Industrial IoT at the Cisco World Forum

by Alan Griffiths

The Cisco World Forum from May 22-24th at Tobacco Dock in London was a supremely informative event only marred by the terrible news of the Manchester atrocity which deeply affected many attendees and prevented some speakers from attending. However, there were still plenty of great speakers including industry experts, Cisco partner companies and of course, from Cisco itself.

Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco

Figure 1 – Chuck Robbins Cisco CEO

Chuck set the scene by saying that in 2016 machine-to-machine connections exceeded personal device connections for the first time, and that there are now over 8 billion connected devices worldwide.  By 2025 this will be 80 billion and a million new devices will be added every hour.  A successful provider must be able to scale and provide automation with assurance – security is fundamental and segmentation will become prominent (e.g. to separate clusters of security cameras from the Internet).


Cisco is doing a number of things to address this challenge and opportunity:

  • Cisco last year acquired Jasper to enhance their ‘IoT cloud’ business. The Jasper customer base has grown from 3,500 before the acquisition, to over 11,000 enterprises at time of writing.  Jasper also has a sophisticated Control Center platform that manages links to global networks, customers, and back-end systems.  Cisco Jasper has partnerships with over 50 service providers, managing IoT devices across 550 mobile operator networks worldwide.
  • The acquisition of AppDynamics, Inc. (announced in January and expected to close in Q3 this year) allows customers to capture business transactions, analyse the network and identify critical issues so that performance can be improved. See for a customer case study.
  • Cisco announced Cisco® IoT Threat Defense, which ‘segments devices on the network to provide adaptable, extensible protection for organizations at IoT scale’. The first use of IoT Threat Defense is to secure vital services in advanced medical care, power generation and delivery, and automated manufacturing. See
  • Edge, or ‘fog’, computing is critical to large-scale IoT implementations so Cisco will supply ‘compute power everywhere’ to further distribute computing. Simple, rules-based data management is also required. To address these needs as well as large-scale connection management, Cisco is introducing an ‘IoT Operations Platform’ – see below for more detail.

Cisco’s ‘ecosystem’ of partners is extremely important; several had high-level executives speaking at the conference, including Rockwell Automation, GE Digital, IBM and AT&T, while many others, such as Microsoft were displaying technology in the exhibition area.

Cisco is heavily involved with Manchester in the CityVerve project ( ).  This was mentioned by Chuck in his presentation, making the news of the bombing even more poignant.

On a more positive note, Chuck recently met the Pope and discussed the humanitarian and conservation work they are doing around the world from helping to save Rhinos in Africa to educating refugees in Germany.  He was also with Donald Trump on his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, and Cisco is promoting digitisation strategies in many other countries around the world at the top level.

Inbar Lasser-Raab, VP Enterprise Solutions Marketing, Cisco

Figure 2 – Inbar Lasser-Raab, VP Enterprise Solutions Marketing, Cisco

Inbar introduced the event and presented the results of some internal surveys which showed that, while there is huge potential and a lot of activity in IoT, only 26% of IoT initiatives are completed successfully today.  The four main challenges were:


  1. Lack of Expertise.
  2. Integration Complexity.
  3. Finding Budget.
  4. Security.

Chuck explained that they are addressing the first two challenges by introducing products that are simpler to deploy (configuration vs programming) and easier to integrate.  Their Threat Defense product will assist greatly with security, and these overall improvements will make it easier for customers to find budget.

Rowan Trollope, SVP & GM, Internet of Things (IoT) and Applications Division, Cisco

Rowan explained how two of the challenges to IoT implementation – lack of internal talent and complexity – had driven their product development to come up with solutions that required little or no programming and that were easy to connect.

The simplistic, linear model: ‘Thing – Network – Cloud – Analytics – Applications’ is not adequate; solutions are often non-linear, and there are other considerations such as Security, Latency Privacy and Scalability that must be taken into account.

Cisco has therefore teamed up with IBM and Rockwell to develop an ‘IoT Operations Platform’ which will provide:

  • Connection Management at Scale, using Jasper to join public to private networks.
  • Fog Computing, which will ‘put compute power everywhere’; this will converge central and distributed computing thus leveraging the power of the network.


