In the latest installment of their ongoing expansion into the Internet of Things, Cisco recently announced an agreement with Swiss security firm AGT International to develop smart traffic systems for cities around the world.
In early February, Cisco and AGT unveiled the details of an upcoming Internet of Things-enabled traffic management system that incorporates sensors embedded in pavements, license plate-reading systems, social media feeds, and video cameras to "identify, respond to, and resolve" traffic incidents in real time. According to a press release, the system is designed to provide long-term analytics on traffic accidents and to allow different agencies to share video feeds.
Some people may find the AGT-Cisco product a bit creepy—after all, it's a traffic management system that reads license plate numbers and integrates social media. Nevertheless, it's part of a much larger trend in which city, state, and federal agencies use sensors to monitor the smallest aspects of everyday urban life.
It's also designed to compete with a competitor who already has a lock on the smart cities market. IBM markets a similar Internet of Things traffic product to municipalities worldwide. IBM's offering is designed to monitor auto, truck, and public transit in real time, part of a much larger suite of city-oriented analytics products.
Cisco and AGT's use of sensors embedded in roads similar to one of Google's key strategies for self-driving cars. While road sensors are commonly used to track traffic or weather damage to pavement, Google's eventual hope is that sensors placed at regular intervals on interstate highways can help guide driverless cars to their destination and provide a crucial vehicle spacing mechanism. Smart roads, and a constant stream of data for government from drivers, are likely to be a moneymaker for companies like Cisco, AGT, IBM, and Google for years to come.
"Today, 99 percent of the physical world is not connected to the Internet," Cisco's Wim Elfrink wrote in a statement. "However, cities are the epicenter of the Internet of Everything, where people, things, data and processes can be connected to deliver new and amazing value. Think about the possibilities. It is a vision we can realize today through the unique combination of Cisco's unparalleled networking and computing technology and AGT's cutting-edge smart cities platform."
While Cisco's work in the Internet of Things space has mainly been aimed at corporate clients, especially in the industrial sphere, they've been trying hard to crack the Internet of Things code for city governments. Thanks to IBM's early entry into the governmental Internet of Things field, they've had the best luck so far when it comes to signing up major clients.
However, Cisco already has agreements with major cities like Barcelona. AGT, whose CEO Mati Kochavi is also the financial backer of news site Vocativ, already has strong contacts with many city customers thanks to AGT's primary security business—contacts which are likely beneficial for AGT's partner, Cisco.
But it looks their initial customer base will be outside the United States; according to a report in Fortune, rollout over the next three-to-five years will mainly be in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. There's lots of money to be made, too: At this year's CES, Cisco CEO John Chambers predicted the Internet of Things would become a $19 trillion market over the next few years.