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Internet of Everything: Connecting your city, one home at a time

“Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how.”

– Edward T. McMahon

Does your housekeeping list look like mine? Turn on the lights. Take out the trash. Clean the living room. The list could go on.

Have you noticed that how we perform these simple, daily tasks is changing? Smart utilities are replacing our old ones. Home automation is on the rise. Smart appliances that make our lives easier are now for sale and coming home with us.

At first glance, this influx of new capabilities has a novel appeal. After all, who doesn’t want a refrigerator to make their grocery list? I know I do. However, a second look reveals deeper potential. Potential that allows us to achieve sustainability across an entire community.

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Taking the Internet of Everything on the Road

In 1983, Clark W. Griswold and his family embarked on an epic road trip across the country, encountering numerous obstacles on their way to Wally World. The film, National Lampoon’s Vacation, was released during a time when the family road trip was an American staple and exaggeratedly illustrated some of driving’s biggest pain points. From getting lost in not-so-pleasant areas and running out of gas in the middle of the desert, to finally reaching your destination only to find it closed, it is easy to imagine how in today’s world of constant connectivity, these problems could be easily avoided. Cisco is doing its part in laying the groundwork for a fully connected driving experience – bringing the power of the Internet of Everything to the streets.

Working with the Think Global Eco System, including companies like Sude (smart mobility), Urbiotica (sensors) and Citelum (smart lighting), Cisco recently showcased what could be considered one of the smartest streets in the world. The “Connected Boulevard” in Nice, France, the world’s first Internet of Everything (IoE) proof-of-concept for a smart city, showcases what IoE can enable for a connected world and for connected transportation. The project is more than just a street loaded with sensors; the PoC will serve as a blueprint for future deployments, taking the lessons learned from Nice and other innovative cities and sharing this information with other aspiring communities.

Two of the city services will directly affect the driving experience in Nice. The smart circulation technology will tackle city traffic by offering intelligent parking solutions. With about 25 percent of urban traffic caused by those looking for parking, the solutions will significantly reduce the time it currently takes for drivers in Nice to find a parking space. The smart lighting solutions will optimize street lighting intensity based on situational factors. For example, a streetlight will automatically increase the amount of light it provides when motion is detected within its effective range. Conversely, the light will dim when there is no movement.

This type of deployment may not be too far off for a U.S. city also. Already, Cisco is working with Streetline and the cities of San Mateo, CA and San Carlos, CA to tackle smart circulation and smart parking. Citizens and visitors to downtown San Mateo or Laurel Street in San Carlos are able to easily find parking spaces through the use of a free mobile application, which connects to a network of sensors. With the PoC, San Mateo, San Carlos and cities like them will find it easier to adopt smart city technologies and implement them successfully.

Check out this video about the Connected Boulevard project in Nice:

Cisco is not only looking to change transportation from outside the vehicle, but from inside as well. We’re living in times of changing consumer propensities for automotive technology. The Cisco Connected Customer Experience Report on the automotive industry recently showed that consumers are open and willing to adopt these new technologies, from autonomous vehicles or biometric monitoring. In fact, 57% of those surveyed would be likely to ride in a car controlled entirely by technology and does not require a human driver. This “Internet of cars” will create new business models for auto manufacturers and technology companies, and Cisco is able to provide the highly secure core network to enable and optimize new technologies. Cisco seeks to play an instrumental role in connecting vehicles to other vehicles, devices, the cloud and city infrastructures. Through partnerships with companies such as NXP and Cohda Wireless, Cisco is looking to embrace the next wave of innovation with in-car technologies.

The Internet of Everything provides enormous potential for transportation. When a car is connected to the street it is driving on, a host of capabilities could improve safety, traffic congestion, parking and the overall driving experience. Car-to-car and car-to-X communications could be used to avoid accidents, provide rapid assistance for those who need it or optimize routes to avoid traffic jams. Emergency vehicles could connect with streetlights, creating a faster response time to emergencies. These capabilities are not just possible, but inevitable. By “connecting the unconnected,” the morning commute (or the great American family roundtrip) could be safer, quicker and less stressful.

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Learning Hubs: Where Learning Takes Place in a Digital World

It has long been known that a combination of both formal and informal learning is an effective way of turning theory (explicit knowledge) into practice (tacit knowledge). This includes working and learning alongside more experienced people, both online and face-to-face.

The nature of learning is changing, and new learning technologies are proliferating. Additionally, there is compelling evidence that suggests many learners can benefit from alternative models and novel spaces for developing their skills and gaining further knowledge. Couple this with the increase in distance and virtual learning offerings—which offer little opportunity for face-to-face contact for both formal learning and networking—and a significant need for additional learner support begins to emerge.

