Jean-Luc “JL” Valente
Jean-Luc “JL” Valente
Vice President of Product Management, Cloud and Systems Management Technology Group
Cisco

Professional Background:  JL is responsible for organizing, managing, and defining the long and medium-term product strategy and roadmaps for Cisco’s Cloud & Systems Management Technology Group (CSMTG), working with the CTO office as well as partnering with the CSMTG-dependent business units to create inbound and outbound marketing strategies. Prior to his current position, Valente was the CEO at blueKiwi Software, the President and CEO at RiverMuse, Executive Chairman of Cittio, and Senior Vice President, Americas Operations, at InfoVista. Early in his career, he spent ten years at Computer Associates.

Education: Valente holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Ecole d'Ingénieurs des Technologies de l'Information et du Management.

Personal Passions: British history (Tudor monarchy), Mezoamerican civilizations, Motorcycling.

By Jean-Luc “JL” Valente, Vice President of Product Management, Cloud and Systems Management Technology Group, Cisco Systems

It can be difficult to speak about the Internet of Everything (IoE) without using superlatives. No other technology has been so pervasive or as rapid in its growth as the Internet—adding millions, if not billions, of new connection points every year. However, the number of people and things getting connected isn’t what matters most, but rather the outcomes those connections make possible.

People can use Internet connections to improve their lives, the way they work, and how they manage the public sphere. And, as stated by John Chambers, Chairman and CEO of Cisco, governments can improve how they serve their citizens, and businesses can use the information they get from all these new connections to make better decisions, be more productive and innovate faster. 

Let’s start with a level set: Cisco defines the Internet of Everything (IoE) as the networked connections among people, process, data, and things—and the value that those connections make.

IoE is not a rebranding of the term the Internet of Things, or IoT, which is used to describe the intelligence and Internet addressability that is increasingly added to the physical world.  The Internet of Things is a subset of the Internet of Experiences that focuses, more or less, on the connections between machines. Indeed, “things” are one of the four dimensions (people, process, data and things) we talk about in the Internet of Everything.

Things include sensors, meters, actuators, and many other kinds of objects that are either addressable directly through the Internet or trackable indirectly (through RFID tags, for example).  And through the addressability and tracking of things, enormous amounts of information will be created and shared, enabling new activities and enhancing existing ones. This will create new ways to interact and control the world around us, improving energy usage, making industrial processes more responsive, and opening an era of smart-transportation that adapts to and perhaps even anticipates demand while working around weather and other factors to ensure safety and efficiency.

Beyond “things” and the new data they will generate, the IoE will gather, stream, and distribute data from more sources than ever and to more sources than ever, as smarter devices seek contextual information and more-powerful analytical tools seek insights. Because much of the IoE data has value that is transient, it may be quickly combed for insights and then discarded. There is also the notion that data in motion (real-time data) gains value as it is collected and becomes historical (stored) data. Network intelligence will eventually touch almost everything, from the home and the individual to environmental sensors located almost everywhere.

Since the IoE is still evolving, as are the tools and regulations that may accompany it, much remains uncertain. However, it’s a safe bet that privacy and security will be top concerns, particularly if the IoE seems to confirm people’s perceptions that they are being tracked or watched by both the public and private sectors.

Another challenge of the IoE concerns the overwhelming amount of data that requires correlation and integration and cleaning. Some of that must be done in near real time, while some can be done on a longer term basis. In both cases, we will need new tools, processes, and skills to get the job done.

The IoE will bring people, processes, data and things together as never before, impacting almost everything we experience in new and profound ways. This will be transformative for individuals and for organizations.

Near-Term Decisions

The IoE will affect different people in dramatically different ways. While, say, a purveyor of fresh fruit at a roadside stand, may be impacted only indirectly or over time, for other people the IoE may become an immediate competitive factor, either through direct adoption or as it percolates through the supply chain or is adopted by competitors.

If you want to participate in the IoE, you must figure out where you stand and where your organization will fit. For example, if you are a systems integrator and you want to offer fully integrated solutions, you will need to determine which technologies and markets are relevant to the IoE or which have the most urgent needs or the most promising benefits. You also need to consider which skill sets will be needed in this new environment.

You should also consider potential constraints and regulations. Investing in publications and attending events and webinars focused on the Internet of Experiences (or the Internet of Things) can help demystify the topic and give you and your team a solid grounding. Of course, it isn’t just absorbing information but what you do with it that counts.

When we talk about the IoE, we are implicitly talking about building or strengthening a decision management system and providing a structure for data. This will likely encourage more development in and use of the cloud, where you can quickly add capacity and capabilities as the IoE evolves. Being able to analyze and correlate data in new ways will be a new strategic frontier for many companies.

