I’ve thought a lot about how the ultimate goal of technology is to make the world a better place – a philosophy I like to call ‘Digital Hope.’ As VP of Global IoT Sales for Cisco, I’m in the fortunate position to influence how private companies and public agencies deploy our technology to help people. But there is always more to be done.
We believe the true purpose of IoT is to eliminate barriers between the digital and physical domains by combining intelligence, automation, management, and security technologies. Together with our industry and cloud partners, we are helping organizations and governments across the globe solve critical issues, secure critical infrastructure, and eliminate digital threats before they’re able to cause harm.
Ensuring safe drinking water
As the water crisis in Flint and the recent attack on treatment plants in Florida demonstrate, maintaining the safety of our drinking supply is critical. The US loses an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water each day due to aging infrastructure. A necessary step towards safeguarding our water supply is digitizing it through the collection and analysis of data.
Smart water management means deploying IoT sensors in geographically dispersed treatment facilities to monitor water quality, then feeding the data to a centralized hub via long-range wireless area network gateways. Predictive algorithms can then analyze the data for warning signs of possible equipment failure, allowing plant operators to fix problems before they occur.
Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, which serves more than 650,000 citizens in New Mexico, has taken proactive steps to avoid potentially lethal cyber attacks on the county’s water infrastructure. By deploying Cisco Industrial Security appliances, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority is able to segment different components of its IT and OT (operational technology) networks, preventing attacks from discrete IoT components from spreading to the utility’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.
Coupled with Cisco Cyber Vision, which uses AI to monitor facility behavior, the county is able to detect potentially adverse events and alert district officials before they become serious issues.
Bridging the digital divide
One of the stark lessons brought home by the pandemic was the importance of a reliable internet connection. Our ability to work from home and educate our children is almost entirely dependent on our ability to access the internet. The lack of basic connectivity services for people in poor and rural areas has thrown our nation’s digital divide into stark relief.
To narrow this digital divide, we’re working closely with local governments to bring broadband to under-served populations, especially students. A recent example of this type of public/private partnership took place in Canutillo Independent School District, northwest of El Paso, Texas.
In this town, just miles from the US-Mexico border, 70 percent of its 6,200 students lacked internet access at home. As the pandemic raged and families sheltered in place, these students were in danger of missing an entire year or more of schooling.
The school district began by building a private network to share bandwidth among poorer families in the community. Using Cisco Extended Wireless Connectivity – a solution employing Meraki outdoor access points, Cisco industrial switches, and Fluidmesh ultra-reliable wireless services for back-hauling data – the district was able to deploy a mesh network called Canutillo Connect that allowed multiple households to tap into the same broadband connection.
We’ve also been proud to work with MuralNet, a nonprofit organization devoted to enabling internet access for the 574 sovereign Native American Tribes, to launch the Sustainable Tribal Network. Through financial and technical assistance, Cisco and MuralNet are helping tribes deploy 2.5GHZ spectrum infrastructure to create fixed wireless networks that reach under-served populations on tribal lands.
Learn more about other company-wide initiatives aimed at connecting rural populations here.
Smarter decisions, better outcomes
I highlight these initiatives to raise awareness of what’s possible when we approach technology with a constructive mindset. At Cisco, we are committed to empowering our customers with intelligence, agility, and clarity, across all industries and in all spaces.
We in the tech community have the power to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Our ultimate goal should be to raise happier kids, enable healthier citizens, and to fortify our planet’s aging infrastructure.
Hope…that’s what gets me out of bed each morning; I hope it does the same for you.