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July 20, 2012

When ‘Machine-to-Machine’ Revolution Meets ‘Smart Cities’: A Glimpse into the Discussions inside San Diego Public Sector + Tech Community

A “Smart Cities” special event was organized in San Diego on June 27 by the Daniel Obodovski, a Director at Qualcomm. Daniel serves as the Co-Chair of a Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Special Interest Group (SIG) of CommNexus San Diego, a non-profit technology industry association that works to accelerate the formation, growth, and success of the technology industry in the San Diego region.
The M2M SIG is focused on wirelessly connected devices, which fall outside of the mobile phone and tablet space, commonly referred to as “the Internet of Things” (IoT) – the wireless connectivity between the virtual and physical world around us. The M2M SIG addresses a spectrum of issues of the machine-to-machine area including: time-to-market challenges, new business models, market opportunities, technology constraints and solutions. This is a new SIG within CommNexus San Diego, and it aims to connect the best carriers of expertise with developers, entrepreneurs and investors. Forums such as this “Smart Cities” special event are one example of how they make these connections.
The “Smart Cities” special event assembled a panel of experts to discuss the existing solutions that make cities smarter, plans for the future, technology challenges and ways companies and city governments can address them, and last but not least, based on the example of the City of San Diego. I joined San Diego tech visionaries: Eric D. Martinez, Project Engineer, Demand Response, Emerging Technologies Department – San Diego Gas & Electric; Jacques Chirazi, Program Manager – Clean Tech at City of San Diego; and David Lee, Graduate Researcher – MIT Sensable City Lab.
After a lively, thoughtful discussion, a few takeaways emerged:
  • Major sectors of the economy are undergoing a transformation – much of it driven by new requirements, which in turn impacts such things as traffic management, data analytics, and machine-to-machine communication. The resulting transition from traditional proprietary networks towards Ethernet and IP is accelerating the growth of this multi-billion dollar market.
  • Manufacturers need solutions that intelligently connect all parts of the value chain so that they can share information with every department, employee, partner, and customer quickly and easily. As an aside, and in response to this trend, Cisco solutions are being designed to fundamentally change the competitive landscape by providing intelligent, timely information and collaboration capabilities in context, continuous innovation, a differentiated customer experience, supply chain agility and operational excellence.
  • Manufacturing, transportation, utilities, automotive, oil and gas, mining, military, service providers and other sectors are undergoing a transformation driven by new requirements around factory floor automation, traffic management, data analytics, smart grid, smart cities and machine-to-machine communication. We are moving fast towards a world in which all devices, machines, and vehicles are becoming connected and integrated with traditional enterprise networks and service providers.
  • Public sector leaders are only just getting around to acknowledging this M2M revolution, the IoT, and the implications for the delivery of government services.
As the result of the current state of affairs, objects that gather and communicate data are becoming ubiquitous. In the IoT, which Gartner cites as one of the “Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2012,” objects embedded with sensors, actuators, or tags can communicate over wired and wireless networks.
Where will the first big breakthroughs be showing up? From this event in San Diego there seemed to be no doubt about it: the connected vehicle. Not surprising that this should be a key focus for Cisco. In an important Cisco IBSG white paper, “Connected Vehicles: Service Providers at a Crossroads,” we can see clearly how that future is beginning to look, especially as seen from the standpoint of the service provider.