Feature Story

How Cisco powered the Internet and where it's taking it in the future

by Stephanie Chan

www day

Cisco is looking ahead with artificial intelligence.

It all started in the mid-1980's with two Stanford technologists. Routers and computer boards were two new pieces of tech licensed to a company called Cisco–a name derived from "San Francisco" and a logo inspired by the city's Golden Gate Bridge. Routers are the critical piece of hardware that allowed  the distribution of the World Wide Web. First, big businesses and companies had routers to connect to the Internet. Then, people started connecting from their homes and then from their mobile devices.

See also: Cisco's heritage archive is where past meets future

Cisco saw the evolution of technology through the decades, even sending an Internet router to space in 2010. The company's routing and networking technology has helped millions connect to the Internet, allowing them to access information and opportunity. Cisco's telecommunications technology was one of the biggest tech breakthroughs of the 20th century. 

At Cisco Live 2018's closing keynote, futurist and physicist Michio Kaku outlined the first three waves of wealth generation: The first was the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, the second was electricity and automobiles in 1929, and the third wave was high tech like computers, satellites, lasers, telecommunications, and the Internet.

"I say the Fourth Wave of wealth generation is a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnology and biotechnology," said Kaku.

So if Cisco was such an integral part of the Third Wave of wealth generation, where is the company taking technology in the future? Cisco has been transforming computing in the 21st century, from the Internet of Things (IoT), collaboration, security, and of course­­—AI.

"AI is already real today, with 48% of CEOs exploring it this year," said Nirav Sheth, VP, architectures and engineering, Cisco Global Partner Organization, "AI has the potential to impact everything from how we receive healthcare to how we farm to how we shop. As new innovations and disruptions emerge, intent-based networks will power this new future. Creating secure, intelligent, flexible connectivity will be even more critical than ever before. Just like in the past, Cisco is already preparing for this next phase of computing, and delivering solutions that will provide new outcomes for both partners and customers."

IoT (or the connection of appliances and devices to the Internet) and smart cities creates transformation in a way that truly changes the world. Take street lights for example. Using IoT technology, lampposts in Copenhagen achieved 80% savings in energy and reduced the city's carbon footprint.

With the amount of data and information the Internet sees every day, the security of organizations and individuals are increasingly at-risk. Cisco's wide set of security solutions helps detect and stop threats to help people save time and money. The company's threat research team Talos is responsible for discovering threats like 2018's VPNFilter, as well as protecting organizations against attacks and malware.

Cisco has long been known for its communication tools, and is now taking group collaboration into the future with Webex—a meetings, calling, and messaging space. One newer iteration of this is Webex Teams, an intuitive collaboration technology that allows users to file share, whiteboard, call, message, and more, all in one location.

Cisco is also incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning into many technologies, like Webex. The company's recent inaugural AI@Cisco Day showed just how many places the company is leveraging AI and ML—in everything from multicloud to data and the network. A virtual helper called Webex Assistant uses AI to find people in the directory, call, control volume levels, and more. This AI meeting manager shows how assistants like these could take the legwork out of meetings in the future.

As AI takes us ahead, Cisco is coming right alongside it. With new AI and ML-based technologies, the company looks forward to what's next with the Fourth Wave.

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