Cisco Blogs 2006–2011

These are about pages of blogs I wrote as the VP of Mobility and the VP Enterprise

In a Disaster, The First Responder May Be You

Alan Cohen | June 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm PST

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On March 11, when Japan suffered a one-two punch — first from an 9.0 earthquake and then a devastating tsunami — more than 1,200 tweets per minute were sent from Tokyo, according to Mashable. More recently in May, after a terrible tornado hit Joplin, Missouri with full force, killing 145, several FaceBook pages were rapidly created by citizens and their families and friends to post pictures of the missing, share news of loved ones, information about conditions on the ground, and messages about supplies, shelter and support.

Social media networks are transforming how people give and receive help and information during disasters. People aren’t waiting for direction from government and humanitarian agencies; they are turning to each other using mobile devices and social networks. In the dark world of disasters, this emerging trend is challenging old assumptions and can and will, I believe, will help focus, support and strengthen the efforts of trained first responders (both volunteer and professional) to get to where they are most needed and put their expertise to maximum use. Social media and the networks that underpin it simply allow more people to support each other.

Cisco CEO John Chambers discussed the value of secure collaboration in a networked world last week at a National Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and Homeland Security conference in San Francisco. John talked about the role the network will play in being able to securely provide relevant timely information to response agencies. He also conducted a scenario demonstration of what would happen should an emergency arise, using the upcoming America’s Cup Race in San Francisco as an example.

(VIDEO: Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers on the role the network will play in being able to securely provide relevant timely information to response agencies.)

Today, digital communications enable citizens in affected areas to support disaster search and recovery missions and provide detailed and valuable information to formal responders who may not be familiar with the local community and terrain. As FEMA director Craig Fugate has said, “We can adjust much quicker if we can figure out how to have this two-way conversation and if we can look at the public as a resource. The public is putting out much better situational awareness than many of our own agencies can.”

Of course the public’s use of social networking tools isn’t the only advance on the public safety and security front. Just as technology innovation in social media has meant new life lines for citizens, other network advances are building stronger and more reliable collaboration and communications capabilities among public and private responder agencies as well as citizens. One example is Cisco Networked Emergency Response Vehicles (NERVs ) that provide secure mobile communication over satellite, wired and wireless network infrastructures, voice over IP, network-based video, TelePresence video conferencing, and radio and voice interoperability. This supports better decision making and pinpoint targeting of multiple resources.

In Joplin, shortly after St. John’s Hospital was destroyed by the tornado, the city reached out to Cisco for help. Within 24 hours, Cisco’s Tactical Operations (TacOps) team sourced, staged configured and shipped all the communications and network gear that the temporary, tented 80-bed medical facility would need to operate for the next 12–18 months. Six Cisco employees configured and built the wireless, voice, routing and switching connections for the facility. Cisco people also trained staff at the Convoy of Hope, a disaster-response NGO that provides supplies and food for displaced people, so they could use an emergency communications kit and satellite antenna to connect their command centers. These are just two of the several ways Cisco helped multiple layers of government emergency response agencies, NGOs and citizens. There are similar stories about our work after tornados hit Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, and Wake County, North Carolina, in April.

The network plays a critical role bringing together these different forms of communications from social media to existing radio networks to video. Integrating public, private and citizen security connections reduces incident response time, empowers those in the field to make decisions based on all available information and ensures that the right information gets to the right people at the right time.

As I mentioned earlier, disasters are difficult and dark times that cause too many people to suffer. What technology innovations — whether it’s social media or specialized communications tools used by professional responders — reveal is that people are essentially good and, given the tools to communicate and help one another, will do so intuitively.

Solving the “Cost/Reach Equation” in the Public Sector

Alan Cohen | March 15, 2011 at 2:32 pm PST

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When the world economy went into recession, many political officials and commentators talked about “not wasting a crisis” — making sure we took the opportunity to learn some lessons from the downturn and solve problems that would make the economy — and the world — more cost efficient. Today, while there are brighter signs around economic recovery, we still face a seemingly intractable parcel of outstanding issues. Indeed many countries around the world are still struggling with both growing their economies and reducing budget deficits.

Rather than “not wasting a crisis” perhaps we should be thinking about not making a “crisis of waste.” Said simply, there are enormous efficiencies available to public entities to improve the lives and well being of citizens through transformational efforts that can lower the cost and increase the availability and quality of citizen services.

Across the globe, the public sector faces one clear and present challenge: the reality of increased service requirements bonded to constrained or declining budgets. Demographic shifts, growing social expectations, and an increasingly more complex and dangerous world are driving enhanced public sector requirements to serve and protect citizens. However the need to address deficit spending remains the defining paradox. The conundrum created by increasing need to serve and decreasing ability to pay is a “cost/reach gap.”

For the first time in several generations public leaders worldwide are rethinking both how they deliver citizen services as well as how they consume information technology. Many experts believe governments should not revert to traditional processes and IT practices. Instead, they should look for ways to improve both cost effectiveness and service. Indeed, the public sector could actually lead the private sector in transformational approaches to building efficiency and driving customer satisfaction through innovation in cloud computing services, cyber security, mobility, and video.

Governments are looking to technology to improve efficacy and efficiency of service delivery in key mission areas — intelligence, defense and security, economic development, education, and health care. In the area of healthcare, practitioners and payers are looking at remote forms of care like Cisco’s HealthPresence to extend the reach and availability of medical services, and particularly to help leverage and defray the typically high cost of specialist consults and other services that are typically geographically scattered. Being able to remotely “visit” with a medical specialist means less waste for everyone. For the patient, it means greater availability and quality of service, for the health practitioner, it means more time helping patients and less time travelling, and for the employer it means lower productivity losses.

Cloud computing is another area where governments and other public entities are cutting waste. Replacing large one-off department and agency- level system resources and sharing IT capabilities through a secure government cloud, or G — cloud, are becoming realities and gaining traction in the UK and Germany as well as a range of other nations.

While in the past technology has been often lauded for streamlining back office operations and speeding transactions, today’s challenges mean thinking about technology in a much bigger and more far-reaching way. Today’s needs are about cutting costs, for sure. What’s new is the triple expectation of reducing costs while increasing high-quality public support and driving new and higher-performing internal processes that connect people to solve problems and advance new ideas in highly useful and efficient ways.

A good example of this was recently announced by our partner, AT&T, with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). The GSA recognized that it needed to accelerate collaboration among a range of government agencies and put in place a managed, pay-as-you-go TelePresence service. The GSA took advantage of a public/private partnership with AT&T so regional meetings, training, inter-agency planning, crisis management, partner and supplier discussions can all use this service and pay for it on an hourly basis, avoiding agency start-up costs.

This is just one example of public and private partners working together to overcome the cost/reach gap and it is the tip of the iceberg. As technology solution providers like Cisco and forward-thinking public sector leaders work together to address how to best support increasingly complex public needs, I believe we will build a new public sector paradigm that will address the cost/reach gap in ways that will be both cost effective and provide new and better solutions for our citizens.

2011: My Top Five Predictions for Technology

Alan Cohen | January 6, 2011 at 9:42 am PST

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For many years, I started the New Year with a “top 10” list of network predictions. Call it the Twitter effect, or even the Charles Barkley/Dwyane Wade/T-Mobile “who’s in your five” effect , this year I am coming in with “my 5.”

Prediction 1: The Battle for the Cloud is really about the next generation business OS — Much of the debate over the cloud is about competing architectures or proposals for either a) the infrastructure stack or b) a class of applications delivered on or off-premise. Another way to look at the cloud is the “run-time” OS that supports a range of applications and business processes. It could be Linux, Windows or a range of software engines, but when the (virtual) applications are delivered from virtual infrastructure, from the cloud, the rules of the technology industry are being re-written.

