到目前为止，思科已经和纽约市及其他两家公司合作，把约250个公共付费电话亭改造成以屏幕为基础的信息亭。而且，它还和加拿大里贾纳大学（University of Regina）通力合作，在电子政务领域捐助设立一个教授职位。而且，最为明显的是，该公司正在和奥兰多的企业集团——塔维斯托克集团（Tavistock Group）合作，在现有的一家退伍军人管理局所属医院周围创建一个综合用地的“医疗城”。在这个医疗城里，电力公司以及几乎其他所有公用事业公司都将连接到以互联网为中心的网络中，从而使居民及员工能够进行各种远程访问和监控。
Roughly 22 miles north of the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., just a few days before Superstorm Sandy ripped up the East Coast, networking giant Cisco Systems convened a two-day meeting unabashedly called its first annual "Impact Forum." Among developers and politicos stood CEO John Chambers, an outspoken Republican who nonetheless wound up his welcome with a salute to government investment. "Government can bring courage," he said; courage, that is, to put faith in the Internet for all municipal services.
In fact, Cisco (CSCO) wants city governments to be among its biggest customers. The company that investors have rewarded for enabling increasingly faster Internet connections has edged into equipping, master planning, and otherwise advising city governments. Cisco plans to hold an "Impact Forum" every year, implying a future where the company's leaders hunker down with city planners to digitally heal urban ills.
So far, Cisco has teamed up with New York City and two other companies to turn some 250 pay phones into screen-based information kiosks, and it joined forces with Canada's University of Regina to endow a professorship in e-governance. And, most visibly, it is working with a conglomerate called the Tavistock Group in Orlando to create a mixed-use "Medical City" around an existing VA Hospital. In this city, the electric utility and nearly everything else will hook into Internet-centered networks that will allow residents and workers all kinds of remote access and monitoring.
Cisco has moved into the kind of consulting to cities and developers that IBM (IBM) has been selling aggressively under its "Smarter Cities" brand for several years.
"Cisco is really targeting infrastructure companies -- architecture, construction, engineering, municipalities," says Rick Huijbregts, the company's VP for industry and business transformation in Canada. (Corporate titles in Cisco take a priestly air.) Cisco wants cities to believe that all urban systems will work better as bits. "A lot of infrastructure in cities is nearing the end of its life and since it's obsolescing anyway, there's an opportunity to replace it with smart-embedded material." As an example, Cisco likes to boast about how it helped a region in Germany manage all of its roads on a single IP network.
In America, Cisco wants to pounce on piecemeal Internet commitments that construction and facilities firms have been making for several years. Building owners have crammed their properties with gizmos that eat a lot of electricity, Huijbregts says, which would make connecting these devices to each other a cost-saving measure. "The industry is realizing that it's built so much [backup power] into everything," he says. For example, Cisco aims to show property owners how to make heating, cooling, and electric meters essentially talk to each other with Internet protocols.
"We've focused on real estate because that's an industry that hasn't [absorbed] tech all that fully," Huijbregts says. But things are changing, fast. "In a few years, nine of ten high-rises under construction in downtown Toronto will be IP-enabled."
Cisco wants to go beyond individual buildings and move into whole urban systems across the world. It's nurtured a business group called Smart + Connected Communities with showcase rollouts in South Korea, Spain, and Orlando.