How Programmable Networks are Enabling the Internet of Things

November 14, 2016 - 0 Comments

Smartphones may have become ubiquitous, but the demand for internet connections shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, the opposite is true: the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly boosting the number of devices that need a connection.

The growth of IoT presents a real opportunity for service providers. But they will need to cater for a huge variety of network requirements very different to, say, consumers who want to share videos with friends on messaging apps.

Configuring Bespoke Networks

The problem facing service providers is that there are so many different demands for connectivity, all wanting to use networks in different ways. How can they meet this challenge? Wouldn’t it be great if you could continuously configure and reconfigure your service to create bespoke virtual networks for each of your customers? Well, that’s exactly what programmable networks allow you to do.

A virtual network is enabled by software rather than hardware, making it more efficient and flexible – and many of its functions can be automated. The results for providers are reduced operational costs and the flexibility to adapt to new demands and conditions. So not only is it possible to create innovative new products for your customers – you can also implement them easily and bring them quickly onto the market.

Accelerating Into the Future

It’s increasingly easy to imagine a time when every device – from the street lamps on your road to the fridge in your kitchen – is connected to the internet of things. So it’s probable people will use IoT in ways we haven’t even begun to imagine.

The automotive industry is one area where IoT is already becoming a reality. Recent research by technology consultants Chetan Sharma found that in the first quarter of 2016, there were more cars added to networks than phones (32%, compared to 31%).

The owner of a connected car might want to subscribe to a connected vehicle care service, including options like virtual in-car assistance, sensor-based maintenance alerts, and on-board scheduling of appointments. They might also want to assess their driving safety, limit the speed a teenage driver can reach, or even monitor the health of an older family member at the wheel. And lots of organisations would be interested in the data provided by connected cars – insurance companies, emergency services, and parking providers, to name just a few.

In the US, AT&T already has over 8 million cars on its network. AT&T used Cisco’s virtualisation technology to create a network specifically for connecting cars. They required a fundamentally new mobile architecture that would enable machine-to-machine connections. Using Cisco technology, they were able to create a network that combined virtual and physical resources.

Of course, it isn’t just cars that can benefit from being connected. Philips has announced it sees itself as “the lighting company for the Internet of Things”, and has begun partnerships with Cisco and Vodafone. And in a further indication of IoT’s huge potential, service providers like Orange France – who last year created a low power network for machine-to-machine applications – are investing in the technology.

Flexibility is the Future

One of the key benefits of programmable networks is their flexibility: the technology that supports them can be adjusted to different situations. It’s clear why this agility is suited to IoT – it’s moving fast, but no one quite knows where it is going. And because programmable networks can be automated, these new products are simple to deliver.

At Cisco we pioneered many of the key technologies that make programmable networks possible, so we’re ideally positioned to make them work for you. And we invest billions in new research and development each year, to make sure we continue to come up with the products that will shape the future.


  • The growth of IoT is rapidly boosting the number of devices that need a connection.
  • This growth presents a real opportunity for service providers. But they will need to cater for a huge variety of network requirements very different to those of standard consumers.
  • Programmable network technology enables providers to continuously configure and reconfigure their service to create bespoke virtual networks for each of their customers’ different needs.
  • Programmable networks can be automated, so these new services will be straightforward to deliver.

Learn more about innovation in Programmable Networks here or watch our expert interview about Programmable Network.



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