Prediction 2: Networked Technology Economics are Paramount — Traditionally, IT was seen as a cost structure in support of the business (or public sector) service delivery. Increasingly, technology is part of the product, thus the actual cost of the product/service is in flux. One clear example of this occurred in the past few years in the music industry. More recently, the movie rental industry demonstrated this (whereby video streaming is replacing bricks and mortar). Prediction within prediction: if a product or service can be delivered faster and more efficiently across a network, it will become the dominant delivery or consumption model within 5 years.

Prediction 3: Books go the way of music — There are two key drivers in the book industry today: pressure on the physical retail environments from eCommerce providers like Amazon as well as what we saw during the much of the holiday shopping season: an increased array of eBook readers, including a 3rd generation Kindle from Amazon, the BeBook Neo, The Barnes & Noble Nook, and the Sony Reader. Both of these trends are driving dramatic change in the availability, consumption and economics of our reading matter.

Prediction 4: Consumer Experience for Business — For decades, technology migrated from the office to the home: video recorders, computers, printers, Internet access, email and many other commonplace fruits of applied science started in the working world and eventually followed us through the front door on the return commute. Today, mobile and web-based applications, and simple, easy-to-use technologies like Cisco’s own Flip video camcorder are changing our expectations of how IT works. Shoppers walk into stores with more powerful devices and apps than the retail associates trying to help them. Expect business users to demand migration of consumer experiences to the workplace.

Prediction 5: Cohen’s Unified Technology Theory of Coffee Price Increases — A little over 14 years ago, Tom Friedman, in his column in the New York Times, posited an early version of his “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention.” Tom noted: “when a country reaches a certain level of economic development, when it has a middle class big enough to support a McDonald’s, it becomes a McDonald’s country, and people in McDonald’s countries don’t like to fight wars; they like to wait in line for burgers.”

Here is my corollary theory: coffee prices will increase in those countries where a larger percentage of the economy is dependent on high technology industries and is growing faster than other nations. A recent report issued by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences predicted uneven growth around the world, with mixed performance in many developed economies and strong economic growth in many developing countries.

Countries such as India, China, Brazil and Indonesia are on the rise and so is coffee consumption in those nations. Indeed urbanization — with its associated acceleration of technology production and consumption — is directly related to coffee consumption.

Of my 5 predictions, I am most confident about the last! Also, to see an excellent set of predictions for IT and the Education sector, check out the top 10 of my colleague Lev Gonick, CIO of Case Western Reserve University.

Happy New Year.

Climate of Expectations

Alan Cohen | December 20, 2010 at 5:00 am PST

The course of civil life has taken an intense and acute turn over the past few years. The economic downturn of 2008 offered the first recession of the social networking era, where the interconnectedness and scale of the world economy was only matched by the growth of social networking and micro-blogging. If Facebook was a country, it would be the world’s third largest. Since the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, social networking has been a growing force in political life. Indeed, the threat of removal of Facebook would be the social network equivalent of the international sovereign debt crisis. As Finley Peter Dunne said last century, “it ain’t beanbag.”

The traditional arc of public sector institutions reflects these forces. For the first couple millennia of national systems were based on centralized power managed by tight, controlled and slow information networks. For a few thousand years, storytelling played the primary role in maintaining civil systems. Five hundred plus years ago, Johannes Gutenberg paved the way for dissemination of public orders and rules. Indeed, the Renaissance man of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin, was himself a printer.

The 20th century laid the foundation for the politics of the information age: telegraph, teletype, telephone, mobile and Internet. The crossover point in civil life from print to electronic communications is best represented by the famous mid-century photograph of Harry Truman holding up the newspaper headline (falsely) declaring he had lost the Presidential election to New York governor Thomas Dewey. What caused the error? A strike at the Chicago Tribune resulted in a switch in the production process resulting in the removal of the linotype machine (a worthy ancestor of the Guttenberg process) to photoengraving to printing plates. This forced the paper to go to print hours earlier than normal.

Fast-forward to today, and it’s apparent why the overheated zeitgeist of public life is compounded by handheld, always-connected information flows from a vast array of sources (with or without “fact checking”). The insatiable public lives on a diet of electronic media matched now by the media and individuals’ ability to support it. Ten years ago, the journalist Mickey Kaus, in talking about the Presidential primaries called this the Feiler Faster Thesis named after Bruce Feiler the journalist who conceived this during the 2000 Presidential primaries (and a strong voice on finding meaning in everyday life).

We now live in a different climate of expectations regarding public life. The good news is that the public sector is more transparent and moves faster. The bad news is that the public sector is more transparent and moves faster.

To illustrate a positive, when Haiti had its terrible earthquake earlier this year, we were able to marshal relief aid quicker than one could have imagined just a few years back. Through text message donations, the Red Cross set a record via mobile phones: $7 million in 24 hours.

Today we are learning a new balance in the conduct of civil life and instant information cycle. I am inherently an optimist. There is a great untapped power in people collaboration, both within and across public institutions and in through private/public partnerships. Today public sector entities must adapt to the new climate of expectations if they are to advance the populaces forward.

October 13, 2009

Getting To the New Normal (Part 2 of 2)

by Alan S. Cohen, vice president, Enterprise Solutions, Cisco.

I am a recovering (semi-competitive) mid and long-distance runner. At an advanced age (in my late 20s), I finished my last serious competitive race at 5:20 a.m., skidding a finish line on the FDR expressway in New York, having run the inaugural leg of America’s Ekiden. As part of the Washington, D.C. delegation, we ran the relay race through Manhattan at the wee hours — it was primetime television in Japan — and I finished dead last in my segment when I passed the sash to my anxious teammate. Like all runners, I competed against myself. And I lost. I should have known I was out-classed when I stood behind Steve Scott at the starting line. At that time, Scott was the American record holder in the mile, 5K, and several other feats of running prowess.

Unlike running, work should not involve competing with yourself. Increasingly, winners in the global economy emerge from companies and ecosystems where constructive teaming rather than self-competing creates the winning formula.

In my earlier blog on the New Normal, I noted that for many knowledge workers, the isolation and endless information flow could often feel like losing a relay race. Work often involves an endless series of assignments passed over a virtual wall to a waiting team member.

Increasingly, team members are both geographically distributed as well as crossing company boundaries. For this distributed workforce, the transaction and text-based collaboration systems developed over the past 30 years have run their course. It would be silly to call them obsolete. But they present a limited utility in this next wave of work, where innovation and operational efficiency come from people working together, rather than simply absorbing and using information.

For knowledge workers today, the new normal reminds us of the famous I Love Lucy scene, where Lucille Ball wraps pieces of candy coming through on a conveyer belt and things get too fast and crazy.

The new normal requires a new set of tools that enables the next wave of business innovation to flourish. Does the loneliness of long-distance email and document strings create an environment conducive to innovation? Prediction: The social media revolution will come to the Enterprise because it, too, needs community.

The new normal requires more human and media-rich interactions. Can you build trust with people you do not see on a daily basis through text communications? Prediction: On a mass scale, video technologies — not only telepresence and streaming video — will arrive in new, unique ways over the next few years.

The new normal requires the technology and innovation curve to support a more open environment where people know what their co-workers are doing. Can you increase efficiency if workers spend endless hours completing frustrating discovery and re-discovery of co-worker activities? Prediction: The way information and work is created and horded will change dramatically. It will happen dynamically, auto-magically for people.

The new normal requires collaboration technology to do more than simply share information, but to also share context. Can there be better ways to connect people, information and communities digitally, as if they worked in the same office? Prediction: Even brief communications can create knowledge.

The new normal, where innovation is truly unlocked, requires a dynamic understanding of company cognitive assets, or as Clay Shirky notes, unlocking a work chain’s cognitive surplus. Can you understand what all your employees can offer without the unpredictability (and mechanics) of manual tagging? Prediction: The network will become the great tool in unlocking cognitive surplus.

The next normal is a new normal where technology is the helpmate and not the taskmaster of collaboration. For the knowledge worker, this new normal cannot come fast enough. How are you getting to the new normal?

