Cisco chief: new IT foundations key for IoT growth
Cisco chief: new IT foundations key for IoT growth

Cisco chief: new IT foundations key for IoT growth

The IoT is already ‘dramatically disrupting’ says Cisco exec chairman Chambers as his firm now goes eyes down on the smart cities market.

Corporately coiffured Cisco executive chairman John Chambers addressed the IoT World Forum in Dubai this month to remind the audience how important he thinks the Internet of Things (IoT) is.

The man, who in 2013 claimed that extolling the virtues of the IoT “felt like missionary work”, this year piled on cheesier rhetoric by borrowing a famous line from former Intel CEO Andy Grove. According to Chambers, we are at “[strategic] inflection point” for the IoT in terms of interest and initiates.

The Cisco chief is clearly more digitally enriched than the average Joe. He claims that, already, there isn’t a major government leader or a major industry player who doesn’t appreciate how the IoT is going to give them opportunities. He further states that these same leaders of industry also recognise dramatic disruption from IoT technologies.

The secret to IoT success

Away from the keynote showboating, Chambers validated his technical track record by explaining how we need to ‘operationalise the mechanics of our technology stacks’ to harness the full benefits that the IoT has to offer. For the Cisco boss, this means we need to fuse the DNA of both our operational technologies and our information data-centric technologies. In other words, we need to bake IoT intelligence in from the start.

As simplistic as this may sound, what Chambers is perhaps referring to is the need to model for IoT-driven insights from the core of our business architectures. We can stick new sensors and monitors and cameras into and onto whichever part of the business we wish, but if this action is carried out as an afterthought… then it’s value in immediately diluted.

Holistic IoT, not bolt on

So then, new operational structures will now emerge where these so-called operational technologies will be digitally connected from the get go. Further, they will be aligned to performance goals dictated by Line of Business (LoB) indicators with specific outcomes. This is a holistic IoT, not a bolt-on one.

Cisco’s IoT manoeuvrings come on the back of its intentions to gain a meaty slice of the global smart cities pie. A market that is now estimated to be valued at US$31 globally, Cisco stipulates that smart city IoT solutions must have customer care built into their management layer if they are to be successful. The firm’s wider position states that IoT service providers much provide project management and systems integration to ‘knit’ diverse smart city elements together.

As rapid and already-in-motion as Cisco paints the complete IoT picture to be, others are perhaps slightly less sanguine about the speed with which we will see change.

Speaking to the Internet of Business on this story this week was Eugene Jorov, co-founder and CTO of Angel Sensor, an open-source health wearables company.

“Remember the term ‘greenwash’? I think we’ve been utterly ‘greenwashed’ in relation to some aspects of the IoT. The buzz has simply been too loud, the expectations too high, when compared to real results, or lack thereof. It’s actually not the industry’s fault, but maybe the failure of the loud tech prophets who over-advertised the space. Given enough time, I’m certain our lives will be transformed by IoT. At this moment though, all we have to go by is promises.”

Pneuron CTO Tom Fountain broadly agrees. The distributed technology solutions company chief spoke to the IoB to say that, what has become apparent, is conventional centralisation models are simply not flexible, agile, nor scalable enough to deal with this phenomenon.

“New strategies have to emerge — like decomposing and distributing solution elements to construct highly agile systems that can be optimised on a granular basis as needs dictate, in many cases leveraging in-house talent.”

CTO of Mendix Johan den Haan approves of the suggestion that we’re at the inflection point of massive adoption of IoT and that it requires a holistic approach. The Dutchman spoke to the IoB to say that his firm is seeing examples of large corporations as well as start-ups interweaving IoT architecture in solutions to digitise their operations.

“For instance, a large, global facility services provider uses sensored mouse traps and soap dispensers to increase operational efficiency of service staff, feeding sensor data into newly designed multi-device applications for service staff to optimise their on-site activities,” said den Haan. “Another company in the agriculture sector is offering an end-to-end solution for optimising energy cost of glass houses combining sensor data from the glass houses, weather forecasts and energy spot prices to optimise procurement of energy.”

Zen & the art of IoT implementation

For all of Chamber’s initial big picture proselytising and prognostication, the Cisco chief does concede that none of this will happen overnight. He advocates a zen-like multi-phase approach where business structures and operational cultures are given time to evolve.

Whether with missionaries or evangelists (or real world practitioners), the church of the IoT filling its pews fast.