These days, it’s hard to keep up with the flood of cool technology and cutting-edge products coming to market. It used to be my passion; now it’s also become my career. Turns out, all those hours on Reddit and TechCrunch were a good investment after all.
As a member of Cisco’s Internet of Everything (IoE) Emerging Technology team, I get to evaluate everything from augmented reality to robots and 3-D printers. I was even lucky enough to be one of the early Google Glass Explorers — bringing the good word of Silicon Valley’s newest products to the world. (Quick story: I had a moment of panic when I was pulled out of a checkpoint line in the Amsterdam airport. The immigration officer demanded to see my passport, then Glass. I let him check it out, in exchange for fast-tracking me through immigration.)
But the “play” part isn’t the only thing I love about my job — although we do have a great time putting these new technologies through their paces in our lab. The real fun is finding ways in which these devices can be applied to real-world business problems.
Growing up on a farm in Kentucky before heading off to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, I learned early how the everyday challenges of rural life demanded fast, elegant solutions — from fixing tractors to finding ways of occupying my burgeoning curiosity.
Early forays into practical technologies included building a forge in my backyard and giving amateur blacksmithing a try. Another was my first Craiglist purchase of an arc welder, which ended up putting a piece of molten steel straight through my shoe and nearly my foot. When productivity (i.e., horses, grass, corn) is king, a great idea is always welcome. But while there is plenty of opportunity for innovation on the farm, it simply must work.
The goal of my team at Cisco is also to find out what works — not just on the farm (though agriculture is one of our industries of focus), but in the ever-changing conditions of the upcoming IoE economy. This sweeping transformation is being driven by an explosion in connectivity among people, process, data, and things —and every industry will need to adapt. Our mission is to find the specific technologies that will help organizations transform, innovate, and thrive in this rapidly changing marketplace.
To name just a few of our recent adventures: we’ve evaluated the evolution of supercomputing within the context of IoE (more on that in the next entry); experimented with $10,000 cameras and the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality device; prototyped UAV-based solutions for the agriculture, oil, and even retail industries; and delved into home automation.
In driving this process of experimentation and real-world evaluation, we’ve sought alternative viewpoints from throughout the company — from interns, new hires, and seasoned veterans. Naturally, this gives them a chance to break out of their usual routines, and it lends us some creative perspective as they bounce ideas (and drones) around our lab.
I wholeheartedly believe the interns and new hires of the future will help drive this company forward, and I’m lucky enough to recruit at schools around the country. I’m constantly amazed by the high level of ideas and innovative thinking I encounter, and I love incorporating these nascent trends and technologies with the trailblazing work we’re doing at Cisco.
I know I’ll be seeing some of these students in our lab one day as we continue to bring IoE out of PowerPoint slides and into prototypes that solve some of the most pressing problems of today.
Watch out; we’re here to change the world.