Posted by Alan Cohen at 08:41AM PST

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August 31, 2009

Collaboration for One, Collaboration for All

“Tous pour un, un pour tous. ” (All for one, one for all.)
— Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers

The fifth and final key finding from the study, Collaboration: Know Your Enthusiasts and Laggards (pdf), is the most unexpected: collaboration is useful in organizations of all sizes. A company of 300 people can benefit from collaboration equally as much as a company of 30,000. The study contradicted traditional expectations that collaboration is more prevalent in large enterprises.

In our top two collaborator segments, Collaboration Enthusiasts and Comfortable Collaborators, the distribution between enterprise and midmarket companies is nearly equal. 35% of our Collaboration Enthusiasts are in midmarket sized companies, while 28% are in enterprise sized companies. Similarly, 24% of our Comfortable Collaborators are in midmarket sized companies and 35% are in enterprises. This suggests that culture, process, and access to the right tools are more important for successful collaboration than other factors associated with the size of a company.

With nearly half of Enthusiastic Collaborators, 44%, in organizations with 500 to 999 employees, we think that the preponderance of mid-sized organizations in the Enthusiastic Collaborators segment might reflect their more fluid departmental boundaries. Employees who have met people in other departments within smaller companies, through everyday encounters, may be more inclined to proactively collaborate. Necessity is the mother of invention.

While strong collaboration environments are found across company sizes and industry types, our research found that government and not-for-profits lag in adoption of tools and the presence of strong collaborators. 65% of Collaboration Enthusiasts and Comfortable Collaborators work in for-profit environments. In comparison, 56% of Collaboration Laggards and Reluctant Collaborators are in government, education, and not-for-profit organizations. Perhaps the traditional structures of these entities as well as potential roadblocks associated with security/technology issues influence this statistic.

Overall the study led us to several conclusions. Collaboration can be learned and it can be measured; it should be viewed as science as much as art. Successful collaboration depends more upon management’s behavior toward use of collaboration tools and processes than the size of the company. And, when people regard collaboration as essential to their work, they reap the greatest productivity and innovation benefits.
Further, the study revealed several strategies that companies of all sizes and industries can adopt:

• Recognize that personal attitudes and organizational culture are as important as the collaboration tools.
• Encourage executives to model the desired collaboration practices.
• Reward collaboration, include it in performance reviews, and offer rewards for successful outcomes, or both.
• Implement formal collaboration processes.
• Provide the tools, IT support, and training needed to support collaboration.

At the end of day, this is about successful execution. As my colleague Randy Pond noted last week in his discussion of Cisco’s own collaboration initiatives: “What’s clear to me is that the most important advantage we’ve gained is a structure that allows us to quickly pull together cross-company functional experts that are empowered to make decisions and drive execution that’s good for both our customers and our shareholders.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 11:28AM PST

August 27, 2009

Collaboration: The Productivity Wave

“Productivity and the growth of productivity must be the first economic consideration at all times, not the last. That is the source of technological innovation, jobs, and wealth.” William Simon

Continuing in my series of blogs on the study, Collaboration: Know Your Enthusiasts and Laggards (.pdf), we now come to the fourth finding: productivity is the highest perceived benefit of collaboration.

Interestingly, in all collaborator segments, productivity is valued more than innovation and cost savings for their companies. In our top two segments, Collaboration Enthusiasts and Comfortable Collaborators, over 98% surveyed indicated that productivity is the main motivation to using collaboration tools. Likewise, 76% of Reluctant Collaborators and 85% of Collaboration Laggards indicated productivity as a motivator.

Response consistency pervades our study. Survey respondents agree that the top three uses for collaboration are day-to-day project work, business process improvement, and new product development. However, one notable area of difference resides with the Collaboration Enthusiasts; 73% are using collaboration tools for new product development in comparison to only 48% of Comfortable Collaborators, 39% of Reluctant Collaborators, and 36% of Collaboration Laggards leveraging collaboration tools for the same objective. This suggests that in highly collaborative environments, co-creation occurs more frequently.

Also, the top two segments use collaboration tools more frequently for business process improvement: 83% of Collaboration Enthusiasts and 87% of Comfortable Collaborators. An example of business process improvement is when a sales person is on the phone with a customer and uses instant messaging to get an answer or uses a virtual workspace to capture and share knowledge that helps close the sale.

Every network based collaboration tool cited in the study held more appeal for productivity than for innovation. 68% of those surveyed responded that web or data conferencing influenced productivity more than innovation. 65% indicated productivity gains for instant messaging were more valuable than innovation. Video conferencing at 63% and shared workspaces at 62% followed closely. Finally, internet forums or discussion boards and wikis were at 56% and 46% respectively.

At Cisco, in less than 3 years we have recognized 107 million dollars of productivity gains with the use of TelePresence alone. In fact, since October 2006, employees have logged 486,353 TelePresence hours, collectively avoided 71,630 trips, and in turn saved 154,721 metric tons of carbon emissions. 31,012 customer meetings were conducted via TelePresence. Based on the sample analysis, TelePresence reduced the time to close a sale by almost 10%. Meeting virtually, real time, across the globe enables more efficient, instantaneous connections that previously would have required days of travel away from work.

Speed matters. Speed and productivity go hand in hand. As the great science fiction writer and futurist Isaac Asimov noted: “I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 11:09AM PST

August 17, 2009

My Success, My Collaboration

“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” — Vince Lombardi

In my recent blog on the study, Collaboration: Know Your Enthusiasts and Laggards (.pdf), I reviewed our second key finding: organizational culture influences collaboration success. Company culture is clearly set by the CEO and promulgated by senior management. Thus, our third finding should come as no surprise: in companies that consider themselves advantaged by collaboration, the employees recognized it as critical to their work and individual success.

In our top two collaboration segments, 83 percent of Collaboration Enthusiasts and 82 percent of Comfortable Collaborators recognize that collaboration contributed to their individual success at work. The research shows when collaborative practices are openly rewarded and included in performance reviews, it drives the behavior across the enterprise.

Not all worker groups agree. In the two weakest collaboration segments, Reluctant Collaborators and Collaboration Laggards, the survey participants do not view collaboration as a make or break factor. Interestingly, these segments include more individual contributors who have been at the companies or in their job roles for the longest tenures.

According to 75 percent of respondents, work practices are more collaborative today than they were two years ago. Email and phone conferencing remain the most frequently used tools for collaboration, but other tools are being adopted rapidly. More than 75 percent use web conferencing, 68 percent use video collaboration, and about 40 percent use wikis and blogs.

Yet for a lot of companies, the legend of the superhero senior manager or executive who comes up with all the answers — working alone, late into the night — remains deeply ingrained in the corporate psyche. Indeed, in a recent Harvard Business Review blog, Tammy Erickson captured the transition senior management must undergo if they will influence the culture of collaboration. She calls it “pull management.” Erickson notes: “Today, encouraging a greater number of people to go just a little bit further is the essential job of leaders. Long gone is the time when our primary management challenge was to ensure that workers performed tasks consistently and reliably, using standardized best practices. Now we need “pull” approaches, geared to encourage individuals to share their ideas more widely and constructively, to push the boundaries of what’s possible further — or to be more collaborative and innovative.”

Or, as John Donne, the English Poet and Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral noted over 400 years ago “no man is an island.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:32AM PST

July 15, 2009

Breaking the Culture Code

“People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”
— Lou Gertsner, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?

In my last blog, I shared the first finding from the study, Collaboration: Know Your Enthusiasts and Laggards (.pdf doc), which grouped collaborators into one of four segments based on their habits, attitudes, behaviors and their organization’s policies and practices.

The second finding — and one of the most valuable — reveals that organizational culture influences collaboration success as much as the tools themselves. Several key factors enable a productive, innovative, collaborative working environment.

