Cisco touts data-sharing platform for smart cities, aims to be underlying network for all things smart

Barcelona (Pixabay)

Cisco is making a big splash today in Barcelona at the Smart City Expo World Congress 2016 (SCEWC), where it’s showcasing an online tool that helps cities manage their data.  

Of course, myriad technologies are vying for a piece of the smart cities business, just as they are in the broader Internet of Things (IoT), from Sigfox to LoRa to cellular-based standards that are emerging – everyone, it seems, wants to get a piece of the smart city pie.

“From our standpoint, we are technology agnostic,” Munish Khetrapal, managing director of Smart Cities at Cisco, told FierceWirelessTech. Whether it’s cellular, Wi-Fi, LoRa, “we are going to support all of them. We aggregate multiple protocols, that’s what our strength is and that is what we focus on.”

As a part of its smart city platform – a project Cisco has been working on for at least three years – Cisco is touting its Smart+Connected Digital Platform’s ability to: normalize sensor data from multiple sensors/sensor types regardless of backhaul; aggregate data to a common data model for building a digital model for the city; and expose APIs for local and global ISVs, applications and city systems to manage city infrastructure and services.

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Cisco partners with about 50 companies for smart city initiatives and works with system integrators, service providers and others. During the SCEWC this week, Cisco is showcasing how its customers in cities across the globe are using its capabilities to improve quality of life, including Kansas City, Missouri; Jaipur in India; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Adelaide in Australia.

In the Kansas City implementation, Cisco has been an integral part of the smart city rollout with Sprint as part of an intelligent Wi-Fi project that rolled out earlier this year in conjunction with the city’s new street car. Sprint, which has its headquarters in nearby Overland Park, Kansas, worked with Kansas City and Cisco to deploy Cisco hardware to construct, own and manage the intelligent Wi-Fi network that serves as the backbone of Kansas City's Smart+Connected City framework.

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But Khetrapal said Cisco’s platform is not limited to big cities. Through digitization, cities can offer lighting as a service, traffic enforcement as a service and other services regardless of their size. “It does not mean that only a big city who can pay millions of dollars for system integration will be able to enjoy the benefits of smart cities,” Khetrapal said.

Of course, the ROI differs from city to city and is based on the services they roll out; in some cities, like for a smart parking implementation in Adelaide, the ROI was six to nine months; in other instances, the ROI may take five to six years depending on the type of smart city project and the scale.

Whether it’s parking in Paris or scheduling outdoor activities based on air quality in Copenhagen, Cisco plans on being part of smart city deployments, leaning heavily on its ability to connect various protocols and converge them into a central network. “Our position is very clear,” Khetrapal said. “We ultimately want to become an aggregator of multiple protocols. That’s what we have done for 25 years.”

If anyone had any doubts, "smart cities are here and now," he said. "Pretty much every big city and every medium-sized city in the world are looking at a digital agenda. Three years back, people talked about 'what's a smart city, where do I start?' Now, people are focused on 'how do I accelerate it?' and 'what are the things I need to do first before the others?' Smart cities are definitely here and now."