As digitization is being embraced by companies, communities, cities, organizations large and small, it is critical to assess and address the challenges that exist. Challenges that can become show-stoppers for the internet of things (IoT), challenges that could diminish the promise of big data, challenges that may push promising innovations in domains of artificial intelligence, virtual reality or bio tech even further into the future. Challenges that can become huge business opportunities when addressed in an organized and proper way. The list of challenges to digitization below is by no means complete, but it does address the most important ones and how Cisco seeks to address some of them.

The Art of Connecting Everything

With the exponential growth of IoT and of digitization, connecting everything, securely and seamlessly, has become a true art. What is required, is for the industry to enable architectures that allow for convergence of a growing array of access technologies, end devices, sensors, software layers, analytics and solutions to come together. Cisco leads the world in this space. Having said that, such architectures require collaboration and agreement among partners in a booming ecosystem to become reality.


The development of IoT has suffered from a lack of standards in the market. Proprietary protocols and fragmented markets proved the rule rather than the exception. Without standards, IoT cannot mature. 2015 and 2016 have proved to be years of change and an inflection point as such. While on the consumer market side the emergence of standards is still in its early stages, on the industrial side, in areas such street digitization or in new technologies such as LoRa, standards emerge and certain protocols become de facto standards. With that said, a lot of work remains to be done and efforts in the market to “self-standardize” are delivering a huge boost to the overall development of IoT.

Big Data

Big data has often been called “the new oil”. Harvesting and leveraging big data is becoming mainstream yet plenty of issues remain, especially in the public domain, with issues concerning ownership, privacy and cyber security hovering in the background. Who guards the data and guards the guardian? Neither the private sector nor the government can be solely trusted to provide the full orchestration of the governance of privacy sensitive data. Adequately addressing this challenge is one of the most important organizational issues of our day and of our age.


Cyber security is on everybody’s mind when addressing digitization. The world currently deals with 2.5 million cyber security threats per second. Understandably, 60 % of business leaders are reluctant to innovate due to cyber risks. Cyber security is an enormous challenge and yet also a great opportunity. Cisco certainly views it that way and has become one of the world leaders in cyber security. No other organization knows better where each packet of data is sitting, where it’s coming from and going to –and whether it is supposed to be there in the first place. Cisco delivers security in the network rather than adding a solution on top of it. Cisco Talos monitors 600 billion emails every day. On average the detection of a common breach takes the affected organization 100 to 200 days to discover. Cisco does it on average in 17.5 hours.

Skills & Jobs

Digitization and the demand it is creating for the right professionals – engineers, network and solution architects, big data analysts etc. – is growing faster than educational institutes provide training. In Europe alone, it is expected that 1.2 million IT related job vacancies will exist by the year 2020. It is a challenge, however yet again this also creates an opportunity – for universities, technical schools, governments and the tech industry. Cisco’s Network Academy continually enrolls hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide. The network academy has also become an important aspect of the Country Digitization Acceleration initiatives Cisco has launched in partnership with the governments of countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and India.

Proof of Value

All digitization efforts have technology at its core. What drives the adoption of these efforts however, is not so much proof of concept, but Proof of Value. Many IoT solutions find themselves at a stage where value is being proved – in monetary, social and environmental terms. Building the appropriate business architectures isn’t just a challenge, it is an opportunity for many in the market – and it is happening at a fast pace.

Understanding & Anticipating Impact

Digitization is triggering an economic revolution. In the words of Jeremy Rifkin, acclaimed thought-leader in this area: “The Internet of Things is the first general purpose technology platform in history that can potentially take large parts of the economy to near zero marginal costs.”

Take the transport sector in the US as an example. Automated vehicles will cause a major impact on one of the biggest professions in the US within a decade: the job of a driver. In the words of Robin Chase, founder of ZipCar: “There are 3.5 million freight and delivery truck drivers in the United States. There are 665,000 bus drivers. In New York City alone, there are 90,000 registered taxi drivers — not counting Uber and Lyft drivers. There are 5.5 million people manufacturing and designing cars and 1.65 million people working at dealerships. All of these jobs are at high risk.” Government and enterprise will have to collaborate in order to anticipate and respond to the exponential change digitization produces.

The challenges that come with digitization are large, but the opportunity is even larger. We are collectively at an inflection point, where the Internet of Things is becoming mature. There has never been a better time.

Click here to see Cisco’s Blueprint for Country Digitization Acceleration.







Bas Boorsma


Internet of Everything & City Digitization - North Europe