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IoT, Robotics, Drones: Triggers for Digital Transformation

Happy Disruptive New Year! As 2016 promises to unleash digital innovations across industries, let’s pause for a moment and ask ourselves: What are some of the common triggers of this disruptive transformation to digitize business and society?

Three that immediately spring to my mind are: the Internet of Things (IoT), Robotics and Drones. On the surface, they all appear to be different dimensions of the upcoming technology revolution, but the moment we dig deeper, we discover a fascinating connection. They are all triggers or change agents for digital transformation through their connection with the Internet.

RoboticsBirenBlogPic1That was precisely the core idea behind last month’s RoboUniverse conference in San Diego: Robots, Drones, and The Internet of Everything. It was an honor to speak and share deeper thoughts on this subject during one of the sessions along with Daniel Obodovski, renowned author of an IoT book: The Silent Intelligence.

If we analyze historical facts, only about 12% (61 out of 500) of Fortune 500 companies in 1995 were still around in 2014. Today, 40% of the companies on the Fortune 500 list will either not exist or become irrelevant in the next decade. Professor Richard Foster from Yale University estimates that by 2020, more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we have not heard of yet. Another proof of today’s accelerated pace of change is the fact that “the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 index has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 20 years today,” according to Professor Foster’s BBC Business Interview in 2012. Read More »

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Analytics: Building a Winning Strategy in Manufacturing

Machinery, supply chains, and raw materials have always been core concerns in manufacturing. Today, another asset is just as critical — data.

General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt said it well: “The industrial world is changing dramatically, and those companies that make the best use of data will be the most successful.”

I certainly agree. If manufacturers want to gain the agility, innovation, and hyper-awareness needed to compete and win, they must start thinking like technology companies. That means leveraging data — and the real-time insights derived through analytics — in impactful new ways.

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As Manufacturers Go Digital, Customer Value Expands

Every single day, I’m reminded that a digital revolution is taking place—from researching local coffee places on the dashboard of my car to ordering coffee on my mobile device—it’s clear that our lives are becoming more digitized. This is also apparent for the businesses and industries that manufacture the goods that we use everyday. In order to compete today, manufacturers must respond to complex and constantly changing demands from their customers. That requires the agility, rapid innovation, and fast execution that only digital manufacturing can deliver. Too many manufacturers, however, still lack these critical capabilities and suffer from fragmented and siloed organizational structures.

This was reinforced by new research from Cisco on the current and future state of digital disruption in manufacturing. The study included economic analysis, interviews with manufacturing industry thought leaders, and a survey of more than 600 senior leaders from 13 countries, representing both industrial machine builders and end-user manufacturers.

Our research confirmed that manufacturers get it. They understand that a digital revolution is taking place, and they want to be part of it. Seventy-nine percent believe that digital disruption will drive a moderate to major impact at their companies in the next three years. Moreover, they see digital technologies such as cloud, IoT, and analytics as having the biggest impact on their production — not more manufacturing-centric technologies such as robotics and 3D printing.

However, in terms of driving new value, many are faltering. Their service strategies, for example, are seen as a key opportunity for new revenue, but they are not driving expected levels of growth.

Digital business transformation is the solution, but it can’t be done in a piecemeal fashion; it must be implemented across the entire organization and beyond, throughout the ecosystem. Analytics, cloud, machine-to-machine connections, and collaboration tools all enable new opportunities for sharing data insights. Getting those insights to the people (or machines) who need them most, on the other hand, can be challenging. In this context, silos — between IT and operational technology (OT), engineering and design, and so forth — are the enemy to progress.

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What Future Do You See?

The future fascinates me. I grew up reading Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Kurt Vonnegut. And watching every sci-fi movie that came out. Robots, aliens, utopia, dystopia – I loved it all. Today, imagining what the future looks like is a big part of my job.

In June, I got to participate in a futurist session at Cisco Live where I had to make one prediction about what the year 2025 would be like. (See Ambient Computing below or watch the recording at 31:31.)

Now I have the chance to speak about the “Intelligent Future” at SXSW Interactive 2016 with my friend Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot (maker of the Roomba vacuum cleaner robot). Our panel, “Robots Taking Over at Work: Why It’s a Good Thing,” is in the running for the event. If you’d like to hear why we think robotics and augmented reality are on their way to the workplace, take a minute to vote using the SXSW Panelpicker.

I believe the world of tomorrow will be dramatically different from today.  Here are some of the futurist concepts that have been knocking around in my head lately:  Read More »

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My Top 7 Predictions for Open Source in 2014

My 2014 predictions are finally complete.  If Open Source equals collaboration or credibility, 2013 has been nothing short of spectacular.  As an eternal optimist, I believe 2014 will be even better:

  1. Big data’s biggest play will be in meatspace, not cyberspace.  There is just so much data we produce and give away, great opportunity for analytics in the real world.
  2. Privacy and security will become ever more important, particularly using Open Source, not closed. Paradoxically, this is actually good news as Open Source shows us again, transparency wins and just as we see in biological systems, the most robust mechanisms do so with fewer secrets than we think.
  3. The rise of “fog” computing as a consequence of the Internet of Things (IoT) will unfortunately be driven by fashion for now (wearable computers), it will make us think again what have we done to give up our data and start reading #1 and #2 above with a different and more open mind. Again!
  4. Virtualization will enter the biggest year yet in networking.  Just like the hypervisor rode Moore’s Law in server virtualization and found a neat application in #2 above, a different breed of projects like OpenDaylight will emerge. But the drama is a bit more challenging because the network scales very differently than CPU and memory, it is a much more challenging problem. Thus, networking vendors embracing Open Source may fare well.
  5. Those that didn’t quite “get” Open Source as the ultimate development model will re-discover it as Inner Source (ACM, April 1999), as the only long-term viable development model.  Or so they think, as the glamor of new-style Open Source projects (OpenStack, OpenDaylight, AllSeen) with big budgets, big marketing, big drama, may in fact be too seductive.  Only those that truly understand the two key things that make an Open Source project successful will endure.
  6. AI recently morphed will make a comeback, not just robotics, but something different AI did not anticipate a generation ago, something one calls cognitive computing, perhaps indeed the third era in computing!  The story of Watson going beyond obliterating Jeopardy contestants, looking to open up and find commercial applications, is a truly remarkable thing to observe in our lifespan.  This may in fact be a much more noble use of big data analytics (and other key Open Source projects) than #1 above. But can it exist without it?
  7. Finally, Gen Z developers discover Open Source and embrace it just like their Millennials (Gen Y) predecessors. The level of sophistication and interaction rises and projects ranging from Bitcoin to qCraft become intriguing, presenting a different kind of challenge.  More importantly, the previous generation can now begin to relax knowing the gap is closing, the ultimate development model is in good hands, and can begin to give back more than ever before. Ah, the beauty of Open Source…

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