First, executive behavior modeling directly influences a collaborative working environment. More than 90 percent of Collaboration Enthusiasts and Comfortable Collaborators agreed that their management team serves as a good role model for using collaboration tools. In contrast, only 65 percent of Reluctant Collaborators and 57 percent of Collaboration Laggards agreed.

Secondly, tracking and rewarding collaboration behavior influences uptake. Approximately 40 percent of study participants (more for active collaborators) said their organization tracked collaboration effectiveness. Companies use metrics that include travel cost savings, time to market, and speed of issue resolution. Further, about half of all respondents agreed that their companies include collaboration in performance reviews and offer bonuses and other rewards for successful collaborative outcomes.

Thirdly, organizations that implement formal collaboration processes produce more collaborative behavior. Examples of collaboration processes include weekly group conference calls or blogging requirements. Far more Collaboration Enthusiasts (86 percent) and Comfortable Collaborators (63 percent) said their companies had a formal collaboration process in place than did Reluctant Collaborators (54 percent) and Collaboration Laggards (29 percent).

Finally, and not surprisingly, the most successful collaborators responded that their organizations provided collaboration tools and the training needed to use them effectively. Collaboration Enthusiasts (95 percent) and Comfortable Collaborators (94 percent) more often said the technical tools that support collaboration were in place at their company than Reluctant Collaborators (73 percent) and Collaboration Laggards (46 percent). The pattern is similar for training: Collaboration Enthusiasts (90 percent) and Comfortable Collaborators (92 percent) were far more likely to say that they, and members of their workgroup, had received the necessary training to use collaboration tools effectively than Reluctant Collaborators (71 percent) and Laggards (49 percent).

At Cisco, we understand the importance of organizational culture on collaboration first hand — after a long journey where collaboration did not start quickly or smoothly. As I have written in the past, collaboration is a tops-down process, starting with the CEO. For a brief overview of how Cisco cracked the culture code on collaboration, a recent Fast Company article provides a succinct and fun read.

VOD: It’s not “IF” you collaborate, but “HOW”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 02:26PM PST

June 17, 2009

Great Collaborators: Nature vs. Nurture

“To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” — Henry David Thoreau

For technology companies, demonstrating how its solutions yield benefits to potential customers is a powerful motivator for adoption. In the field of Communications and Collaboration, it is critical.

Consequently, in December 2008, Cisco conducted one of the first comprehensive studies on the factors associated with successful adoption of network-based collaboration. The study, Collaboration: Know Your Enthusiasts and Laggards (.pdf), surveyed 800 people in a wide variety of U.S. medium-sized and enterprise organizations who:

• Spend at least 20% of time at work using a network-connected computer
• Use a mobile phone or handheld device
• Participate in two or more collaborative activities per month

Our objective was to identify habits and characteristics of high-performing collaboration groups. In addition to pattern matching, the study found evidence that contradicts some common perceptions about today’s collaborators. For instance, it proved that good collaboration is more of a planned management strategy than an organic occurrence.

Over the next few weeks, I will share five distinct findings that emerged from this study. Today, let’s look at the first finding.

Finding 1: Collaborators Fit into Four Distinct Segments

While previous studies considered the personal or cultural factors influencing successful collaboration, our research showed that collaborators could be grouped into one of four segments based on their habits, attitudes, behaviors and their organization’s policies and practices. These four segments reflect collaborative behavior in descending order of success:
• Collaboration Enthusiasts
• Comfortable Collaborators
• Reluctant Collaborators
• Collaboration Laggards

Collaboration Enthusiasts — Enthusiasts, the most successful collaborators, include a majority of professionals in mid- to upper-management. These respondents view collaboration as critical to their job role. Indeed, in this group:
• Employers have formal collaboration processes.
• Employers have reward systems that track collaboration effectiveness.
• Employers provide tools and training.
• Individuals have held their job role 6–9 years.
• Organizations are for-profit vs. non-profit.
• Individuals use, on average, 22 technology tools (both traditional tools like email and voicemail as well as Web 2.0 tools like blogs and wikis).

Comfortable Collaborators — Collaborators in this segment are primarily supervisors in their late 30s. They also view collaboration as essential to their job role, but may not achieve the same level of results as the Enthusiasts.
• Employers have some formal collaboration processes.
• Employers provide tools and training but do not necessarily reward collaborative behavior.
• Individuals use more traditional technology tools than Enthusiasts, including email, conferencing, and calendaring.
• Individuals have held their job role three to five years.
• Organizations are for-profit vs. non-profit.
• Individuals use, on average, 16 technology tools.

Reluctant Collaborators — Reluctant Collaborators are both supervisors and individual contributors who view collaboration as useful, not essential, to their job roles.
• Individuals tend to collaborate only with those at the local site.
• Employers are less likely to have formal collaboration processes.
• Individuals have held their job role one to two years.
• Organizations are both for-profit and non-profit.

Collaboration Laggards — Laggards tend to be individual contributors. They also view collaboration as useful, not essential, to their job roles.
• Individuals tend to collaborate one-to-one.
• Employers may not provide many technology tools or training.
• Employers are unlikely to have formal collaboration processes and do not directly reward collaboration.
• Individuals have held their job role an average of 16 years.
• Organizations are both for-profit and non-profit.

If I could be so bold, the big question is this: Do good collaborators seek certain organizations and environments or do collaborative environments breed good collaborators? In either case, it is possible to determine which kinds of organizations and workers are likely to succeed in collaboration and to plan for success in this area.

It’s Not “If” You Collaborate but “How” — VoD

Collaboration: Know Your Enthusiasts and Laggards — White Paper

Posted by Alan Cohen at 03:41PM PST

June 09, 2009

The Video Game Changer in Communications and Collaboration

In my recent blog entry Cisco’s Collaboration Imperative, I reflected on why collaboration was a natural adjacency for Cisco. Over the past 8 years, as documented recently in Fast Company, we have evolved our operating model to be the sine qua non of collaboration in terms of operational excellence, innovation, and culture.

In this post, I want to highlight the key underpinning of our collaboration leadership beachhead: our architectural approach. This architectural approach is evident across all of Cisco’s technologies that support collaboration as well as business video.

In communications and collaboration, video, combined with voice and data, is a game changer; clearly HP and Microsoft both have recently concluded to be successful in this area that the network matters. A collaboration solution that lacks the ability to link the rich services of the network to its applications is the equivalent of one hand clapping.

Visual Networking

As noted in Paul Lester’s seminal study, we now understand that tone, inflection and facial expressions account for 93 percent of the message in communications. Lester cites NYU educational psychologist Jerome Bruner in showing that people remember 30 percent of what they read, but about 80 percent of what they see.

As globalization increases the desire for more personal contact across distance and cultural boundaries, video is becoming a mainstream capability for consumers and businesses alike. Thus, getting our business video strategy right has yielded a huge lead in the TelePresence systems market, a key part of our collaboration solution. This can be measured both by the number of TelePresence customers and unit installations and the actual utilization of the system, which dwarfs the low usages rate of legacy video conferencing. Cisco and the other companies that have implemented TelePresence have found a 10X+ multiple in utilization versus other forms of video communications.

TelePresence is an architectural play that was built on top of our market leading solution in Unified Communications, another market leader. Other Cisco business video offerings such as our Digital Media Systems leverage Cisco TelePresence in a host of ways, including being part of the content and display system offering for our Cisco TelePresence Recording Solution. But why read about it here, when there is a “video data sheet” you can watch.

Two Hands Clapping: The Network and Applications Collaborate

Of course, this may sound like a slew of cool rich media applications. However, the key architectural play is when the network and the applications come together, supporting each other, much like how we experience the iPod and iTunes working together.

The power of the network is not simply manifested through minimal compliance with the IEEE and IETF standards — which is the norm for other networking vendors. Our architecture for the support of business video and collaboration in the network is called medianet and represents the evolution of converged IP networks. Medianet, is an intelligent network optimized for rich media. In this architecture the services are in the network, and also are added to existing and new classes of devices.

