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Cisco: Blending Social Responsibility with Long-Term Business Growth

The networking giant's efforts around the Olympic games demonstrate that it's possible to do well by doing good.

I’ve been struck by how the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil ended up damaging the country. The venues are in decay and the benefits just didn’t seem worth the cost. This kind of thing has massively reduced the number of cities that want to host the games in the future.

In contrast, I spoke with Alex Goryachev, Cisco's Managing Director of Innovation Strategy & Programs. He told me about their continued success in Brazil and London related to their Olympic efforts. The company focused on helping local startups use its technology to innovate, resulting not only in hundreds of new customers and jobs in the regions, but also a positive impact on Cisco’s revenue.

Outreach programs like this often have amazing results and show that companies can blend their social responsibility efforts with business growth. In other words, they do well while doing good.

Hoxton Analytics – London Olympics

Retail stores often want to track customers, if only to figure out which displays are working and which are not. But facial recognition, which has been successful, has one huge drawback: it may violate local privacy laws.

Hoxton Analytics partnered with Cisco to create a solution that tracked shoes and footsteps. It turned out not only to be more private than facial recognition, but also more accurate. (I had to have them repeat this because I found that hard to believe). Deployed now in shopping malls, stores, airports, museums and other locations, shoe and footstep tracking has proven invaluable to customers that need insight on traffic patterns and customer behavior. It vastly improves the quality of the tracking data without violating privacy.

The company leveraged Cisco’s London innovation center, which also connects startups like Hoxton Analytics with enterprise customers that use the resulting solution. Cisco helped the company build its solution and is actively helping sell it. This center, IDEALondon, has helped 60 startups and raised more than 70 million pounds to create 400 new jobs to date (and Cisco is expanding this effort with Mi-Idea in Manchester.)

Porto Maravilha – Rio Olympics

This project caught my eye because of the implications it had for making schools safer, particularly after the latest school shooting in Florida. In Porto Maravilha, an economically distressed area that needed to be uplifted for the Olympics, Cisco and the city government created and installed a comprehensive, relatively inexpensive, Smart City system. It consisted of Wi-Fi connected cameras, noise sensors and other devices, and it provided 15 smart urban services. This solution was also designed for rapid prototyping, development and implementation of future services as well.

The part that caught my ear was the integration of the cameras and noise sensors so that active shooters could be, on a city scale, quickly located and mitigated. This was created with a number of local startups, and the Cisco Rio innovation center has co-created 50 additional solutions with partners since its inception.

Songdo, South Korea – Pyeongchang Olympics

In South Korea, Cisco created a “living lab” called the IoT Cube to drive innovation into the Songdo smart city technology deployed there. South Korea is considered one of the most advanced countries in regard to smart city and Internet technology. Using advanced concepts like fog computing, Cisco was able to demonstrate real-time data tracking and analytics for Songdo’s citizens, which was critical to assuring that resources were where those citizens needed them to be.

This was a very real example of the next generation of 5G wireless networking and became a global showcase for what will be possible. Songdo is yet another Cisco innovation center location.

Tokyo Olympics

In Tokyo in 2020, Cisco intends to take what it did in South Korea even farther, showcasing advanced fog computing solutions, which should significantly enhance the region-wide 5G and IoT deployments expected to be active at that time. The innovation center there is working with organizations like Toshiba, Mitsui Knowledge Industry and the Tokuda Lab at the famous Keio University to demonstrate what can be done with the coming generation of connected technologies. The overall effort appears to be designed to help the Tokyo citizens and Olympic visitors improve the quality of their lives, work, education and recreation long term.

Selling and Making a Better World

Often tech firms seem to want just one thing: for you to buy their products regardless of whether it is the right thing or even if you really need it. What Cisco is highlighting with its innovation centers and Olympics efforts is that, through engagement, a firm can not only build strategic business opportunity, it can also materially improve the quality and safety of human life.Making a better world takes longer, but it supports the strategic future of a company and makes it a favored partner not only of commercial customers but governments. In short, efforts like this may not only just assure Cisco’s future, they may also assure our own.

In my book that is a very good thing.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.




Tags: networking, analytics, Olympics, 5G, IoT


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