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An Historic Look into the Future

Earlier this week I came across a great bit of history, thanks to All Things Digital. It was a look back at an AT&T campaign from 1993, featuring a remarkable voiceover by Tom Selleck. What made it so remarkable was that Selleck was positing about futuristic capabilities that in the past 18 years have all come to be—thanks to the power of innovation.

If you haven’t seen the spots, here’s a list of the rundowns of “Have you ever?…” that were included in the campaign.

  1. …Borrowed a book from a thousand miles away
  2. …Crossed the country without stopping for directions
  3. …Sent someone a fax from the beach
  4. …Paid a toll, without slowing down
  5. …Bought a concert ticket from a cash machine
  6. …Tucked your baby in from a phone booth
  7. …Opened doors with the sound of your voice
  8. …Carried your medical history in your wallet
  9. …Attended a meeting in your bare feet
  10. …Watched the movie you wanted to, the minute you wanted to
  11. …Learned special things from faraway places

What struck me about these predictions is that Cisco has really been at the forefront of delivering this stuff. And with AT&T as a valued partner, we’ve nailed what began as pure imagination—not a bad track record from 1993 to 2011.

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Virtual vs. Physical Interactions

In response to my post of the Chattanooga editorial, someone wrote to me that he thought that virtual communications would make physical interaction even more important.  I won’t go into the whole argument here, but note that this is more sophisticated than the simple comparison of virtual vs. physical interactions that many people have made.

Nevertheless, I did think that it deserved a response and here it is:

I think the Internet in its current form (texting, email, social media, etc.) is still an immature form of communications.  So the crux of the matter is not so much whether the current Internet will change how people interact, but how the ubiquitous video communications of the future will affect behavior. Read More »

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50 Years of Space Travel

FIFTY years have elapsed since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin lit the blue touchpaper on the era of manned spaceflight. Progress was rapid—only eight years separated Gagarin’s flight from the infinitely more complicated mission that put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon in 1969.

The Economist

This week marks 50 years since Yuri became the first human in space, and there were many predictions as to what the we are living in now would look like with the advent of space flight. Some predictions have been more accurate than others. In 1911 Thomas Edison quite accurately predicted that by the year 2011 the traveller of the future will:

fly through the air, swifter than any swallow, at a speed of two hundred miles an hour, in colossal machines, which will enable him to breakfast in London, transact business in Paris and eat his luncheon in Cheapside.

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Solving the “Cost/Reach Equation” in the Public Sector

When the world economy went into recession, many political officials and commentators talked about “not wasting a crisis” – making sure we took the opportunity to learn some lessons from the downturn and solve problems that would make the economy — and the world — more cost efficient. Today, while there are brighter signs around economic recovery, we still face a seemingly intractable parcel of outstanding issues.  Indeed many countries around the world are still struggling with both growing their economies and reducing budget deficits.

Rather than “not wasting a crisis” perhaps we should be thinking about not making a “crisis of waste.”  Said simply, there are enormous efficiencies available to public entities to improve the lives and well being of citizens through transformational efforts that can lower the cost and increase the availability and quality of citizen services. 

Across the globe, the public sector faces one clear and present challenge: the reality of increased service requirements bonded to constrained or declining budgets.  Demographic shifts, growing social expectations, and an increasingly more complex and dangerous world are driving enhanced public sector requirements to serve and protect citizens.  However the need to address deficit spending remains the defining paradox. The conundrum created by increasing need to serve and decreasing ability to pay is a “cost/reach gap.” 

For the first time in several generations public leaders worldwide are rethinking both how they deliver citizen services as well as how they consume information technology.  Many experts believe governments should not revert to traditional processes and IT practices.  Instead, they should look for ways to improve both cost effectiveness and service.  Indeed, the public sector could actually lead the private sector in transformational approaches to building efficiency and driving customer satisfaction through innovation in cloud computing services, cyber security, mobility, and video. 

Governments are looking to technology to improve efficacy and efficiency of service delivery in key mission areas – intelligence, defense and security, economic development, education, and health care. In the area of healthcare, practitioners and payers are looking at remote forms of care like Cisco’s HealthPresence to extend the reach and availability of medical services, and particularly to help leverage and defray the typically high cost of specialist consults and other services that are typically geographically scattered.  Being able to remotely “visit” with a medical specialist means less waste for everyone. For the patient, it means greater availability and quality of service, for the health practitioner, it means more time helping patients and less time travelling, and for the employer it means lower productivity losses.  

Cloud computing is another area where governments and other public entities are cutting waste.  Replacing large one-off department and agency- level system resources and sharing IT capabilities through a secure government cloud, or G – cloud, are becoming realities and gaining traction in the UK and Germany as well as a range of other nations.  

While in the past technology has been often lauded for streamlining back office operations and speeding transactions, today’s challenges mean thinking about technology in a much bigger and more far-reaching way. Today’s needs are about cutting costs, for sure. What’s new is the triple expectation of reducing costs while increasing high-quality public support and driving new and higher-performing internal processes that connect people to solve problems and advance new ideas in highly useful and efficient ways. 

A good example of this was recently announced by our partner, AT&T, with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).  The GSA recognized that it needed to accelerate collaboration among a range of government agencies and put in place a managed, pay-as-you-go TelePresence service.   The GSA took advantage of a public/private partnership with AT&T so regional meetings, training, inter-agency planning, crisis management, partner and supplier discussions can all use this service and pay for it on an hourly basis, avoiding agency start-up costs. 

This is just one example of public and private partners working together to overcome the cost/reach gap and it is the tip of the iceberg.  As technology solution providers like Cisco and forward-thinking public sector leaders work together to address how to best support increasingly complex public needs, I believe we will build a new public sector paradigm that will address the cost/reach gap in ways that will be both cost effective and provide new and better solutions for our citizens.

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Cisco ūmi: The Future of Communication

What do you believe is the future of communication? Check out my video below to find out how I believe Cisco ūmi will change the way personal services are delivered in the future.

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