Medianet has built-in intelligence that optimizes rich media by providing adaptability, predictability, and guaranteed experiences to deliver visual networking transparently to any device. Specific capabilities supporting video and collaboration include:

• Quality of experience
• Content virtualization
• Mobility
• Session control
• Security
• Management

A winning collaboration architecture requires a holistic approach. To successfully implement the full swath of collaboration capabilities, the devices, applications, content, and network must conform together securely and adaptively across boundaries.

Cisco leadership transcends our technology offerings. We have learned, from the CEO down, process, culture and technology must be aligned to maximize the benefit of collaboration. We do not believe that companies built on pure hierarchies can lead their customers through the collaboration journey. Indeed, as Morton Hansen notes, in his brilliant new book, Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results:, “To unite a company, the top team needs to be united, too. Top executives need to practice the value of teamwork that they preach.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:40AM PST

May 26, 2009

Cisco’s Collaboration Imperative: The Next Market Adjacency

In a recent Q&A our Chairman and CEO John Chambers reflected on Cisco’s future growth, sharing a “Back to the Future” moment with the financial and industry analyst community:

“We believe that we are very well positioned in the industry from a vision, differentiated strategy, and execution perspective. We believe we are entering the next phase of the Internet as growth and productivity will center on collaboration enabled by networked Web 2.0 technologies. We are going to attempt to execute a strategy over the next decade that is similar to what we did in the early 90s and as we’ve said before, it powered our growth for the next decade.”

During the first wave the Internet, Cisco capitalized on an Internet Business Solutions model powered by our own networking technologies. This second wave, a new business and operating model powered by our collaborative technologies, is driving our next growth push, allowing us to enter a range of new market adjacencies.

Our movement into the emerging collaboration technology market comes with the same focus and conviction as our 10-year push into Unified Communications market, where we went from niche entrant building gateways to save transport costs to the market leader in a diversified and highly competitive marketplace. Thus it might be worthwhile to review some key milestones in the critical technology segments that underpin communications and collaboration.

As part of our leadership position in Unified Communications, we are the first technology company in history to achieve 30% share in the Enterprise Voice market, with over 100,000 customers worldwide, including 85% using our solution through their PCs, mobile devices as well as the 23M+ IP Phones that we have shipped.

Key leadership milestones Cisco has hit in the Collaboration journey include:

• #1 position in Overall PBX Line Shipments (source: Dell’Oro)
• #1 in Web Conferencing (source: Intellicom Analytics)
• #1 in Audio Conferencing (source: Intellicom Analytics)
• #2 in IP Contact Center (source: Gartner)
• #2 in Unified Messaging (source: Intellicom Analytics)

Cisco’s position in collaboration is not limited to premise-based offerings. The WebEx component of our collaboration solution is one of the largest software-as-service (SaaS) offerings in the world. As of May 2009, we have over 3 million registered users, over 90% of the Fortune 500 using WebEx on a daily basis. Other key milestones include:
* Over 10 million participants in WebEx meetings every month
* Over 200,000 WebEx meetings on an average day
* Participants from over 150 countries
* Over 100,000 downloads of the WebEx Meeting Center iPhone application has been downloaded in 62 countries

Over time, we see people using services from both the cloud and premise in a seamless and powerful experience.
Finally, one of the newest leadership categories for business collaboration market is our push into Telepresence, which revolutionized how video is used in the Enterprise: with over 350 customers and over 2000 systems sold, Cisco is the clear innovation leader. Some of our first-to-market achievements include:
• First switched multipoint,
• Intercompany calling,
• Vertical applications such as HealthPresence,
• Recording solution, and
• Public suites.

These technology achievements also have witnessed distinct market strength in finance, retail, service provider, CPG, government and other sectors.
Video is what changes everything. As the market leader in Telepresence, we have revolutionized the marketplace through the Cisco TelePresence Exchanges that allow companies to collaborate across company boundaries. These inter-company capabilities are offered today by several global, market leading carrier partners of Cisco, including ATT and BT. Other partners such as Tata have democratized the use of Cisco TelePresence through the deployment of public suites.

In addition, unlike other players in the market, our Telepresence offering was built on top of our UC platform, allowing for seamless integration into our Collaboration portfolio — and like all of collaboration offerings in this area, a range of opportunities for customization and interoperability that spawned a large partner ecosystem on the path to providing customer solutions.
In evaluating a company’s ability to penetrate an emerging market, it is important to understand its existing beachheads. Or as Lord Kelvin noted: “mathematics is the only good metaphysics.”

The $100 Billion Collaboration Stimulus Plan of 2009 — Part 2

In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people.
— F.D.R., Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 1937

In my first blog on this subject, I outlined the financial and emotional costs of poor meeting and collaboration practices among knowledge workers worldwide. Indeed, improving just a reasonable fraction of certain work patterns would provide as strong a stimulus plan to business as many of the planks in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

With a tip of the virtual hat to the new Administration, following is my 6-point plan for reinvigorating the knowledge worker segment:

1. Knowledge Worker Productivity Revolution. Increasing the productivity/output by 2%-4% of knowledge workers is the equivalent of adding millions of jobs to the economy. At the dead center of this strategy is a set of new rules, new ways to work. The simplest way to look at this is from 3 perspectives:
• Culture
• Process
• Technology

Cisco’s strategy in this area was recently presented at the World Business Forum by our Chairman and CEO, John Chambers. For more insights in this area, Cisco has launched an online collaboration community for best practice sharing.

2. Clinical Collaboration. Health care now represents approximately 16% of the U.S. economy and according to a recent poll by the Henry Kaiser Foundation people rank health care near the top of their economic concerns. We are at an historic crossroads in how medical care is delivered. There is an opportunity to save costs and improve the delivery and effectiveness of medical care through technology-enabled solutions such as HealthPresence, which supports effective delivery of care and medical expertise in remote or even rural environments without travel

3. Energywise Collaboration. Gartner recently predicted that Telepresence will replace 2 million airline seats by 2012. I think this prediction could be off by an order of magnitude. While Gartner predicts that $3.5B will be recovered through this reduction in air travel, I believe the full sweep of collaboration technologies could be multiples higher. It will also address some of the $41B that is lost to travel delays cited in my first blog. Increasingly, a range of Collaboration technologies are reducing not only the need for air travel, but providing other carbon and time benefits through even local movement (e.g., train, car, etc.)

4. Boundary-less Information and Education. An enormous drag on businesses remains the sheer time involved in finding and utilizing information across a broad range of stakeholders on any work project. As detailed by my colleagues Nader Nanjiani and Dave Butt, the creation of an effective virtual workspace dramatically improves the overall experience and time/cost equation for effective work practices.

In addition, there is another benefit for the Education sector. The ability to provide the best talent and skills to any student at any time will dramatically reshape how education is delivered and its resulting benefits to the emerging workforce. This is a cornerstone of our 21st Century Schools program, an environment were collaboration technologies are part of everyday learning and where the world’s reservoir of knowledge is available right from the classroom.

5. Improving the effectiveness of Remote and Mobile Work. The Internet and Mobile revolutions of the past four decades have dramatically improved our ability to communicate over distances. Yet the real productivity gains emerge when we can effectively collaborate remotely, dramatically reducing the needs for physical facilities.

6. Inter-company Collaboration. All too often, most companies believe their productive intellectual assets are stored within the confines of their own corporate structure. Indeed, many collaboration theorists like Clay Shirky have done amazing work detailing how to unlock the “cognitive surplus” of corporations. Businesses are not only comprised of internal assets, but external ones, including the capabilities of partners, supplier and customers. Unlocking that surplus — or, probably a better metaphor, finding it between the cracks of companies — can be an enormously significant part of a collaboration stimulus plan. The ubergain in my plan is when your partner’s team is seamless with your team, and your information and people and theirs are seamlessly and securely aligned. The first stage in this revolution was provision of distance meeting tools like our Webex offering. Increasingly, tools like inter-company TelePresence solutions are now mining these inter-company collaboration assets.

