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Cisco Wants Intelligent Networks to Become the Fourth Utility

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Marthin De Beer, Cisco, at Green:Net 2011Cities consume 75 percent of the world’s energy, said Cisco’s Marthin De Beer, SVP, Emerging Technologies and Consumer Business, on Thursday at GigaOM’s Green:Net conference in San Francisco. And cities are growing rapidly: 700 million people will be urbanized in the next decade, said De Beer. So how can we make cities greener and more sustainable?

By making a network that connects every house as a fourth utility, said De Beer, who told his audience that Sydney has seen energy savings and water consumption reduction of 50 percent with this approach. Cisco wants to be part of the solution, and De Beer demonstrated a few tools his company developed that can empower companies and individuals in connected cities to save energy. One of the tools showcased was an application that tells employees whether they should make the trip to the office or work from home through telepresence, depending on an analysis of traffic and weather conditions.

Cisco has of course been pushing telepresence solutions for a long time, and De Beer said that the company itself has saved $800 million in travel in the last five years through the use of telepresence. Teleconferencing tools also helped Cisco to reduce its carbon footprint by 10 percent. However, intelligent networks could also do things that aren’t even visible to the end user, like moving cloud-hosted work instances to data centers that require less cooling when a certain region gets hit by a heat wave.

Cisco has been partnering with cities like Amsterdam, Bangalore, Barcelona and San Francisco to develop solutions that are based on the idea of networks as the fourth utility. “It’s not the future,” said De Beers. “It’s being built right now, and that’s really exciting.”

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