“We are committed to moving from a linear economy, where products are used and then thrown away, to a circular economy that makes better use of our limited natural resources.” Cisco

We’ve seen amazing stories from our Cisco IoT (Internet of Things) customers of how they are leveraging IoT technologies to create a more sustainable future – from sensors that extend product life through IoT-enabled utility grids for renewable resource management and more.

Equally important is our own commitment to move beyond the take-make-waste model. With thousands of customers across critical industries like utilities, manufacturing, and transportation deploying tens of thousands of devices, we’ve amassed a huge IoT footprint. And the reality with Industrial IoT is that these devices will have a long lifespan of 10-15+ years. 

Today I’ve invited participants from across Cisco to explore how we are making more sustainable choices and the impact to our customers.

Vikas: Let’s start with a look at how our IoT products are helping one industry in particular move the needle towards a more sustainable future.

AGOSTINO: We’re seeing remarkable progress in the utility sector with their use of our IoT technologies. As the world leverages more renewable energy sources like solar and wind, the utility industry faces new challenges. Those renewable energy sources aren’t as predictable as other sources of power – requiring them to proactively manage their grids to deliver the reliability we all expect. In some countries, like Italy, utilities face steep fines for every second that the grid is down.

By using our Cisco IoT products to digitize their grid, they can increase efficiencies across their entire network, leverage more renewable energy sources, and deliver those high levels of reliability. And once you digitize the grid, you can start gaining additional benefits, like using smart meters as sensors as part of conservation voltage reduction (CVR) schemes. These meters are essential in helping the utilities company get real-time energy consumption data to balance the grid. But, utility companies can also build services on top of that data to help customers understand more about their energy usage, like when to curtail energy usage to lower their utility bills or when it’s the ideal time to sell their green solar power back to the grid.

I think that 2021 is going to be a remarkable year for IoT and sustainability. Just this past summer here in Europe, we saw the world’s largest green stimulus package, with an earmark of US$572B for climate action. IoT is at the heart of the new green, sustainable energy economy. I can’t wait to see what Cisco and our customers can build together.

Vikas: Can you give us some insight into the products our customers are using – like the utility providers Agostino mentioned? How are we building circular design thinking into IoT products digitization? 

SRIPRIYA: Futureproofing the design of our new IoT routers was one of the most important considerations – particularly given that long lifespan our customers need. It’s important to address our customers’ current business challenges, while also giving them easy ways to leverage new innovations without having to completely replace their installed products. 

An excellent example is 5G (and whatever comes next! ) We know that our IoT customers need multiple connectivity solutions depending on their use cases. For example, we intentionally designed our new Cisco 1100 Series Industrial Integrated Services Router (Cisco IR1101) in a modular fashion. Customers can swap in LTE or 5G modules when the pricing and use case make the most sense for them, without having to replace the device. In fact, our new Cisco IR1101 offers an impressive 140 unique combinations. 

With forward-thinking circular design, we enable our customers to easily and cost-effectively take advantage of innovation. They save the expense of buying completely new equipment every time their requirements change, which also eliminates the resources and energy required to create new equipment across manufacturing, shipping, and logistics. By upgrading or repairing just the individual modules, customers extend the product’s lifetime, reduce materials that are disposed of prematurely, and help conserve resources, like metals and paint.  

Vikas: Sripriya – You’ve also been working with our teams across Cisco to lower the environmental impact of our products through their design. You had some impactful results.

SRIPRIYA: Let me highlight two primary areas:

  • POWER CONSUMPTION: When we design our products, we put a lot of thought and planning into power consumption. As IoT devices are broadly deployed with long lifecycles, the energy usage really adds up quickly. I’m proud to say that our new Cisco IR1101 has reduced the idle energy consumption by 45% from the previous generation and 35% when running on full load. Considering the product sales and deployment over a 5-year period, that translates into 10,800 MWh of energy savings or 5,280 metric tons of CO2 emissions reduction.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL RUGGEDNESS: Our thinking here is Design Once, Use Anywhere. These devices have low energy usage, don’t need cooling or heating, can work from -40°C to 75°C, and have many layers of hazardous location safety requirements built-in.

You can see that we’ve really extended the utility and lifetime of the products for our customers. Not only does that help them keep their management costs down, but it also helps them accelerate their own innovative use of our products.



Vikas: Adam – Beyond the product itself, how are we helping our customers be more sustainable. Talk to me about packaging.

ADAM: We’re doing amazing work on the design of our IoT products, with a very deliberate focus on prioritizing circular design principles. Within Cisco Supply Chain organization, we are also addressing what goes around the product – namely sustainable packaging. There are two significant wins we achieved on the Cisco IR1101 router that I’d like to mention.

  • FOAM ELIMINATION: Use of sustainable and recyclable materials is an industry-wide priority. The rich product robustness that Sripriya described enabled us to migrate from packaging which would historically incorporate foam inserts for cushioning to an all-corrugated design. This is better for the environment, and much easier for our customers to deal with when they are installing our products.
  • PACKAGING DENSITY: Imagine receiving 3,000 boxes of individual routers – like in the case of a recent Cisco IoT Smart Roadways client. (And that was just the first order). Not only is all that packaging wasteful, but it’s also time-consuming to simply break the packaging down for recycling. To support deployments with this level of scale, we’ve launched a 10-pack unit with accessories now bundled in the same box. That’s a much better experience for our customers, and it also has a ripple effect across the supply chain. Streamlined packaging means more units fit onto a pallet which translates into lower shipping costs, more efficient staging and less energy usage.

We’re excited to continue to push the envelope on circular design principles and have some rather audacious goals in this area.

Looking ahead

Thank you Sripriya, Adam, and Agostino for giving some insights into Cisco IoT and the many ways we are powering a more sustainable, circular economy. It’s impressive to see how our utility customers are using our solutions to seamlessly integrate renewable energy into their grids. And how we here at Cisco are taking our Circular Economy goals to heart by building more energy-efficient and modular products, as well as cutting down on the packaging and waste for our customers.

To read more about Cisco and our circular economy goals, click here.

To learn more about our line of Industrial IoT products, click here.







Vikas Butaney

SVP / GM, Cisco Networking

SD-WAN, Multicloud, and Industrial IoT