Favor comes because for a brief moment in the great space of human change and progress some general human purpose finds in him a satisfactory embodiment. –F.D.R.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:17AM

February 23, 2009

The $100 Billion Collaboration Stimulus Plan of 2009 — Part 1

“Can you come to a meeting right now.” “No, it’s almost lunch time. If I miss lunch my day will be 12 hours of uninterrupted misery.” — The Boss and Dilbert

Inspiration hits you at unusual times. I was standing in front of the Cisco Telepresence Experience at the NBA All Star game last weekend (February 7–8) — watching a long line of fans stand in line to have virtual face-to-face meetings with players like Steve Nash and Kevin Durant, or chat with local sportscasters engaging them in trivia contests — when I realized this inspiring experience was enabling a once in a lifetime opportunity for the 900+ people who queued up for the opportunity. They could get closer to an NBA player than they ever imagined. Imagine meeting with your CEO or your customer’s?

The best-known justifications for Telepresence are reductions in travel expenses and time lost in transit. But the singular benefit of this technology is the meeting experience itself; that is, the full engagement employees bring to these meetings. If reduced travel time and expense is the locomotive, engagement is the freight of the Telepresence train.

Contrast this with the plethora of meetings you attend on a daily basis. How many of the meetings you attend would you classify as inspiring? How many would you call productive? Or fun?

For us mere mortals, no one — and I mean no one — does a better job of demonstrating the odd zeitgeist of the numbing meeting culture than Scott Adams, the well-known creative genius behind the daily cartoon Dilbert. All of us in the knowledge worker class relate to Adam’s razor-sharp depiction of the energy-sapping loss of time and motivation resulting from bad meetings*.

Thus I declare it’s time. It’s time, to paraphrase Hamlet, “to take arms against a sea of inane meetings and end it all with solutions.” Particularly during these challenging economic times, when companies are trying to save their capital, unlock their employees’ potential and drive true customer intimacy, the financial overhead of bad meetings is too expensive for any company to suffer.

The Obama administration named the stimulus plan the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I am calling my modest proposal the “Collaboration Stimulus Plan of 2009” and believe that, if diligently executed, will put $100 Billion back into the coffers of business. This capital can be used for investment in more productive pursuits than the lost luggage line.

Let me start by outlining the potential of the opportunity here and in the next blog more fully detail the plan.

Research by Verizon shows that U.S. companies alone hold 11–20 million meetings per day. According to the survey, professionals attended 12.2 meetings per month via travel, audio or video conferencing as well as 49.6 internal or local face-to-face meetings for a total of over 61 meetings per month. Research has also shown that up to 50 percent of this meeting time is considered wasted. Professionals in the Verizon study attending these meetings admit to daydreaming (91%) and/or missing parts of meetings (95%). A large percentage of meeting attendees (73%) say they have brought other work to meetings and 39% say they have dozed during meetings.

So what is the cost to business? Let me start the U.S.
If there are:

- 50 million knowledge workers in the U.S ., that
— Attend 2 (1–2 hour) meetings per day, with at least 1 hour lost
— Multiply that by, say, $30/hour translates to
— $1.5B per day in lost productivity or in a 233 workdays per year, about
— $350B per year just for the U.S. alone or an estimated
— $1Trillion per year worldwide

However, I think I am only scratching the surface on the problem. If we add the costs of business travel (time lost as well as travel expense) the figure would go up. Today the average domestic business trip costs over $1000 (and triple that for international travel). Indeed, flights delays alone cost the economy over $41B per year.

I posit that a change to meeting process, culture and technology can add U.S. $100 Billion of productivity to the workforce, worldwide. This is my Collaborative Stimulus Plan of 2009. Stay tuned for details!

* Blogger’s note: Scott Adams and I live in the same town in the East Bay. We both worked earlier in our careers as financial analysts and have worked in the network department of a phone company. Any other resemblances are not intentional and all names have been changed to protect the innocent — mostly me.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 05:30AM

February 09, 2009

The Twitterati Mean Business

I have something to confess: I am not much of a Twitterer @ascohen. Although I like to blog, and I have become relentless on Facebook, powered by the sagging belt syndrome of carrying an iPhone and a Blackberry that have allowed me to become an ambidextrous Web 2.0er, alas, I have not yet fully jumped to the “Jitter of Twitter.”

But I have seen it, enviously, in action. Our CTO, Pamasaree Warrior is one of the most Tweeted Cisco figures (over 4500 followers), with Doug Gourlay and the “Hole in the Data Center” gang following rapidly on her heels At our Collaboration Launch in September, I observed about 80 of the world’s leading analysts Tweeting away for days, turbocharged by Cisco presentations on our strategy and a ready supply of coffee and caffeinated soda.

The Twitter and Facebook phenomena both yield some interesting possibilities and risks for business. To start with, these two digital communities provide a constant and rich presence engine for individuals. Not only do people know where you are and if you are available — brandishing the “two towers” of mobility and unified communications, location and presence — they actually know your mood or even what you had for breakfast in Barcelona, Bahia or Brooklyn.

In my own (tongue-in-cheek) way, I have asked our IT department, repeatedly, for an approach to federated, cross-company presence based on the album titles that the late Miles Davis created or appeared on. The jazz giant, I believe, is much better suited to explaining my status and mood than I am. To simplify the request, I even narrowed it down to the following 10 settings:
• Chasin the Bird
• Come into the Cool
• Kinda Blue
• In a Silent Way
• Big Fun
• Back on the Block
• No Time for Poetry
• Tea Time
• Tourist Season
• With the Modern Jazz Quartet

Our friend David Kirkpatrick of Fortune is writing a book on this on this phenomena called The Facebook Effect. In fact, you can follow his progress (and even seen a copy of his publishing contract, on Facebook itself — after you sign up instantly to be a fan.

Of course, Twitter and Facebook are worlds coming together rapidly over the next 1–2 years and we all better pay attention to what it means for our work. From a business perspective, the interesting blend of personal and business falls into a gray DMZ in the social networking sphere. While it is interesting for my friends to see the latest iPhone pix of my weekend ride up Mines Road in Livermore, does it make sense to blend it with my latest rant on the competitive status of the visual networking market?

When I got out of college, my father took me to Brooks Brothers in New York and bought me a decent Harris Tweed sport coat. The sales woman at the store said: “if you want to play on the team, you have to wear the right uniform.”

Yet technology and work styles — in addition to the demise of formal business attire in many company cultures — have changed much of this. Work is more of an activity than a place and the Internet and mobile communications have fused the idea of the office, home or on the move.

Indeed, in my own profession of marketing, traditional communications and marketing functions at most corporations were designed to facilitate a carefully scripted broadcast of information and positions from a company to its customers and partners as well as to the press, analysts, and even competitors that follow it. Increasingly, as our director of new media Jeannette Gibson noted to the Financial Times a few weeks ago, we are shifting to two-way or infinite-way conversations. Once you have started Twittering and social networking with your market, how are you going to keep them on the press release farm?

There is a profound shift in the communications and collaboration world driven by the immediacy of Web 2.0 approaches infusing our working world. At the end of the day, Social Networking and Collaboration technologies built on IT Virtualization provide many opportunities for companies: but the one that matters most is speed!

So even the most ardent writer/blogger must understand resistance is futile. Starting later this week, I will begin Tweeting from the NBA All-Star Weekend in Phoenix, not about the famous vertical sights but the infusion of technology in the game. You can follow me on Twitter @ascohen.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:21AM

January 12, 2009

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities*

Like many of us, I am the child of parents born during the Great Depression who came of age in the great upsurge of the post-World War II economy. As a young man entering the workforce, my father, a WWII and Korean War veteran, found his perspective colored by the dramatic, expanding prosperity surrounding him juxtaposed next to strong childhood memories of breadlines for the unemployed. His generation enjoyed the increased spending power of their growing financial success tempered with a cold eye that always put away a little something “for a rainy day.”

