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IoT & The STEM Factor

January 14, 2014  

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NEW YORK – One week before research firm International Data Corp. released its predictions for 2014, Cisco Systems Inc. and the New York Academy of Sciences announced the expansion of a new learning initiative that operates via mobile computing, cloud services and social networking.

These three technologies along with big data and analytics are the “pillars” that make up the so-called 3rd Platform, which the research firm defines as the ICT industry’s emerging base for “growth and innovation.”

“In 2014, we will see every major player make big investments to scale up cloud, mobile and big data capabilities, and fiercely battle for the hearts and minds of the developers who will create the solutions driving the next two decades of IT spending,” said Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC.

“Outside the IT industry, 3rd Platform technologies will play a leading role in the disruption of almost every other industry on
the planet.

“With IoT momentum building, IDC expects to see new industry partnership to emerge as traditional IT vendors accelerate their partnerships with global telecom service providers and semiconductor vendors to create integrated offerings in the consumer electronics and connected device spaces.

“This kind of collaboration and coordination will be necessary to reach the 30 billion autonomously connected end points and US$8.9 trillion in revenues that IDC believes the IoT will generate by 2020.”

As for the education part of the equation, Cisco and the Academy said here at a recent press event that two new partners, the city of Buenos Aires and the State University of New York (SUNY) would be joining the Global STEM Alliance’s original members, the city of Barcelona and Malaysia.

According to Wim Elfrink, Cisco’s chief globalization officer, the program brings world class-education to students of all ages and will also help fulfill the “unmet needs” of highly-skilled workers in science, technology, engineering and math, which collectively make up STEM.

Education is going to be the key, he said, adding that despite the fact the world is closing in on upwards of 20 billion “smart objects,” a mere 1% of the world is currently connected.

“The Internet of Things is creating an unprecedented opportunity for both current and future generations of (IoT) entrepreneurs, scientists and innovators,” a release issued by Cisco and the New York Academy stated. “As detailed in a recent study published by the World Bank, the ICT sector is rapidly growing with an addressable market of US$800 billion globally.

“Additionally, it is estimated that over the next 10 years there will be two million unfilled ICT-related jobs globally, correlating with a projected talent gap of 8.2% by 2022.”

The ultimate goal is to use technology to connect STEM students with their peers and experts in the various fields.

“Imagine all the kids on a type of Facebook,” said Ellis Rubenstein, president and CEO of the academy at the press briefing. “The kids will be able to interact with each other so that they stop feeling like they are isolated and dweebs or dorks. They are going to be with the most exciting kids in other cities and countries. On top of that, young scientists will be willing to mentor them 24-7.”

Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of SUNY said that at the same time there are a “massive number of jobs crying out” for good candidates, there is a major problem.

“About 30% of the students who go to high school fail to graduate,” she said.

“By the time you get to a degree program we are looking at less than 20% of the population that started high school making it to the finish line.

“These statistics are exacerbated in the STEM field. The statistics are diminished incredibly. We just do not have this STEM pipeline.”

In a blog posted following the event, Elfrink wrote that the “bottom line is that we need to attract more students to STEM fields in order to find innovative ways that enhance our quality of live, whether it is around urbanization, healthcare, supply chain, energy or even personal connections.”

The pipeline will soon have to be filled for as Carlos Dominguez, a senior vice president with Cisco pointed out, a “profound change has occurred over the last five years,” in that “we are connected in ways that we could never imagine before.

“The Internet of Things, Smarter Planet, Programmable World do not let those terms confuse you because we are all talking about the same thing here. Every single thing that connects is outputting data and that data is being captured and processed and utilized to either save money through optimization or it is going to make money through knowledge via information analytics.”

The change will soon be felt on Wall Street, added Dominguez, who cited a recent paper from Richard Foster, a professor at Yale University. According to Foster, the average lifespan of a Standards & Poor company has decreased from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years today.

He is also predicting that by 2020, more than 75% of the S&P 50 will be made up of companies that “we have not heard of yet,” Dominguez added.

Meanwhile, Tom Noonan, founder of energy management vendor JouleX, a company that Cisco bought last year for US$107 million, talked about the sheer amount of energy these billions of connected devices will not only use, but potentially waste.

“One of those interconnected devices whether it is a sensor or an actuator or an IT device, industrial device or a light … requires power or it cannot communicate over IP.

“The sheer scale of the energy being consumed by our IT infrastructures today is mind boggling. Data centres being built in the U.S., Europe and Asia are consuming more power than the largest cities that support them.

“Cloud computing and mobility are creating an enormous amount of demand on our energy grids at a time when we are trying to be more sustainable and more careful with our environment. We are really dealing with a perfect storm here.”

Noonan, who now heads up Cisco’s EnergyWise Solutions division, said that any piece of hardware be it a printer, copier, router, switch, PC or wireless access point that is on all weekend without anyone connecting to it constitutes waste.

“This phone sitting in front of me costs about $10 a year to operate, which isn’t much, but if a large organization has 400,000 of them and they are only being utilized 36% of the time, the other 64% of the time it’s powered and wasted,” he said.

There are plenty of wireless access points at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, home of the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association and soon-to-be home of the NHL’s New York Islanders, upwards of 300 of them.

The US$1 billion arena, which opened in late 2012, is not only New York City’s newest sports and entertainment facility, it is has been built from the ground up to take advantage of all that is possible in an IoT world.

Cisco’s Connected Stadium offering provides the connectivity inside the stadium, while its StadiumVision delivers content to an estimated 700 high-definition digital televisions and 100 concession menu boards throughout the arena.

Content ranges from replays from the court to information on concession specials and when the event is over, how best to get home through a software application called Roadify.

“Our company is a data platform for mass transit information,” says Roadify CEO Scott Colber.

“We are aggregating open data from transit authorities around the world and distributing that through our mobile application, but also through public digital signage.

“When folks look up and see those screens when they are out in the hall it is like whiplash. What we are doing is presenting fans with information they need at the exact moment that they need it.”

Roadify was built for and by “folks who were tired of running after the bus; not knowing about transit delays and closures, frustrated trying to find a parking spot; tired of needing 15 different apps to navigate any new city.”

Meanwhile infrastructure wise, fiber is installed throughout the building as well as copper. “When I talk about the connectivity inside the building there is 24-pair multi-mode, 24-pair single mode fiber to each closet, basically 10 Gig to each closet,” says Chip Foley, director of building technologies with Forest City Ratner, owner of the Brooklyn Nets.

“Anything that we have connected is on a 10 Gig backbone, which is extremely fast. This is as robust as you can get right now.

“Everything is on the network – ticketing, point-of-sale, wireless, sound, security, access control, HVAC. It’s fully converged. You set it up with a single backbone and then you add multiple VLANS. which are segmented. If I have security on one network and wireless on another one, people logged onto Wi-Fi can’t get it on the security network. There are virtual segments that separate them.” C+


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