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The Internet of Things: Why Now?

The time is ripe for an IoT explosion. The number of connected “things” in the world has skyrocketed from about a million in the early 1990s to 13 billion today. As the Internet of Everything (IoE) gains momentum—digitizing business processes in every industry—we expect to see 50 billion connected devices by 2020. The technology connecting all these devices has become affordable and easy to integrate. But that is not the primary reason for this explosion in connected devices. I believe we are entering a “golden age” of digitization because of the confluence of the following factors:

Business Relevance: Lines of business (LOBs) are emerging as a key buying center for technology. The executives running plants, oil fields, or logistics systems have realized that technology solutions can deliver business outcomes critical to their business success —beginning with improved productivity, increased uptime, and reduced costs. It used to be that LOBs would work only with specialized integrators for specific, customized solutions. Today, business leaders want to change the way they consume technology. They are looking for technology providers who, together with a comprehensive ecosystem of partners, can pull together business-relevant solutions based on open standards and architectures. To meet these needs, technology companies such as Cisco are changing how we operate and how we go to market. Cisco has invested heavily in developing vertical solutions based on horizontal capabilities. We have built deep services practices and vertical go-to-market capabilities, and have invested in a comprehensive ecosystem of partners with whom we deliver not just great technology, but solid business outcomes.


IoT adoption is being driven by the move to open standards and IT/OT convergence, helping to power better business outcomes across industries.

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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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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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Fog Computing: Bringing Cloud Capabilities Down to Earth

When we think of “cloud” we think of a vast collection of compute, network, and storage capabilities that resides somewhere high above us—a massive repository of functionality that can be accessed from anywhere and any device with enough bandwidth to handle the data flow.

With practically unlimited power and scalability, cloud technology has been a key enabler of the Internet. But the Internet of Things (IoT) demands something more. IoT is a broad collection of sensors, cameras, smartphones, computers, and machines—all connected to and communicating with applications, websites, social media, and other devices. To maximize value, much of the data generated by these “things” must be processed and analyzed in real time. For example, sensors and cameras in and around a large retail store may continuously collect data about customer volume and traffic flow. The store can derive some value from all this data by sending it back to the cloud to analyze long-term trends. But the value is multiplied if the system can process the data locally, in real time, and then act on it immediately by sending more cashiers to the check-out line just before a surge in customer traffic.

This sort of real-time, high-bandwidth application requires a new distributed cloud model that brings cloud networking, compute, and storage capabilities down to earth—to the very edge of the network. My friend Flavio Bonomi has worked tirelessly with both academia and other industry partners to advance the concept of fog, inspired by the way the San Francisco fog extends the cloud to the ground. Fog computing creates a platform—what we call a fog node—that provides a layer of compute, storage, and networking services between end devices “on the ground” and cloud computing data centers. Fog is not a separate architecture; it merely extends the existing cloud architecture to the edge of the network—as close to the source of the data as possible—to enable real-time data processing and analytics. Read More »

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IoT Meets Standards, Driving Interoperability and Adoption

For years, industrial control systems have been characterized by proprietary devices, protocols, communications, and applications. However, at the Hannover Fair last spring, virtually every exhibitor showed products that support IP, Ethernet, or Wi-Fi interfaces—something that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.

The Internet of Everything (IoE) is driving this change, with an exponentially growing number of connections among people, process, data, and things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a key enabler of this evolution. By 2020, according to Cisco’s analysis, there will be 50 billion connected devices—all needing a common way to work together.

As I discussed in my last blog, the worlds of Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) are converging—and they are converging around standards. The good news is that the industry is recognizing that a fragmented, proprietary model does not scale, and inhibits the value of IoT deployments. The IoT standardization efforts are focused on four different areas: Read More »

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