Cisco’s Biren Gandhi is a distinguished engineer & strategist within Cisco’s Corporate Strategic Innovation Group who has blogged about Cisco’s beliefs about drones over the past year.
The possible angles for Cisco are many, starting with network infrastructure that would support drone-to-drone, drone-to-the-ground and ground-to-the-cloud communications. “That’s the de facto play for Cisco and other infrastructure companies,” says Gandhi.
The reality of [commercial] drones is that while they can automate otherwise dull, dirty and dangerous processes, supporting services are needed on the back end. “Once you have a fleet of drones, there has to be an orchestration system, a management system, a high bandwidth reliable traffic system, and on top of that, security and policy,” Gandhi says. “All those are enterprise IT attributes and you have to take care of them once you go into a scalable mode
Mr. Gandhi made a pretty amazing presentation from InterDrone 2015, looking at how and where drones fit within the larger concept of the Internet of Everything which is defined as the intelligent connection of people, process, data and things. Here are a few ideas – there are many more.
Measure – The prevailing mindset of the IoE is that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Of course the solution is to put (embed) devices in everything of interest. Gandhi notes that in 203x some 50 billion things will be connected – and 1.5 trillion will not.
Fog – this is Cisco’s term for computing that takes place somewhere between the point of origin and the Cloud. In Gandhi’s view there are four places that processing of drone acquired data can take place.
Onboard the drone itself
On the ground station controlling the drone
At some nearby location
In the Cloud
He revisits this as “processing where it makes sense” relative to the type of data, the availability of bandwidth and time. It is clear that he doesn’t consider LTE to be up to the task.
Multiple use – Because of scarcity, crowding and other imperatives, the idea of single use things (his example is street lights) are no longer economically viable. A street lamp will have to do many things (be a node, report, manage, provide security) to justify the resources necessary to design, build, install and maintain it. Here is an excellent example which is part of a Cisco initiative in Kansas City.
Carried to an extreme this is a reductionist, engineering driven world view.
Air cover – In this model, drones are highly integrated into the IoE. In his words, they provide “air cover” which is an extension of the IoE into the third dimension.
The punch line is of course that the story is ours to write and the question to be answered is how will the IoE serve humanity. An unexpected and welcome ending.
Biren will make you think. Well worth your time.