Cisco launches new business unit around the digital economy

SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Cisco Systems has introduced a Digital Solutions for Industries business unit at the Global Editors Conference.

Cisco has been involved in several city and even country initiatives around digital transformation. The networking giant has be a part of high profile digital cities such as Barcelona and closer to home in Mississauga, Ont. But until the launch of this new business unit hasn’t put any formal business structure around the digital transformation market opportunity.

The new business unit will focus on vertical industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, retail and others. Cisco’s approach will be to use a vertical integration strategy where they will work side-by-side with customers and channel partners.

One example of this is Fanuc America, a robotics manufacturing headquartered in Japan with locations in Rochester Hills, Mich., and Mississauga.

Tony Shakib, Cisco’s Vice President, IoT Verticals Business Unit, said in Fanuc’s case Cisco along with Fanuc’s channel partner Rockwell Automation and Rockwell’s own solution provider network which numbers 100 companies plan to digitize the manufacturing floor. Fanuc robots have been able to capture data for several years but Fanuc customers had no way to analyse it for preventative maintenance or improved performance. One of the high costs Fanuc and Fanuc customers deal with is when the robots go down the repairs are estimated at an astronomical $16,000 per minute.

Fanuc's CR-35iA collaborative robot is the industry’s first 35 kg payload force limited collaborative robot designed to work alongside humans without the need for safety fences.
Fanuc’s CR-35iA collaborative robot is the industry’s first 35 kg payload force limited collaborative robot designed to work alongside humans without the need for safety fences.

In partnership with Fanuc Cisco developed an offering called Connected Machines. Connected Machines embeds Cisco switching, security and compute technologies directly in the machine itself – or in a factory-floor aggregation device. The data captured is sent to the Cisco Cloud where the cloud analytics engine determines the maintenance needed. An alert can also be sent to Fanuc authorized service personnel on replacement parts, which can be shipped to the manufacturing floor in time for the next scheduled maintenance.

Currently Cisco’s digital solution group have produced a Connected Factory for manufacturing, Connected Rail/Connected Roadways for transportation, Connected Grid for utilities and Smart Connected Pipeline and Secure Ops for the Oil & Gas sector.

Also from the Digital Solutions for Industries business unit will be IoT System Security that features a security appliance and Fog Data Services. These two solutions were co-developed with partner Rockwell Automation.

“It’s a system or a platform with three elements purpose built for Internet of Things and it’s an ISA3000 product with Firepower software from Sourcefire for industrial industries that is ruggedized. It also supports many protocols and identification services along with video sensing physical security cameras and access manager,” Shakib said.

The Canadian-born Shakib added that several customers and channel partners are working on being digital but face problems such as siloed networks, security vulnerabilities, data overload and network complexity.

According to the 2014 Digital Transformation report from the Altimeter Group, 88 per cent of companies report undergoing a digital transformation, but only 25 per cent have mapped the digital customer journey or have a clear understanding of the new or under-performing digital touch points.

The new business unit has built a framework to address these issues based on five key areas: unified connectivity centred on one unified network, end-to-end security that also includes physical security, managed data from the edge to the cloud, data and automation capabilities, and an overall company focus on deliver the right outcomes for customers.

Rob Soderbery, the senior vice president of Enterprise Products and Solutions for Cisco told CDN that this digital transition is happening in several vertical markets.
“When you look at the recent Apple Cisco partnership you will see that they are working towards creating new workplaces and transforming the process of work beyond BYOD. They need each other to deliver the enterprise computing environment and mobility,” he said.

Cisco also formed partnership to further its vertical integration strategy with GE that will see the two digitize more than 100 factories.

In the Oil & Gas sector Cisco and Schneider Electric furthered its partnership with the creation of BLISS or baseline integrated SCADA system. BLISS delivers an IoT enabled pipeline management platform for new or upgraded systems. This system gives operators a view of the pipeline from a structural integrity point of view for maintenance and repairs.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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