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商业 - 科技

思科的城市改造大计

Alec Appelbaum 2013年01月10日

思科把各大城市的市政府视为其超高速互联网设备的下一个重要市场,希望全面介入城市基础设施建设的规划和实施,利用数字化技术来医治“城市病”。

    就在超级飓风“桑迪”肆虐美国东海岸地区的前几天,在佛罗里达州奥兰多市的迪斯尼梦幻王国以北大约22公里的地方,网络巨头思科系统公司(Cisco Systems)召开了为期两天的会议,他们不加掩饰地称之为该公司第一届年度“影响论坛”。该公司首席执行官(CEO)约翰•钱伯斯站在台上,面对着参加会议的众多开发商及政客。身为共和党人的钱伯斯一向直言不讳,他在结束欢迎词时对政府投资大加赞扬。他说:“政府可以带来勇气。”勇气,更确切地说,就是相信互联网,把所有市政服务都连接到互联网上。

    事实上,思科希望各大城市的市政府都成为它最大的客户。该公司过去因不断提升互联网的连接速度而让投资者获得了丰厚的回报,现在则开始慢慢进入新的服务领域,提供设备、进行总体规划,或者向各市政府提供咨询等服务。思科计划每年举办一届“影响论坛”,意味着未来该公司领导层将与城市规划者低调合作,利用数字化技术来医治诸多城市弊病。

    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。

    思科已进入向各大城市和开发商提供咨询的服务领域,而IBM在其“智慧城市”(Smarter Cities)品牌下积极推销这种咨询服务已有好几年了。

    “思科目前确实在把目标瞄准基础设施公司——建筑设计、建造、工程、市政等公司,”该公司负责加拿大行业及企业转型的副总裁里克•惠布里茨说。(思科的职位名称有点牧师般的感觉。)思科希望各大城市相信,所有城市服务系统在互联网平台上都将会更好地运作。 “各大城市的许多基础设施都已接近使用期限,因为不管怎样,这些基础设施正在逐渐过时,而现在有机会用嵌入智能的材料来加以替代。”思科津津乐道的一个例子是,它曾经帮助德国某地区在一个单一的IP(网络协议)网络上管理所有道路。

    在美国,思科希望对建造及设施公司数年来对互联网作出的零散承诺大作文章。惠布里茨说,建筑物业主在各自的房地产中“填塞了”许多耗费大量电力的小设备。因此,把这些设备彼此相互连接就成了一项节约成本的措施。他说:“这个行业正在意识到,自己在所有建筑物里建造了大量的(备用电源)。”例如,思科的目标是向房地产业主展示,如何让暖气表、冷气表及电表基本上可以利用网络协议实现相互连通。

    惠布里茨说:“我们把重点放在了房地产行业上,因为这个行业还没有充分吸收科技。”但情况正在迅速发生变化。“在未来几年内,多伦多市中心处于施工阶段的高层建筑中有90%将具有IP连通功能。”

    思科希望超越单幢建筑,进入世界各地的整个城市系统。该公司培养了一个叫做“智能互联社区”的业务部门,相继在韩国、西班牙及奥兰多部署了示范项目。

    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.

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