Tom Brokaw called them “the Greatest Generation,” a group of Americans that endured sacrifice and material scarcity but also enjoyed opportunities unheralded on a mass scale. For mid-20th Century government and business leadership, education and industry were the keys to economic prosperity. Investment in these priorities helped create the largest, most vibrant economy in the world. The defining government program for that generation was the “GI Bill” (officially titled Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944), which provided essential support for a massive increase in the number of veterans who could own a home and obtain a college education. As a result, the GI Bill enabled economic mobility for tens of millions of Americans by bringing the attainment of these two pillars of success to many beyond the affluent.

We are now at a similar crossroads as the world economy struggles and as government and business leaders debate the best approaches to moving forward.

For leaders in the early-21st Century, education (again) and technology-enabled businesses and government services offer similar promise for a new era of economic prosperity and personal advancement. The open question is whether we have the imagination and power to dream of a connected future and to then make the requisite investments to meet the opportunity, as an earlier generation did.

Writing in this Sunday’s Mercury News, our Chairman and CEO John Chambers makes the case for broadband investment as one of the key pillars of this future.

As he notes:
“Imagine what the United States could accomplish if our broadband speeds were not just competitive, but leading-edge. Imagine what broadband could do for health care: a medical specialist in Cleveland, Ohio could do a virtual house call via high-definition video to a homebound retiree in Henderson, Nev.”

The network is both a great enabler of many new industries and a great flattener of barriers to social mobility. In a connected life — one in which rich virtual, Telepresence-enabled experiences are a click away — living in a rural community or a depressed industrial city are not inhibitors to knowledge, expertise or opportunity. The big shift is the ability to work from anywhere, as the very concept of the office, classroom or government department changes — as the service delivery model becomes more virtual and more highly available.

As I wrote in my last blog, if Six Sigma was the management science of the Greatest Generation, then broadband-enabled collaboration, work and educational processes are the promise for the next wave of business competitiveness and the current generation of student, workers and citizens. As the incoming administration contemplates economic stimulus, it is worth addressing the merits of this assertion.
Broadband, video-enabled businesses:
• Supports education and communications on a mass basis,
• Offers reach and capabilities beyond today’s delivery model,
• Is greener than other forms of business or service that demand travel.

It will require courage to make this investment, to embrace the economic change from atoms to bits. But as many have noted lately, a recession is a terrible thing to waste. It can free us from the conceptions of the past and provide us with both the dreams and responsibility to build out a new and even brighter future.*W.B. Yeats, 1914, Later Poems Posted by Alan Cohen at 11:33AM

December 15, 2008

Collaboration — A Top Down Process!

My prior blog entry, “Teams of Rivals”, explored how the triptych of process, culture and technology must come together to enable a productive, innovative collaborative working environment. In this post, I want to offer an integral, related variable to the collaborative management equation: the role of the CEO and top management in fostering an effective participatory work environment.
The road to collaboration is a journey. But it is a directed, not self-guided trip, one that must be carefully overseen by senior management. Guidebooks and maps are not readily available as the structure of most businesses over the past several centuries has been hierarchical. It was only in the 1950s when Peter Drucker, the leading management theorist of the past century, noted that while hierarchy is an important management principle, it is not sufficient for companies to thrive, particularly in turbulent times. He was the first critic of command and control structure, adopted from military organizations — where it usually made a lot of sense — to become the dominant organizational framework of most companies.

Indeed the CEO must flatten decision-making and resource allocation hierarchies in order to allow market insight and innovation to flourish. As outlined in a recent Fast Company feature, Cisco has moved decision-making from a few fistfuls of senior executives to over 500 top managers across the company since 2001. The objective is to develop a strongly executing, global enterprise where leadership emerges anywhere and everywhere, unchained to the traditional management structure. The goal: market share, growth, and innovation. And this is only the beginning: in the next few years, thousands of managers could participate in this approach.

While Cisco might be a most aggressive company in moving to a collaborative work culture, the dangers of excessive hierarchy, of concentrating information and decision-making, has been documented throughout history. In his seminal treatise on the dangers of executive decision-making by a single small group of individuals, Irving Jarvis, the author of Groupthink , outlined how President John F. Kennedy learned this lesson, both negatively (The Bay of Pigs invasion) and positively (resolution of the Cuban missile crisis).

Groupthink reflects the tendency of a small group of individuals to reinforce each other in decision-making rather than work through all the information necessary to make good decisions and investments. Indeed, the role of the senior political (or business) leader actually inhibits good decision-making in situations where the managers wrestling with the decision are impacted as much by the presence of the executive as the facts themselves. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy was careful to not intrude on his managers’ deliberations too often.
Given the complexity of most large, global enterprises, the idea of the “wise few” is giving way to the wisdom of the crowd. We are now seeing the emergence of a new leadership style where the CEO is both the final decider (the buck has to stop somewhere) as well as the chief collaboration officer, the person who drives a flatter, decentralized and participatory culture.

For most large enterprises, the stakes involved here are considerable. Cisco’s positioning guru Ron Ricci said to me the other day that “Collaboration is the Six Sigma of the Information Age. If Six Sigma focused on removing variation from manufacturing processes, then collaboration is about putting it back in.”

Indeed, the first wave of the Internet was about machine-to-machine or people-to-machine transactions; it was automating manufacturing, sales and support processes for industrial companies. And emphasis was on Six Sigma-type environments that focused on reducing errors in order processing, information gathering and utilization, and problem resolution.. To put it succinctly, the first wave of the Internet was about transactions at speed.

The second wave of the Internet — is about variation and innovation at speed. It is about playing in new market segments and a global market place at speed and scale. Senior management plays a critical role in supporting this transition to the second wave of the Internet, as well.

To successfully navigate the collaboration journey, organizations must have trust. They must have rules of the road — operating principles — on how collaboration works within their enterprise. The senior management team plays a critical role in establishing a trusting environment and protecting its success, transforming the corporate culture from the primacy of the individual — be it the executive, the team or business unit — to the primacy of the total organization.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:44AM

November 17, 2008

Teams of Rivals

In her brilliant account of Abraham Lincoln’s political ascension to the White House during one of the bleakest periods of American history, Doris Kearns Goodwin details how the 16th President engaged the talents of his strongest political rivals, pulling them into a “dream team” during the darkest hour of the American Republic. Team of Rivals charts how Lincoln created a “collaboration effect” by fostering and communicating a common good to which even competitive, ambitious individuals could adhere.

As we face the darkest business climate in a generation, working across corporate and geographic boundaries can play a critical role in determining whether companies survive or thrive during these tough times. With much of the world economy mired in tremendous uncertainties, there exists a unique inflection point for changing, for morphing the traditional rules of competition and commerce. There is now an opportunity for companies that have been rivals to work together, either structurally or in rapidly-formed, short term “mash-ups,” to jointly address the challenges and opportunities in front of them.

Bringing companies together to collaborate requires change in three areas:
• Culture
• Process
• Technology

Cultural change is a willingness to look to partnerships and business relationships well beyond the reach of your own company’s resources or your natural ecosystem of trading partners. This could include teaming with a company in one product segment while still competing fiercely with it in other segments. It involves a willingness, an orientation to find talent in new unexpected places and make it part of your business. And as Evan Rosen notes in his book and blog, The Culture of Collaboration, the biggest cultural change comes from building a new trust model for business.

The process element envelops a new approach to management and measurement. It means different kinds of work teams — inherently more cross-functional and cross-company. Changing to collaborative processes requires an approach that unlocks the “cognitive surplus” of your own company as well as that of your partners. And it means looking for leadership at all levels of an organization — not just your own and not simply at the top. Entire organizations like InnoCentive have arisen to change the process of company innovation from the outside in.

Technology fostering collaboration comes in many forms and devices. It can be team workspaces or new approaches to Telepresence-based experiences. It can be delivered as a service (including web meetings and messaging systems) or by leveraging a converged IP network like unified communications.

