Cisco: Connecting for Sustainability

You may know Cisco as a company that designs, manufactures, and sells networking equipment.  At a quick glance, it may appear that Cisco is just another business to business IT company that has little to do with with sustainability.

However, a deeper look may show that Cisco may play a pivotal role in moving sustainability forward, not only for business, but for communities around the world.  We’ve covered a few of their sustainability initiatives in the past.

How is Cisco embedding its core competencies with sustainability for building smart and connected communities now and in the future?

Leveraging Cisco’s core competency
One of the most powerful actions a company (or any individual, for that fact) can do is to identify, to leverage what they are good at.  In other words, building on strengths.

“[Our] core competency is connecting protocols that don’t talk to each other.”  says Anil Menon, President, Globalisation and Smart+Connected Communities at Cisco.  A common theme arises in how Cisco leverages its strength.  In the past, Cisco has integrated networking protocols like AppleTalk and DECnet.  It even uses its strength connecting Storage Area Networks and Ethernet.  Enough of the tech talk.  How does this relate to sustainable building?

Now it is using that core-connecting strength to integrate systems that have never been integrated. Traditionally, lighting, metering, security, card access, closed circuit television, blinds, digital signages, elevators were all on different systems that did not talk to each other.

Cisco has worked with partners to connect these various systems protocols into one.  This benefits the construction process for buildings, cutting down on yards, if not miles or cables, but also makes for a smart and aware building.  Not only that, but it may even reduce building costs.

Smart+connected communities
Cisco’s core connecting competency moves beyond the digital realm.  Alongside connecting devices and protocols, Cisco seeks to connect the community.  “Taking the network, and connecting government, transportation, health care, schools, etc…, we can help connect all these different networks,”  says Menon.

The Mayor of Stratford in Ontario, Canada, Dan Mathieson, explains their collaboration with Cisco.  “MutualLink:  Stratford will be the first community to do this.  Our police, fire, schools will all be connected.”  Mathieson continues on how connectivity was able to increase the productivity of doctors.  “My records can be sent, x-rays can be sent through this infrastructure.”

One example Menon cited was students taking virtual music lessons, because the city was too congested to drive across town.  Menon suggests, “We believe that the digital infrastructure is just as important as the physical infrastructure.”

Networking networks
It is one thing to have the network, it is another thing to utilize a network to its full potential.  “Running a community, city, country, and the world, on networked information.” says Rick Huijbregts, Vice President, Smart + Connected Communities, Cisco Canada.  How is that for integrating the bottom line?

What other businesses do you know of that leveraged their core competencies?  How else can Cisco’s “connecting protocols that don’t talk to each other” be leveraged?

Full disclosure: Cisco covered travel costs for me to learn about the program in person.

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.

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