Cisco Connect 2013, Toronto - IOT and Beyond

Last Thursday, I attended Cisco Canada's annual Connect event here in Toronto. I've been to a few of these, and by Canadian standards it's a pretty large showcase for Cisco and their partners. They have the customer base to support an event on this scale, and Cisco provided a solid day of content and networking to make it worthwhile for everyone.

Analysts and media were a tiny contingent, but we did have our own tailored sessions with their executive team as well as hearing about some interesting customer initiatives. No complaints there, and we were well looked after. As we heard, Cisco Canada is doing some good things to invest in our knowledge economy based on the belief that gains in productivity will drive innovation and ultimately improve our standard of living. Examples cited included funding for some Research Chairs, innovation centers and an LP investment fund.  Kudos for showing good corporate citizenship here, and I hope it gets the desired results.

Overall, the main message for me was their focus on yet another new acronym - IOT. You've heard the term, but maybe not this shortform - the Internet of Things. Just when you thought mobile broadband has over-saturated us with connectivity, Cisco Canada's President, Nitin Kawale tells us that 99% of the world is still not connected. What's wrong with this picture? Well, he's talking about "things", not people. Now this makes sense, and it's really about M2M, and a little bit about P2M.

There's more to consider here, but this certainly is a good way to position vendors like Cisco for the next wave of growth. People are already pretty well connected, at least in the enterprise world, but there are many more machines than people, so there's lots of upside here. Of course, it's more than just connectivity, and Nitin noted that value comes from connecting things and people to processes, which sounds much closer to home for those of us in the UC space.

To amplify this, we also heard from Carlos Dominguez, a Cisco "techknowist". Make of that what you will, but he's a great speaker - very engaging and he touched on the challenges facing IT decision makers, especially around three things - the Internet, mobility and social media. Nothing new there, but his richer message was about how many sectors of the economy are now being "rebooted" around these things. He cited familiar examples like healthcare, government, education, and even cities. This is the stuff I get excited about, and was nodding along regularly.

Carlos brought this to life by citing some cool innovations that embody the IOT concept. Most are based on sensors that create new streams of data from everyday things like sneakers, street lights, home thermostats and even garbage. These things are bringing an explosion of Internet traffic and data that needs to be managed, and if you're thinking about Big Data now, you're right. Of course, this all drives networks, which Cisco happens to be in the middle of, so if you're wondering where the company is planning to get growth from, look no further.

Corporate self-interest aside, Carlos gave everyone a lot to think about, and if you get a chance to see him speak you won't be disappointed. You can put up the white flag and feel overwhelmed by all this new data that will soon be upon us, but there is also an exciting opportunity ahead for those prepared to invest in the right tools to get a handle on this and turn that mess of data into actionable insight.

Mobile demo unit for Cisco's healthcare vertical solutions

Carlos Dominguez