Cisco Systems is one of the biggest ecosystem players with its eyes trained on the Internet of Things. This makes sense. After all, the company made its fortune selling the gear – routers and switches – that make the Internet hum, and that helped extend Internet connectivity to homes and businesses.
Along the way, Cisco has been aggressive about acquiring new and promising technologies that promise to grow its top line. took some bad turns – unsuccessfully branching into consumer electronics in 2009 with the acquisition of Pure Digital, maker of the Flip camcorder, and Linksys, a maker of home networking gear, in 2003. The company discontinued the Flip product and sold Linksys to Belkin earlier this year amid a major corporate shake-up designed to re-focus the company.
Now, with the next wave (Cisco calls it the 4th) of Internet connectivity upon us – namely: the “Internet of Things” (or “Internet of Everything, in Cisco parlance) the slimmed-down and refocused networking equipment vendor sees a lot of opportunity to succeed in spanning infrastructure, “home” and “office,” where past efforts have failed. The company has forged a brand new “Internet of Things Group” business unit and is looking to parlay its existing relationships with carriers and enterprises.
The latest data point comes in the form of an update to Cisco’s Video Surveillance Manager (VSM) 7 platform on Monday. Cisco announced that it added Internet of Things (IoT) solution capabilities to its VSM 7 platform. They comprise mostly a new analytics engine and metadata platform that lets third party providers plug into VSM to add new features, like motion detection, analysis of audio data, and so on.
Cisco also said that its IP cameras can now function as app-ready “smart endpoints” that can run applications developed by partners in its Cisco Developers Network (CDN) program. Cisco is also increasing the scale of its VSM platform to manage many more endpoints – in anticipation of environments populated by a horde of remote sensors.
That isn’t the company’s only IoT play. The company has used a series of acquisitions (Scientific Atlanta in 2005 and the British firm NDS Group last year to build its footprint in the market for video entertainment. Cisco claims it’s hardware runs in 300 million homes globally and that it is positioning itself to be an enabler of so-called “connected life” services that span entertainment and a wide range of domestic services.
Cisco obviously brings weight and seriousness to the sometimes silly IoT space. Cisco is focused on leveraging its strengths to create the infrastructure to support next-generation services like high-quality, broadband video to devices of all types, as well as secure home gateways that can blend work, entertainment and “connected life” services. The question, as always, is whether by opening its products to third-party developers Cisco can parlay its strengths (reputation, reach, existing customer and channel relationships) into that ephemeral thing – “buzz” – that seems to motivate much of the energy and creativity in the IoT space (think “Raspberry Pi”). Time will tell.