Cisco’s Internet of Everything has major channel implications

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Let’s say you want to shop at Sean Curtis’s fictional CWI retail store.

A map on your mobile device indicates four nearby locations; a green pin marks the most promising consumer experience, with 10 cashiers open and eight specialists on the floor, according to data supplied in real time by the store.

Dwell time data from the mobile phone network indicates a three-minute checkout wait. And a city data source indicates 42 of 120 spaces in a nearby lot are available. Your mobile phone can now make a peer-to-peer connection with the parking kiosk and reserve a spot.

CWI is fictional, and Curtis is the senior manager of technical demonstrations with Cisco Systems Inc. But his demo at Cisco’s annual editors conference here, showed how a number of available data, network and application resources combine to create what Cisco calls “the Internet of Everything.”

It’s where network-aware applications meet application-aware networks.

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It means new requirements for the network, according to Cisco chief technology and strategy officer Padmasree Warrior. And it also means Cisco’s partner ecosystem will have to expand to embrace non-IT products and services.

Given that the network has to handle, at one extreme, bandwidth-intensive real-time video, and at the other, continuous but tiny data streams from myriad sensors, actuators, RFID tags and devices, intelligence has to be distributed around the network. Not everything has to pass through the data centre; hence, your parking reservation goes peer-to-peer.

The network will also have to have a higher level of programmability as it becomes more applications-based than Web-based, she said.

She foresees a fewer number of layers in the network stack compared to the stack for the client-server model of fixed device locations, perhaps to three “uberlayers”: Application, platform and Infrastructure.

Rob Lloyd, Cisco’s president of development and sales, said writing to the 700 application programming interfaces that access the 160 million lines of code in Cisco’s three operating systems will allow programmers to unlock the resources of the platform.

Thirty years of development was focused on that static device, client-server model, Lloyd said. “In the last 18 months, that’s changed … It’s going to be a mobile, video-centric world.”

In a briefing later, Lloyd said the “killer app” for the Internet of Everything is the combination of mobility with physical sensors, actuators, telemetry devices, etc. For example, AliveCor makes a $200 iPhone case that incorporates an FDA-approved electrocardiogram (ECG) machine.

The increase in bandwidth and quality of wireless service is creating ways to connect devices “in ways that just didn’t make sense before.”

“In some cases, (this) will expand the partner ecosystem,” Lloyd said. “Our partners don’t sell industrial automation for the floor of a factory … Our partners aren’t installing (ECG) equipment in the emergency rooms of hospitals. The Internet of Everything will probably see an expansion of partners to those that are a little more attuned to industrial processes.

“I don’t think that precludes (current IT-focused) partners from participating in that,” he said, but Cisco will have to develop partnerships with the likes of Rockwell, Honeywell, Johnson Controls and General Electric.

Those partners would probably not want to certify as “gold” or “silver,” Lloyd said. “We’d probably want to manage those relationships differently.”

The partner ecosystem for the Internet of Everything will be strongly vertically oriented, Lloyd said.

At the peak of the client-server era, about 200 million devices were attached to the Internet. The mobile explosion has brought us to about 10 billion. As more telematics, sensors, industrial control and monitoring devices and telematics converge on IP, that number will reach 50 billion by 2020. The issues that the technology industry faced getting up to 10 billion connections will look “very, very minor” compared to those facing the integration of 50 billion connections, Lloyd said.

Cisco Systems estimates there is $14.4 trillion worldwide that can be harvested from the Internet of Everything: $2.5 trillion in better asset utilization, $2.5 trillion in improved employee productivity, $2.7 trillion in supply chain and logistics improvements, $3.7 trillion in improved customer experience and $3 trillion in innovation.

According to Lloyd, based on opportunity size, ecosystem characteristics and “insertion points” – for example, an auto plant will have as many as 50,000 IP-ready devices – the likely first verticals to take advantage will be manufacturing, public sector, energy and utilities, health care, finance and insurance, transportation, and distribution.

What does it mean to the IT department? For a start, Lloyd said, technology spending is shifting from IT to the line of business.

“The Internet of Everything will be driven by business funding,” Lloyd said.

He also called out three “differentials” in the delivery of IT:

  • An experience differential, driven by the rising user expectations of the mobile and BYOD lifestyle;
  • A velocity differential, as cloud computing allows the delivery of applications anywhere and at any time, to any device
  • A data differential, as the network plays critical role in turning the deluge of data from devices and machine-to-machine transactions into usable business intelligence.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
A journalist of 20 years experience in newspapers and magazines. He has followed technology exclusively since 1998 and was the winner of the Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in the eEconomy category in 2000. (The category was eliminated in 2001, leaving Webb as the only winner ever.) He has held senior editorial positions with publications including Computing Canada, eBusiness Journal, InfoSystems Executive, Canadian Smart Living and Network World. He is currently the editor of ComputerWorld Canada and the IT World Canada newswire.

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