  • Data Delivery, will make the network connections into ‘smart pipes’ that can deliver data to multiple sources according to simple rules that can be ‘configured’ without coding (no need for customer to write containers or microservices).
Figure 3 – Rowan Trollope, SVP & GM, Internet of Things (IoT) and Applications Division, Cisco

Cisco demonstrated a live mock-up of a fog detection system (the weather, not the Cisco name for edge computing) that they have implemented in Tennessee with the US Department of Transportation that used the IoT Operations Platform to connect various devices that sensed fog, traffic speed etc. and illuminated traffic warning when the fog rolled in.  This was re-configured ‘live’ in the central platform, but when the Internet connection was cut, it was still able to perform its function using distributed computing power.

Note that the term ‘platform’ is derided by Cisco, and it will probably be announced under a new name.

Looking forward, Rowan emphasised the importance of AI; ‘one of, if not the most transformational changes to the Cisco development teams in his experience of over 25 years’.   Cisco is re-training their entire programming and other technical teams in AI, has set up a ‘centre of excellence’ for AI and is making acquisitions in this area. One of their long-term aims is to develop ‘self-driving networks’ that utilise AI and Deep Learning to configure themselves, in the same way that self-driving cars drive themselves.

In the long-term, IoT devices will ‘just connect’ without the need for complex set-up, and security will be enforced using a standards-based approach developed by Cisco and submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF): ‘Manufacturer Usage Descriptions’ (MUD). The intention of MUD is to prevent inappropriate communications by IoT devices, to prevent lateral movement by attackers across different device types, and to drastically reduce the complications of scale for network and security administrators. The MUD approach is different from existing cybersecurity approaches because it uses the subject matter expertise of device manufacturers, network security vendors and network administrators to minimize the effort of securing IoT endpoints. Importantly: MUD is extremely scalable.

Maciej Kranz, VP Corporate Strategic Innovation Group

As well as leading their strategic innovation, Maciej is in charge of the Cisco innovation centres world-wide.  Currently there are 9 but there will soon be 13 centres where ‘co-development’ is taking place with partners.

In this session Maciej focussed on ‘what’s real in IoT’ and included:

  • ‘Fog’ or distributed computing. This could be in an edge device, a gateway or possibly even the IoT device.  Cisco works with an ecosystem of providers, including FogHorn and others.
  • Cisco favours LoRaWAN for low power wide area networks. (They have already run LoRaWAN trials, including a smart-city deployment in Dubai).  Maciej favours LoRaWAN over Sigfox which is more proprietary.
  • IIC frameworks for open source connectivity.

Cisco’s innovation centres have been examining many use cases (over 140) and have so far narrowed down 5 common use cases that they will focus on for IoT deployments – of which they have 64 in the pipeline.

As the guest keynote speaker at the World IoT Forum was Don Tapscott, (see ) Maciej addressed the question of blockchain; in his view, the type of ‘public’ blockchain used in Bitcoin isn’t scalable enough, so they will support ‘private’ chain technology (‘private’ in this context means the permissions for block creation are restricted and total power over the chain is given to specific trusted entities.  For example, Cisco is a member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance that includes organisations in the banking, technology, energy and information industries like CME Group, Intel, ING, JPMorgan and Microsoft).  This technology is already used for syndicated lending and is beginning to be applied to supply chains, where it provides visibility up and down the chain and can be used to prevent counterfeit products being introduced.

Jennifer Waldo, Chief Human Resources Officer, GE Digital

Jennifer told how GE Digital was created out of GE starting in 2010 with Bill Ruh at the helm and moving to San Ramon CA in 2012. GE was founded in 1879, has over 300,000 employees and US$ 124bn annual revenues.  GE Digital has 26,000 employees and annual revenues of US$ 3.6bn.

In 2017 the decision was made to transform GE from an ‘Industrial’ to a ‘Digital’ company.  To help achieve this aim, all GE IT functions were moved into GE Digital while each industry vertical retained a Chief Digital Officer.  The focus is now in three areas:

  • ‘GE for GE’, providing internal IT and digital solutions.
  • ‘GE for Customers’; providing digital solutions for customers of GE.
  • ‘GE for the World’; providing digital solutions world-wide.
Figure 4 – Jennifer Waldo, Chief Human Resources Officer, GE Digital

Industrial IoT and their Predix platform (or ‘operating system’) is their fundamental technology.  Talent is also vital to this transformation – the focus has moved from ‘managing the current workforce’ to ‘buying, building and retaining the right talent’.  The scale of the challenge is shown by one statistic that Jennifer presented:

  • There are currently an estimated 300,000 IoT developers world-wide.
  • By 2020, 4,500,000 IoT developers will be needed.

To build the right talent pool, GE Digital is changing its compensation schemes, organisation structure and learning & development approach to attract and accommodate new talent.  At the same time, then recognise that they will lose good staff, but this is unavoidable and the turnover will in the long run, help their business grow.