This need is also being driven by our busy lifestyles: learners may not always have time to study at their chosen institution or study center; entrepreneurs and startups may need access to temporary experts and more formal learning opportunities; and learners and workers may need more than just online support from time to time. Sometimes learners want a place to study away from the distractions of home or work, or they may need an informal learning place to engage with peers and mentors.

Learning hubs” may be the solution. Learning hubs are technology-enabled, flexible, formal and informal learning spaces designed to support learners of all ages. As opposed to study centers or traditional classrooms, learning hubs:

  • Are purpose-built to accommodate more than just tutorial instructions and seminars 
  • Serve as a space for temporary or prearranged meetings and discussions with peers
  • Enable students to meet with experts and mentors virtually or to join a class remotely (from one or more hubs) via high-definition video-conferencing or telepresence facilities

Learning hubs can be located in Smart Work Centers, university and school campuses with spare real estate, community centers, and other places. Or, they can be “pop-up” hubs—physical spaces connected through high-end video-conferencing technology to enable city-to-city and multicity events—that meet specific, short-term needs. Dialogue Café is one example of a pop-up hub. Other types of hubs are shown in Figure 1.  

 Figure 1.  Potential Learning Hub Locations.

Learning Hubs

Source: Cisco IBSG, 2013

A more detailed perspective from Cisco IBSG on learning hubs—including existing hubs and those in development—is available for download at “Learning Hubs: Where Learning Takes Place in a Digital World.”

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Request your Marriage Certificate at the Mall: Transforming the Delivery of Government Services

Government services and convenience are rarely seen within the same sentence; more often than not, the thought of making the trip down to city hall is a sure-fire way to increase one’s blood pressure. Cisco’s efforts around Smart+Connected Communities have continuously focused on identifying these types of pain points – advocating the need to design cities with technology at the core to improve delivery of new citizen services.

Nice1

Citizen services in France

This month, efforts around the world in France, Spain, Germany, Canada and the United States have showcased the pivotal role of technology in the development of modern-day cities. More and more, the network has become an essential part of a city infrastructure – much like gas and water. When we’re able to implement a scalable intelligent network to create tangible service-delivery points for citizens, what we essentially create is an entirely new business model that promotes a shift in how public services are delivered.

The initiatives detailed throughout this post are not only exciting as an indicator of global acceptance from large communities around the world, but they also serve as a key initial step towards what we can provide with a full suite of transformational services. Through utilizing key technologies that bring access closer to the community, Cisco and its partners are transforming the means in which cities deliver government services.

Nice, France

Spot Mairie in Nice

Spot Mairie in Nice

Cisco is working together with the city and the Nice Côte d’Azur Metropolitan Area to deploy the world’s first fully operational Cisco Remote Expert for Government Services (REGS) solution. Installed at the Nice Étoile shopping mall, a cabin has been fully equipped with a Cisco TelePresence system and collaboration tools to bring government services closer to communities.

Named the ‘Spot Mairie’, this deployment provides real-time access to key services such as certification requests, voter registration, requests for public services and a host of other offerings during regular business hours. Once inside the cabin, citizens interact face-to-face with a remote agent over video and are sent necessary forms remotely via a printer. A mailbox and document scanner is also provided for easy access. Spot Mairie aims to change how citizens perceive the delivery of public services and falls right in line with an agreement signed between the Nice Metropolitan Area and Cisco France for digital development efforts within the area.

 

Barcelona, Spain

Casa Del Mig, Barcelona

Casa Del Mig, Barcelona

Traveling a little farther south, Barcelona City Hall and Cisco recently announced Spain’s first remote expert for government services deployment. As we’ve seen with Nice, Cisco TelePresence technology and collaboration tools have been installed in a booth at the Casa del Mig area of the city, providing citizens with remote access to a variety of government services (customized for that specific region).

This pilot program is a first for Spain and furthers Cisco’s collaboration agreement with the Barcelona City Hall to transform Barcelona into a global reference model for urban innovation.

Addressing the ‘blank spots’ in Germany

At the February meeting of the largest association of German telecommunications operators (BREKO), the Cisco Industry Solutions Group presented a live demo of the remote expert for government services solution to an audience of city and regional carriers – as well as municipal utilities. For a bit of background, the 140 members of BREKO help provide high quality optical fiber access to urban, as well as rural areas – covering the “blank spots.” As a result of the demonstration, we are working now to include the feedback from the association with ideas for improvement and more use cases. At the same time, a collaboration was announced between Cisco and ODR Technologie Services GmBH to help bring this solution to market; making them the first partner in Germany to do so. ODR TSG is developing an initial pilot in the county of Aalen. Stay tuned for more updates on how the solution could be rolled out in the German market.

