Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cisco Live

Fronting up to Cisco Live was like a little like attending a huge rock concert, only imagine for a moment that the concert is being attended by 4000 proud pocket protector carrying geeks!  To be honest the opening was a little like a concert with lots of bright lights and movement, but this conference is aimed squarely at the network engineers, programmers and other IT professionals that keep the Internet running, with lots of new and interesting technology on show from more than 70 different exhibitors.

In his opening keynote, Wim Elfrink (Cisco Chief Globalisation Officer) presented Cisco’s vision called the Internet of Everything (IoE).  Basically the IoE is a new wave of Internet connectedness coming in the next 10 years that presents an opportunity for cost savings, increased productivity, new revenues and enhanced citizen experiences, especially in the public sector.
Consider the following predictions:
  • 9 billion people on planet Earth by 2050. 
  • 50 billion connected devices by 2020
  • This week there will be 30 million more new devices connected to the Internet.
  • Every two days the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003. That’s something like five exabytes of data (That’s 5 x 1018 bytes, or one billion gigabytes).  Let me repeat that: we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through to 2003 

These predictions have huge implications for the environment, feeding the population and providing health and education services.  In order for us all to access these services, we are going to have to leverage the internet and offer these services in a virtual environment.

Take for example the issue of energy.  Consider that 70% of our energy is used in our cities, and 70% of that energy is used in buildings.  We can dramatically lower operating costs by creating smart buildings to reduce energy consumption whilst making them more appealing places to be. 

Other applications and trends noted included:
It costs Rio Tinto $1million a year to pay a mining truck driver.  These trucks are now becoming computer controlled with GPS and achieving massive savings
Origin Energy are installing 10,000 networked cameras, one to monitor each gas well head to save a human having to spend weeks in remote locations physically checking on the well heads.
Westpac are seeing 50 times more logins than branch walk-ins, and more than half of those logins are on mobile devices like smart phones.
The network connected camera is also becoming the world’s most powerful sensor with smart computer programs that can collect data from moving images and enable city agencies to make decisions in real time on how to provide services that deliver a better experience for citizens.  Councils are now able to manipulate access to public transport to incentivise patrons to leave the car at home for large public events, hence improving traffic, parking and air quality, whilst maintaining budgeted revenue.

Chief Technology Officer for Cisco Australia Kevin Bloch also gave a great presentation on how the role of IT professionals is changing from the one who “buys” the computers to the one who advises the business on the next technology available to improve the business.  He talked about how the IT person can act as a service broker to the business and advise on the suitability of new technology offerings.  He also spoke about the value that IT professionals can add in terms of security to ensure the business is protected from external attack.  The workplace is also a key area that is changing and the examples of how CommBank and Lend Lease have completely changed the workplace into an open space that encourages collaboration and social interaction between employees as well as a way of retaining Gen Y employees.  For Kevin, the IoE is about connecting people, processes, things and data in order to produce a better outcome.  Did you know that GE now collects 1 terrabyte of aircraft performance data from an average flight from Sydney to Melbourne.  This data can then be analysed to achieve better efficiencies and lower costs for the airline.  In Finland, sensors in garbage cans send signal when pickup is needed, which has led to a 40% savings in waste collection.

City Councils are already implementing some of the following programs:
  • Gas monitoring reduces meter-reading costs and increases the accuracy of readings for citizens and municipal utility agencies.
  • Smart parking provides real-time visibility into the availability of parking spaces across a city. Residents can identify and reserve the closest available space, traffic wardens can identify non-compliant usage, and municipalities can introduce demand-based pricing.
  • Water management connects the household water meter over an IP network to provide remote information on use and status.
  • Road pricing implements automatic payments as vehicles enter busy zones of cities, improving traffic conditions and raising revenues.

 Measures like these have an estimated global value of $4.6 trillion over the next 10 years.

So I guess the really big question is, what does all this mean for Education? Or more to the point, what part can technology play to ensure our students achieve their goals and attain the best possible result in their HSC.  
If the saying “Iron sharpens Iron” is true, how could technology be used to foster greater collaborative behaviour amongst students?
Most schools already perform significant analysis of student performance to produce an HSC results “guide”.  Is it possible to take this one step further and collect data on daily student activities so as to develop an early warning system when a student needs to change their study patterns?
The students each have individual access to a personal computer and most have access to an internet capable handheld device like an iPhone.  How can we leverage these resources to create greater value for our students?
Something to think about and I’d really value your feedback on what IT could be doing to contribute to the success and well-being of our students.

Best Regards