Cisco Creates New Internet of Things Biz Unit

Cisco officials want the company to be the connecting platform for the IoT infrastructure, from networking gear to security to embedded technology.

Cisco Systems officials are aggressively building the networking vendor's Internet of things strategy, including creating a business unit dedicated to the burgeoning trend.

At the inaugural Internet of Things World Forum in Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 29, Cisco executives outlined the company's plan to accelerate the adoption of Internet of things (IoT) technology in the marketplace, and unveiled its Internet of Things Group that will draw from a range of existing efforts already underway in the company, touching on everything from switches and routers to security and embedded technology.

The new group will bring together several programs within the company, including Cisco's Connected Industries, Connected Energy and Physical Security businesses, the oldest of which has been around since 2006. Cisco Vice President Guido Jouret will be general manager of the Internet of Things Group.

The Internet of things refers to the rapid growth in the number of smart devices—from industrial machines to cars to appliances to mobile devices—that will be connected to the Internet, communicating with each other and generating massive amounts of data. In a report earlier this year, Cisco forecast that by 2017, there will be 3.6 billion Internet users and more than 19 billion network connections—both fixed and mobile—as well as machine-to-machine (M2M) connections. By 2020, there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet.

Today, there are about 12.5 billion devices connected, according to Inbar Lasser-Raab, senior director of enterprise networking marketing at Cisco. In the IoT scenario, Cisco will build on its networking strengths.

"Cisco will provide the connecting platform for the Internet of things infrastructure," Lasser-Raab told eWEEK.

The company's Internet of Things Group will focus its efforts on several markets, including discrete manufacturing, oil and gas, mining, defense, transportation, smart cities, sports and entertainment, energy and M2M operations for service providers, according to officials.

Cisco executives for more than a year have been talking about the Internet of everything, which they've described as being not only the connection between machines, but also people, data and processes. The IoT is a subset of the Internet of everything, Lasser-Raab said.

Cisco CEO John Chambers has said that by 2020, the Internet of everything will result in $14.4 trillion in profits for companies worldwide. Company officials have said that this year, private-sector businesses will generate as much as $613 billion in profits from the Internet of everthing.

The vendor's IoT initiative will be led by Maciej Kranz, vice president of the Corporate Technology Group within the office of the chief technology and strategy officer. Like the Internet of Things Group, the initiative will leverage work that's already underway at the company for the IoT, from technology and venture investments to creating an IoT ecosystem and helping create standards. The initial focus will be around security, sensors, real-time analytics and applications, according to Cisco officials.

“Our premise is simple: instead of deploying lots of individual networks, each for a single industrial application, we say, 'put it all on one network,'" Rob Soderbery, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Enterprise Networks Group, said in a statement. "Remember when data, voice and video all ran on different networks? It was expensive and fragmented. We solved that problem and we are solving this one."

Cisco also is making moves on the education front. The company announced Oct. 29 that it is rolling out a new portfolio of IoT education courses and assessments to help scientists, researchers and students develop the skills necessary for the Internet of things. In addition, the company will create a Cisco Specialist Certification to help push the development of skills in industrial networking.

The Internet of things is getting a lot of attention from both tech vendors such as IBM as well as businesses. Chip designer ARM released a study Oct. 29 that found that 75 percent of businesses are researching opportunities created by the IoT, and that 96 percent of respondents expect their companies to be using IoT technologies in some capacity by 2016.

ARM, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices all are creating processors aimed at IoT systems. ARM in March announced its energy-efficient Cortex-MO+ chip for the IoT, while Intel in September unveiled its Quark line of low-power chips aimed at the IoT and wearable computing devices. AMD is rapidly building up its embedded processor portfolio. At the same time, Intel and ARM are investing in or buying companies whose technologies are targeted at the Internet of things.