Municipalities in Ontario, Canada

In Canada, the City of Stratford has been making major strides towards becoming a leader in digital media and infrastructure and was short-listed as one of the top intelligent cities by the ICF. Partnering with Cisco to help deliver the proper networking infrastructure, Stratford is focused on driving investment and innovation to transform the city’s future. Cisco has begun working with several progressive municipalities in Ontario to deploy REGS solution pilots. Forward-thinking municipalities – including Stratford – will trial remote expert for government services kiosks to deliver access to municipal government services/information and help further drive Smart+Connected Communities initiatives in the area. By utilizing technology to improve citizen services and provide greater ease of access, these pilots are another glimpse into what the future holds for a Smart+Connected Canada.

Remote Expert 1.8 Introduced

Building on the momentum we’ve seen globally with Cisco’s overall remote expert solutions across several vertical industries, we’re also excited to announce a solution update with Remote Expert 1.8. New capabilities continue our efforts around enabling partners to better connect customers with subject matter experts via immersive, virtual environments. These new features include scalable support, video in queue functionality for TelePresence and the integration of Cisco MediaSense to deliver audio recording, in addition to others. Furthermore, a newly enhanced Remote Expert Services Portfolio includes planning, building and management services to support a secure solution that effectively integrates with customers’ existing process and infrastructures – and to deliver the highest quality experience.

Connected Justice in Texas

Kiosk Touch Pad

Interactive Touch Pad. Photo: BILLY CALZADA, San Antonio Express-News

In other areas around the world, we’ve also seen how other Cisco technologies have been used to address the pressing challenge of delivering new citizen services. We turn now to the great state of Texas, where the Cisco Connected Justice solution is transforming the administration of routine court tasks and allowing city officials to improve court processes.

San Antonio Connected Justice Kiosk

Connected Justice Kiosk. Photo: BILLY CALZADA, San Antonio Express-News

Last year, the city of San Antonio, Texas announced the deployment of interactive video kiosks for citizens to resolve Municipal Court offenses from right in their own neighborhood. Devised by Municipal Court Presiding Judge John Bull, court manager Jason Tabor and Cisco, these remote expert kiosks enable a live, interactive video feed where residents can speak with Judge Alfredo Tavera about their cases and the options available to them. The service allows up to 20 people to be linked via Cisco TelePresence to the court at one time and a touch screen with interactive pad is provided for ease of use.

This month, residents in San Antonio will find an up-and-running kiosk right in their own neighborhood grocery store. Resolving a traffic ticket won’t ever be pleasant, but at least it’ll be more convenient now. Additional kiosks are already available within a local community center outside of downtown. Collin County, TX has also explored the use of kiosks in their court system and is in the midst of deployment. All in all, these services are helping transform the means in which we deal with every day circumstances like traffic violations.

Delivering citizen services remotely in Barcelona

Delivering citizen services remotely in Barcelona

The Bigger Picture

The developments in these global regions provide a crucial step in the broader effort to transform cities around the world. Having the ability to access government services from somewhere as casual and accessible as a shopping mall is an important indicator of what’s possible. In Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities vision, the Internet can be the key platform in city planning and development efforts. As we see it, the Internet of Everything has a pivotal role in powering an amazing future – one in which the intelligent connection of people, process, data and things on the network will transform our cities and the way in which we conduct our day-to-day lives.

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Smart Cities: Moving from Discussion to a Call for Action

I am in San Francisco this week to attend a City Protocol workshop along with the Meeting of the Minds 2012 conference (Twitter: @meetoftheminds), which brings together thought leaders from the world’s most innovative organizations to spotlight fresh ideas in urban connectivity and sustainability.

All week, I’ve been surrounded by urbanists and city experts talking about ways to make cities better. At many city events worldwide, I see a lot of discussion that seems to center on “what” can be done to improve our cities. This week, however, I’ve heard people asking the presenters “how” the smart innovation actually happened. That is, they wanted to know who did what, and how it was developed, operated, and financed.

This clearly demonstrates that there is need for more replicable and usable information describing “how” Smart Cities are actually made to be smarter. To fill this need, one must understand how cities operate and how Smart City “indicators” are actually delivered. Read More »

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