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Cisco CEO: Get Ready for New Digital World

Dan Jones

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2015 -- Cisco CEO John Chambers says that the seismic shifts engendered by a move to a fully digital economy will shake up more than just service providers and tech companies but also will be felt by governments and their citizens around the world.

The Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) CEO says that whereas previous technology evolution has been driven by the advent of the Internet and the rise of mobile technology, the move to a digital economy will involve more than service providers and tech companies. This is because towns, cities and municipalities will need to work with the traditional communications players to ensure broadband for all and smarter towns and cities, thus creating opportunities for more jobs in the areas that embrace the change.

"It is going determine the economic job creation of who leads and who follows," Chambers said at a press conference Tuesday. He believes that -- while the US led the Internet revolution -- European countries are pulling ahead in the "digital era."

Chambers cited Cisco's ongoing work with the city of Barcelona and its recent deal with the government of France around what Chambers calls the digitization of everything as evidence of that.

The shift is underpinned by the rise of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), which Cisco calls "The Internet of Everything." This is the idea of a world where everything from household appliances to water meters, cars and trash bins are networked. (See AT&T Connects Cars & Trash Cans .)

Want to know more about carriers' IoT plans? Check out our dedicated IoT strategies content channel right here on Light Reading.

"Seven or eight years ago, I had to buy people drinks or a dinner to even get them to talk about this," Chambers joked. Over the last 12 months, he argues, it has become real and is helping to drive the digital economy.

In the Q&A session, I asked Chambers if the apparent lack of standards around how IoT devices communicate with the network and -- potentially -- each other could be a "gating factor" to the growth of digital economy. To Chambers, the answer is simple: everything has to be IP.

"We do have to be inclusive," he added. "Even our competitors have to play on a level playing field."

If Chambers is right, the changes will have a dramatic effect on service providers that don't catch the wave. "Forty to 50% of service providers over the next decade will probably become irrelevant," he predicted. (See Cars, Cities & Pet Trackers: IoT in 2015.)

Innovative service providers, he stated, will take the opportunity to work with government to find ways to deliver broadband to every citizen. Broadband everywhere is, in fact, the oxygen that Chamber's heady vision of a new digital era appears to need to breathe and grow.

Chambers also sees many traditional networking vendors disappearing. "Our competition in the future will largely be white label," he added later.

So what do you think? Will the digitization of everything change the way we live and work?

And can we come up with a more snappy name than the "digital era" or "digital economy?"

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
3/4/2015 | 1:12:28 PM
Re: Customer is always Right
mendyk, I share your vision.  I think work will totally change both in what we do and how we work.  I think the current structures are going to be replaced by more adaptable work systems that will continue to change at a faster pace.
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/4/2015 | 1:02:47 PM
Re: Customer is always Right
Dan, great points.  Maybe I am falling into the same trap.  My term connected was meant to imply the technology capability to link multiple points of data/communication.  It really is becoming an "ecosystem" and a more comprehensive platform.  I guess we will have to keep searching for better terms to describe it.

Your point on jobs is true, however, I envision the development of new jobs that utilize the human skills of analysis and decision making.  Although the mechanical jobs are being replaced, I believe there is a growing demand for human capital in new roles in the newly developing markets.

I believe jobs/economy will continue to transform into an "information-driven" asset where people relate markets/supply to dynamic and shifting demands.  Just as farm jobs diminished while food production jobs grew, and manufacturing jobs have been declining but supply chain jobs are increasing.  I see us as moving up the food chain with innovation and new economies developing from the advancement and use of this growing information/communications asset. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/4/2015 | 10:53:10 AM
Re: Customer is always Right
The number of people being disintermediated from the workforce will continue to increase. Technology is only partly the cause of this. A century from now, people will be astounded by concepts like a 40-hour work week and office buildings.
User Rank: Blogger
3/4/2015 | 7:42:19 AM
Re: Customer is always Right
If Chambers is right then "connected" doesn't cut it any more than digital. He described this as a "horses to highways" type of shift. It's bigger than just technology, if this plays out, many will lose their jobs (and hopefully find others in the "digital" wave).
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/3/2015 | 7:32:50 PM
Re: Customer is always Right
jabailo, agreed about the customer use.

I further agree with Dan's article and Cisco's view about the future.  Maybe another term is "Connected"?  But the ability to both transact AND communicate is what I think is different.  And IoT opens the door to the open platform of sources of communications.

With cities and government, I think it will potentially make government more responsive, and transparent, to the citizens; from services to transactions.  I believe that the network will be pervasive and compelling in and of itself, to drive further growth; just as the internet has done.
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/3/2015 | 9:59:09 AM
Customer Is Always Right
Governments, and especially municipal governments when the IoT gets very pervasive, are going to be big consumers of these services, so we'd all better listen!

The IoT will handle the streetwise stuff.   Parking violations are already becoming entangled with smartphone apps.   Now about about automated enforcement with land-based drones, or just ordinary monitors?   

All the monitoring and response systems that can replace the need for making individual complaints.   Pollution tracking, traffic optimization and so on.   The job of the bureaucracy can move from processing to acting!

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