Retail is an obvious area where more and better sensor data could have an immediate bottom-line impact. For example, more can be done to improve the experiences of shoppers from the moment they enter the parking lot. On the basis of vehicles coming to the parking lot or people entering a store, you may need to reorganize the staffing or checkout lines or even reconfigure flows. The IoE will offer more insights into the long-term habits of shoppers and provide immediate feedback on how they are responding. Shoppers may be able to find information on products on mobile devices, and the retailer may be able to correlate that in real time. Sensors in a display or in a walkway can measure, count, or characterize what people are focusing on.

A narrower example is the world of vending machines, where the machines may be able to customize products – making them sweeter, for example – or identify who you are and offer your favorite product without prompting.

Again, the IoE is built on the realization that there are billions of objects that can be harnessed for their ability to deliver different sets of information from many locations that can then be leveraged in imaginative new ways. As the IoE develops, there will need to be more attention given to lifecycle issues, updating and management of devices and ensuring that protocols interact. The devices or sensors will then be joining the information flow within the network, along with user-generated information, which can be very meaningful for business and society.

The Longer View

Today, we are just entering the IoE, and communication service providers are likely to play a major role in creating future demand. For most service providers, only a small part of their revenues with both businesses and consumers are attributable to the IoE today. That will change – and there is a desire on the part of communication service providers to grow the business, expanding connectivity for devices of all kinds and adding services on top. In addition, even though the price of sensor and networking technology continues to decrease, one of the most immediate and obvious economic impacts of the IoE will be on technology investments. Consider, for example, how many more sensors will be manufactured and deployed once there is a market for more data. The number will be huge.

There are already applications where sensors are being put in the soil to ensure more effective irrigation and soil treatment — much better than the “best guess” approach used today. The current drought in California is a reminder of the importance of that kind of smarter water use, which the IoE can enable.

Consider too what those fixed and mobile sensors in the field will do to the need for different connectivity and processing. Local processing and storage of data, the intelligence to forward urgent or important data, and the intermittent nature of those connections all will have a further impact on technology investment and deployment.

Cisco and our partners are working with a number of cities and city planners, both in the growing cities in Asia and in the long established cities in Europe, where there is a desire to digitize many services. The IoE is part of the vision for connected cities, in which services ranging from planning and traffic management to emergency services become more efficient and smarter. For example, sensors and video cameras can provide timely indicators of traffic problems and faster responses. The IoE can be transformative in a vast range of scenarios simply by enhancing situational awareness.

The IoE also encompasses less sophisticated technologies. For example, in Las Vegas, some casinos are putting RFID into poker chips to see patterns in how chips are being used and leveraged, which helps with customer management, especially the high rollers, and security. Similar kinds of simple locational and usage data can be extracted from everyday things ranging from shoes to medicine to cars. There is so much information that, if gathered and analyzed, could be very useful. When we at Cisco have discussions today with CEOs of manufacturing companies and airlines, they all “get” the value that the IoE represents; they see the potential.

Countries such as Israel are looking at the IoE holistically, and figuring out how to leverage the new technology and what kind of advantages and capabilities their economies might realize. They are making progress on defining the principles and standards that need to be captured in an IoE architecture. Obviously, there will be regulations and constraints, and some of those will take time to fully develop.

Cisco’s research suggests that businesses in developed markets are currently realizing the greatest share of value from IoE. In addition, the barriers to further adoption continue to fall in all markets, thanks to cloud-based IT consumption models. So countries and enterprises just entering this new Internet phase have a good chance to catch up. In that sense, the IoE is leveling the playing field, allowing new entrants to compete more successfully in various markets.

Anyone with the right mix of tools, technology and vision can join the IoE economy. In a sense, the IoE is the ultimate democratization of technology, lowering barriers of entry and providing connectivity like never before.

Cisco estimates that the IoE represents a $19 trillion global opportunity to create value over the next decade through increased profits for businesses as well as cost savings, improved citizen services and increased revenues for governments and other public-sector organizations. It is a huge market in the making, providing tremendous benefits for individuals, organizations, and society.

Originally published in CTO Straight Talk, No. 1 (August 2014)

The Takeaways

When considering the power of the Internet, don’t miss the forest for the trees: The number of people and things getting connected isn’t what matters most, but rather the outcomes those connections make possible.

One way to segment the vast amount of real-time data generated by the “Internet of Everything” is to distinguish between data of transient value, which may be quickly combed for insights and then discarded, and data that gains value as it is collected and becomes historical data.

The Internet of Everything is leveling the playing field, allowing new entrants to compete more successfully in various markets. This represents the ultimate democratization of technology, lowering barriers of entry and providing connectivity like never before.