 and that number is growing exponentially. The explosive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) promises to add to this data glut, with 40 percent of all data coming from sensors by 2020.3 Today, a jet engine may generate 1 terabyte of data in a single flight,4 and a major global retailer collects 2.5 petabytes of customer day each hour.5 Yet 99.5 percent of all this data is never used or analyzed.6

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Developing a new angle on an established relationship

Over the past few years, Cisco and Intel’s collaboration has extended into the realm of Internet of Things, allowing the strength of each organization to bring the industry as a whole, forward. In the Internet of Things, devices need applications, analytics, network connectivity, security, storage, and computing power.  The partnership of Cisco and Intel offers comprehensive solutions working alongside several ecosystem partners.

Recently, during Cisco Live in San Diego, CA, we jointly showcased innovative IoT solutions and highlighted our collaboration on NFV:

  • A smart city demonstration, featuring Legos and Fog Computing, was on display in the Intel booth showing how easy it is for cities to implement IoT solutionsLego Smart City
  • Carlos Morales presented a captivating “Pre-Zen-tation” on Fog Computing, elaborating on how companies can extend the cloud to the edge
  • A highlight during the show was partaking in a #CiscoChat with Brad Haczynski, Intel’s Global Account Director, Sales and Marketing Group, encompassed around making IoT and IoE tangible with the power of collaboration. brad and jaishree

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