Chris Penrose, President IoT Solutions, AT&T

Chris explained the full range of connectivity products that AT&T provide from Global cellular through satellite to low power wide area and short range.

Coverage is growing – AT&T just launched a US-wide 4G LTE-M network to enable IoT devices and applications.  Advantages of LTE-M over traditional IoT connectivity options include:

  • Longer battery life (expected up to 10 years).
  • Better coverage for IoT devices underground and deep inside buildings.
  • Reduced module size (as small as 1/6 the size of current modules).

LTE-M supports large-scale IoT deployments such as smart city services, smart metering, asset tracking, supply chain management, security and alarm monitoring and personal wearables.

And the cost of devices is falling – an entire LTE module can be purchased for $7.50 including a SIM card, and operating plans start at US$1.5 per month.   An AT&T IoT Starter Kit, powered by AWS can be purchased for US$99; this kit lets developers build their own solutions using AT&T IoT and AWS IoT. It also allows a developer to use AT&T’s highly secure network and application level security.  See

Figure 5 – Chris Penrose, President IoT Solutions, AT&T

AT&T is operating in many business verticals including agriculture, smart cities, connected cars, connected health and manufacturing.  They predict that by 2026 the first city of over 50,000 people will have no traffic lights (due to all cars being ‘connected’).

Chris concluded by predicting that ‘video would be the next IoT sensor’; instead of having many, specific sensors, AI and Deep Learning will be used to interpret video and analytics will be used to create actions.

Blake Moret, Rockwell Automation

Rockwell Automation is another major industrial company with a long history – going back 114 years.  It has 22,000 employees, operates in over 80 countries and 2016 sales of US$ 5.9bn. An example of its Cisco partnership is its Stratix 8000 managed Ethernet switch, which uses Cisco Catalyst architecture.

Blake identified the key macro trends as:

  • The growth of the middle class in emerging markets, and
  • An Aging workforce world-wide.

The technology enablers that can help are:

  • IT and OT convergence, and
  • Lower-cost computing and connectivity.
Figure 6 – Blake Moret, CEO, Rockwell Automation

These enablers are embodied in the Industrial IoT (or the ‘Connected Enterprise’ which Rockwell prefers) and Industry 4.0.

Examples of Rockwell customers achieving operational savings include:

  • ZMC: (Chinese pharmaceutical company); 46-75% reduction in document record production.
  • Ford Motor Company: more than 2 million variations in production, managed in real time.
  • Shell: 99% uptime in remotely operating more than 2,000 LPG/LNG dispensing stations.

Other companies such as First Solar, Bradman Lake Group and Great Lakes Brewing Company are achieving business benefits using analytics – mainly to reduce unplanned downtime.

Harriet Green, General Manager, Watson IoT Customer Engagement and Education, IBM

IBM has invested US$ 200 million in the Watson IoT centre in Munich and now has over 1,000 staff there. Harriet gave examples of the 6,000 clients that are currently using Watson IoT to scale, learn and reason, including VISA, ABB, Tesco and Airbus. Vertical industries include retail, manufacturing, shipping and transportation.

Figure 7 – Harriet Green, General Manager, IBM Watson IoT, IBM

For example, Woodside, Australia’s largest independent Oil and Gas Company, uses IBM Watson to enhance decision making and increase efficiency.  ‘Watson is part of Woodside’s strategy to use predictive data science to leverage more than 30 years of collective knowledge and experience as a leading liquefied natural gas operator, to maintain a strong competitive advantage’.  From

Gallo winery in California is using Watson to interpret satellite data and reduce water usage.

IBM has partnered with Dubai’s CAA to implement a real-time tracking system for commercial drones.  This has the concept of a ‘geofence’ to protect sensitive areas from drones; ‘drone hunters’ are dispatched to intercept unauthorised drones that enter these areas.

Update: New York, May 31st 2017: Cisco® security solutions will integrate with IBM’s QRadar to protect organizations across networks, endpoints and cloud. Customers will also benefit from the scale of IBM Global Services support of Cisco products in their Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) offerings. The collaboration also establishes a new relationship between the IBM X-Force and Cisco Talos security research teams, who will begin collaborating on threat intelligence research and coordinating on major cybersecurity incidents.  From

Have your say

These were my key points from the conference. What were yours? Let me know in the comments below.

Disclosure: Cisco, IBM and Rockwell Automation are Cambashi clients.

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