Cisco Expands Fog Computing Initiative for IoT

The company rolls out the latest phase of its IOx platform, which lets businesses to run applications at the edge of the network.

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Cisco Systems officials are looking to leverage the company's "fog computing" initiative to drive its push to become the foundational technology provider for the burgeoning Internet of things.

Cisco CEO John Chambers has said the Internet of things (IoT) will be the most significant transition in the tech industry since the Internet, and that he intends Cisco to be a leading player in it. Fog computing—the idea of putting applications, storage, analytics and other distributed computing capabilities at the edge of the network—will be a key part of the effort.

The company also has created an IoT business unit.

The networking giant in January introduced its IOx platform, which enables organizations to build, manage and run applications and operating systems directly on Cisco network devices, such as hardened switches, routers and IP video cameras, putting the computing capabilities closer to where the bulk of IoT devices will be housed. At the Cisco-sponsored IoT World Forum 2014 in Chicago this week, the company expanded its IoT efforts with the introduction of the second phase of IOx, including adding to the list of Cisco products that support IOx.

In addition, the company outlined its Internet of Everything (IoE) Software and Services Suite, which enables customers to take the data collected by the various endpoints in an IoT deployment, analyze it, and move it on to the proper people and business processes, according to officials.

Cisco also announced the winners of more than $550,000 in prize money for challenges the company issued earlier this year around IoT innovation and security. At the same time, Cisco is giving the winners mentoring, training and business advice from Cisco and other organizations to help them develop, test and pilot their technologies.

The IoT has been talked about a lot over the past couple of years, and vendors and analysts expect it to grow rapidly. Cisco has said that by 2020, there will be 50 billion connected devices worldwide, and IDC analysts believe that by the same year, global IoT revenues will reach $7.1 trillion. Several industry consortiums have cropped up over the past year to build open frameworks for the IoT. At the same time, Gartner analysts in August said the IoT had taken the position atop the firm's hype cycle.

However, the message coming out of the show from Cisco this week is that the Internet of things is already well under way, and promises to get much bigger.

"IoT has swiftly moved beyond the hype and has already entered into what I call, 'hyper progress,'" Wim Elfrink, executive vice president of industry solutions and chief globalization officer at Cisco, wrote in a post on the company blog.

Elfrink noted that over the past year, IoT connections have increased from 10.7 billion things to 13.7 billion things, and by 2017, the number of industrial connections will grow beyond those of consumer connections. IoT revenues have reached $2.3 trillion, growing about 19 percent a year over the past three years and three to four times faster than IT overall, and the number of sensors shipped in the past year jumped about 150 percent, to 23.6 billion units.