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 .)
"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