Cisco Combines Linux, IOS For Internet of Things

Networking equipment giant Cisco Systems said that it is combining elements of the open source Linux operating system to its IOS firmware, launching a new architecture it calls “IOx” that will connect the billions of intelligent devices that will make up the Internet of Things.

Cisco said its new IOX architecture will enable ‘fog computing’ suitable for the Internet of Things.

The new architecture was announced at Distributech in San Antonio – a trade show for the utility industry, on Wednesday. The company said IOx will make it easier for its customers to connect Internet of Things devices to back-end resources and the larger Internet. 

As it stands, the Internet of Things ecosystem is fragmented. Intelligent devices like the Nest Thermostat typically communicate back to proprietary cloud resources and might communicate with their surroundings using any one of a number of wireless protocols, including Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and so on.  That balkanization has made it hard to create IoT solutions that span different families of products. 

Cisco said IOx will enable what it calls “Fog Computing,” a way to monitor and manage IoT devices at massive scale.

[Read more about Cisco and the Internet of Things here. ]

“IOx allows applications to run as close as possible to the data source and create automated responses that drive value,” the company said in a statement. The idea is to push intelligence out to the network edge, rather than requiring data to be backhauled to a central, cloud repository before analysis and decision making can happen.

The company cited examples in energy distribution and transportation as possible, future applications of the Fog Computing paradigm. Smart traffic lights, for example, could take a video feed from a camera deployed locally to switch off lights when there was no surface traffic, or change streetlights to open lanes for an emergency vehicle with flashing lights.

Combining Linux with Cisco’s proprietary Internetwork Operating System (IOS) makes IOX suitable to a much broader application development environment, encouraging developers to bring their own applications and connectivity interfaces to nascent Internet of Things (or Internet of Everything) deployments.

Cisco says IOx capabilities will initially be available in Cisco industrial routers this spring.

The San Jose-based firm has gone all-in on the Internet of Things – which Cisco refers to as the Internet of Everything. CEO John Chambers has touted the IoT as a multi-trillion dollar market in the making, and Cisco has created a business unit dedicated to IoT technology. The company is looking at leveraging its investments in everything from set top boxes that pipe entertainment to homes, to connected vehicles.

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