Cisco Unveils Products for Industrial IoT

At the DistribuTech show, Cisco officials announce the Industrial Operations Kit and IE 4000 switch for such enterprise and smart cities deployments.

Cisco industrial IoT products

Discussions of the Internet of things (IoT) tend to revolve around systems for the home and how the technology can help people in their private lives. Cisco Systems officials are looking to steer some of the focus to how the IoT can fit in industrial environments and benefit the businesses that run them.

At the DistribuTech 2015 show Feb. 4, Cisco officials unveiled new offerings designed to drive adoption of IoT applications in the industrial world.

The giant networking vendor rolled out the Cisco Industrial Operations Kit to give businesses the tools they need to quickly deploy manageable, secure and affordable industrial networks. At the same time, Cisco introduced the Industrial Ethernet 4000 (IE 4000) Series switches, which officials said offer more than twice the scalability of other industrial switches and can meet the growing needs of devices and applications for more Power over Ethernet (PoE).

Cisco is using its broad networking experience to bring new IoT technologies to enterprises looking to deploy Field Area Network (FAN) infrastructures, according to Kip Compton, vice president of IoT systems and software at Cisco.

"The market is demanding new infrastructure capabilities, and Cisco's leadership in Gigabit switching technologies and comprehensive, end-to-end field network deployment offerings puts us in a unique position to help organizations build out long-term strategies that address the challenges of an IoT environment," Compton said in a statement, adding that the technologies will enable businesses to "accelerate their IoT innovations."

The Internet of things is expected to grow rapidly over the next several years. Cisco officials have said that the number of connected devices, systems and sensors worldwide will grow from 25 billion last year to more than 50 billion by 2020. Those devices include a wide range of consumer and residential systems, from home appliances to cars to surveillance systems. However, they also will include an array of industrial and business systems used in everything from factory floors to smart cities to remote environments.

Industry groups, such as the 11-month-old Industrial Internet Consortium—of which Cisco was a co-founder—are looking for ways to accelerate the adoption of IoT technologies in commercial settings through the development of software frameworks, reference architectures and best practices.

Cisco's Industrial Operations Kit is aimed at utilities like oil, gas and energy companies, and municipalities, which are looking to deploy FANs as ways of delivering new IoT applications, according to company officials. In addition, businesses also want to ways to easily build out secure medium and small network infrastructures.

The virtual Industrial Operations Kit virtualizes network services on a single Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), enabling it to be deployed in days rather than weeks or months, officials said. It can manage up to 300 industrial routers and 250,000 radio-frequency mesh endpoints through a single server, easing the manageability and control in such applications as smart utility grids, roads, rails, airports and vehicle fleets. It includes a single head-end router, with authentication and authorization coming through the bundled Cisco Prime Access Registrar software.

The kit also enables no-touch deployment through the Connected Grid Network Management System and Cisco's Embedded Services Routers.

The IE4000 is a 40 Gigabit Ethernet switch that officials said it designed to meeting the bandwidth and PoE requirements of industrial applications. It offers up to 20 GbE ports and 40 Gb/s switching to support high-speed devices and low-latency applications, according to officials. There's also in-line power for industrial devices, such as IP cameras and phones and 802.11ac wireless access points, which means these systems can be moved around the industrial floor without having to rework the electrical system.

The switch also is armed with Cisco's TrustSec technology to enable device and data authentication and policies on the network.