Cisco is working on a platform for the Internet of Things (IoT), that will enable customers in multiple industry sectors to rapidly deploy and manage their machine-to-machine (M2M) applications.
At the Cisco Live event in London this week, Robert Soderbery, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Enterprise Networking Group, showed off a range of products that he said were "IoT-ready".
These included ruggedised wi-fi access points like the Aironet 1550 Series, connected grid products like the 2000 Series Connected Grid Router, and industrial switches like the IE 3000 Series, as well as a selection of smaller embedded devices for the automotive and military industries.
However, Soderbery said that Cisco would not be revealing its complete vision for the IoT until next year, because the company's vision goes far beyond just ruggedised switches, routers, wireless and boxes.
"We're looking to deliver an IoT platform which will enable you to rapidly and easily deploy IoT applications, manage those applications and present them to your application development community who can think up all the great things to do with these products," he said.
Cisco executive demonstration manager Sean Curtis went on to show off some of the things that Cisco Labs have been working on in the IoT space. Much of these centre around Jabber - Cisco's UC platform that combines instant messaging, voice, video, desktop sharing, and conferencing.
Curtis showed how sensors on the network could be used to provide presence information for Jabber users. For example, when the user enters his or her office, motion detectors on the door would trigger the lights to turn on and change the user's Jabber status to 'available'.
Using the GPS in the user's smartphone, Jabber would be able to keep track of whether the user remains in his office or goes elsewhere. If a second person enters the office and closes the door - indicating that a private meeting is going on - the user's Jabber status will switch to 'busy'.
Driving home, the accelerometer in the user's phone could be used to indicate whether he is available to talk. If he leaves his phone face-up on the passenger seat, his Jabber status will remain available, but if it is face-down he will appear as unavailable.
Jabber will also provide suggestions on how best to contact the user, based on their current activity. For example, if they are stationary and in their office, they might be contactable by phone, SMS or email, but if they are in a private meeting, the application will recommend voicemail or email only.
"These sensors on the network are going to provide information, but it's what we do with that information that really improves the experience, and how we change business processes - that's really what the Internet of Everything is about," said Curtis.
The Internet of Everything was one of the topics highlighted in Cisco's Connected World Technology Report, which provides insight into the attitudes of the world's next generation of workers.
As more people, things and devices connect to the Internet, more data from more places will be introduced across corporate and service provider networks, which open up new vulnerabilities and a need for more sophisticated security approaches, the report warns.
Ian Foddering, chief technology officer for Cisco UK and Ireland, said that the Internet of Things is the next logical step for Cisco.
As sectors such as transportation, manufacturing and energy become increasingly automated, and the number of connected end points grows, the onus will fall on the network companies to keep these applications up and running.
Foddering said that the advantage of working to an open standard like IP is it provides a common framework, making it easy for organisations to partner up. For example, Cisco is already working with Schneider Electric to develop IoT applications around energy management in buildings.
However, he flagged the need for faster adoption of IPv6 within organisations, in order to free up more IP address space and enable companies like Cisco to realise the opportunity that exists with the Internet of Everything at a macro level.
"When you start to connect more and more things to the network, you can suddenly start to completely change the way things are delivered and how services are offered, so I think there's a huge possibility here," he said.
"We've reached a point now when you can get email on your phone and browse the web, but for me that is just the beginning. That's why this Internet of Everything is so exciting for us, because it allows us to start painting a picture of where we see the future going in that world of connected things."
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