The technology arena has been particularly challenging for cross-company collaboration because traditional communications and collaboration systems were designed to support a single-company enterprise IT model. Indeed, security requirements actually prevented the federation of IT systems and slowed the pace of application innovation (unlike the “widget” marketplaces you see with Webex Connect or Apple’s iPhone/iPod), restricting it to corporate IT or within the framework of a monolithic enterprise application suite.
But now, as my colleagues will discuss in the next few blogs, the promise and reality of cross-company collaboration is at hand.

Lincoln’s genius in holding together “the last best hope of mankind” involved tirelessly getting the best results from the talent he had assembled, regardless of whether that talent saw Lincoln and each other as rivals.
Perhaps the manifestation of business collaboration shares some of these same breakthrough principles within and across companies.

by Alan S. Cohen, VP Enterprise/Mid-Market Solutions Marketing

Posted by Leanne Schrotzberger at 04:16PM

September 24, 2008

Cisco Collaboration Portfolio Enables the Next Phase of the Internet

Today Cisco announced several new solutions that make up the Cisco collaboration portfolio. Unified communications, video and a new Web 2.0 applications platform are Cisco’s way of walking the talk when it comes to the next wave of the internet and collaboration. In this video, Alan Cohen, Vice President, Enterprise & Mid-Market Solutions at Cisco, elaborates on the lasting impact today’s announcements will have on the way people communicate and collaborate in the enterprise.

For further discussion on the Cisco collaboration portfolio, go to The Workspace

September 24, 2008

Collaboration, Web 2.0: Past as Prologue

Post by Alan S. Cohen, Vice President, Enterprise & Mid-Market Solutions

“Whereof what’s past is prologue; what to come, In yours and my discharge.”
— Shakespeare, The Tempest

In preparing for our Collaboration launch today, I reflected upon Cisco’s evolution in this market, from our first VoIP gateways in the 90s, our leadership of IP Telephony gained at the beginning of the decade, and our leadership in Unified Communications over the past few years. At each juncture, we succeeded by anticipating the market transition underway while building upon our prior market leadership. Today marks another transition, the fusion of the UC and Collaboration markets, accelerated by the twin business drivers of globalization and virtualization.

About 6 months ago at VoiceCon, we initiated our vision of Collaboration that brings together UC, Web 2.0 applications and Video, delivered either on the Enterprise Network or through the cloud, such as the Webex Mediatone network. Our vision reaches beyond intra-company to cross-company collaboration, enabled by the rich horizontal services of network such as security, policy, mobility and identity, making the collaboration tools and applications transparent to the end user despite the delivery model. And it would be characterized by compelling two-way video communications that transcend time, distance, and cultural issues.

Nobel Laureate Al Gore and Cisco CEO John Chambers Host Virtual Discussion on Climate Change and Technology Innovation

Click here to view my conversation last March with Fritz Nelson of CMP discussing this market transition.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 12:05AM PST

September 24, 2008 (NOT ON BLOG WEBSITE)

The Collaboration Effect: The Second Wave of the Internet

Post by Alan S. Cohen, Vice President, Enterprise & Mid-Market Solutions

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space.”
— Albert Einstein, 1954

Last week we experienced one of the most tumultuous rides in the world financial markets in quite some time. The interconnectedness of the world equity markets — already roiling from the year-plus credit crunch — demonstrates, viscerally, how deeply ingrained the first wave of the Internet, the wave that connected every computer to every other computer, is in the software of economics and finance. Information, much of it unfiltered but transmitted at awesome speed, created tremendous gyrations that caused companies long considered rock-solid institutions to teeter, and, in some cases, to fall. All of this occurred on a wave of Ethernet and fiber strung together from every financial capital to the next, worldwide. Countless investors swept the emotional gamut as hundreds of billions of dollars of equity were wiped out and then regained in days, even hours.

The uplifting (though certainly not final) conclusion to last week’s financial turmoil was a human network effect: the collaboration between various elected and appointed government agencies alongside private industry to hammer out a rapid but powerful solution to the credit crisis. It took people with skills, knowledge and the desire to work together. The proposal Secretary Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke presented is a manifestation of what we believe will be the second wave of the Internet: collaboration.

Collaboration posits such a powerful business concept because it puts people and context back into decision-making. While the first wave of the Internet allowed connectivity and trading algorithms to move trillions of dollars daily on a global basis, it fell short on solutions where insight and awareness were required. Today we see collaboration as a transcendent strategy for business, crossing boundaries of location, time, language, and corporate or government structures.

Powerful, multi-modal, cross-company collaboration solutions that unleash innovation and productivity are the heart of what we call the “collaboration effect.” It is a profoundly simple concept: put people back into the center of communications and decision-making, even if they are not members of the same work-team or company, or don’t even work on the same continent.

As business becomes increasingly digital, work is more of an activity than a physical place; thus the physical workplace must become a virtual “workspace.” Successful workspaces must not only support replication of business processes and communications, but actually allow them to morph or go away.

In the world of collaboration, two people should be able to innovate, to create more value by working together than working apart (1+1=3). However, the dramatic side of collaboration is when old work processes actually go away (1–1=3) while productivity and innovation rise.

The collaboration portfolio we are introducing today, built on the foundation of a rich, intelligent network, offers a new way to work within and across company boundaries, digitally providing the context and body language of working together without the necessity of travel. Our collaboration offerings were engineered with both business productivity and innovation foremost, but have the added benefit of lowering the carbon footprint of businesses.

Collaboration is the critical next step in the Internet journey as we move from a global culture of transactions to one of interactions. We have learned that Web 2.0, the desire to build community, is manifested in business as collaboration

Collaboration is important for the rapid globalization of innovation and trade: not only for developed nations to sell to developing nations, but for the rapid importing of new business processes and products from emerging markets. The best ideas, we are learning, can come from anyone, anywhere.

If we are going to support global growth and prosperity, we need innovative tools that do not, in Tom Friedman’s terms, make the world “hot, flat and crowded.”

Collaboration is important for the future sustainability of our planet, as we demonstrated with Vice President Gore six months ago.

As we know, moving past the current economic crisis will take more than resolving the status of financial instruments. For the IT industry to play its part, it is more than the physical network and computers that must support commerce. We believe that technologies such as Unified Communications, Web 2.0, and Video orchestrated together can play a key role in supporting the new need for global collaboration, while adding speed, removing carbon emissions, and saving money.

What could be better?

Check out the Collaboration, Web 2.0: Past as Prologue post to further discuss the Cisco collaboration portfolio.

Posted by Cisco PR at 12:00AM

September 15, 2008

Yao Ming on Visual Networking

It is hard to believe that scarcely more than a month has passed since the Beijing Olympics. The spectacle and glory of the games was made real to billions of people in the world through the power of video. Many of us experienced a view of China for the first time that was, simply, breathtaking in both its sheer beauty as well as the sense of economic development. Indeed several of my colleagues provided both industry and personal reflections on the event and the role networking played in the enjoyment and impact of the game.

Two of the hottest stories around the Olympics were around basketball — with 20/20 hindsight, I have to give a shout-out to the “Redeem Team” — and the role of Internet. Before the games, Yao Ming, one of the biggest stories in basketball, was good enough to share his reflections on his career, the game, and visual networking through a multi-point TelePresence interview I did with him, the New York sports press, and Chinese reporters (during a television broadcast). Please enjoy the reflections of a global superstar on his sport and technology.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 03:18PM

July 28, 2008

Flash Collaboration

By Alan S. Cohen, vice president, enterprise/mid-market solutions

“Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you off your feet
Better recognize your brother’s
Everyone you meet”
— John Lennon

In my past few blog entries, I speculated on how new and different forms of collaboration impact the business world. With the release of the new iPhone, I am amazed not by the device (although it is impressive), but rather by the creation of an application marketplace within the iTunes environment Apple calls the “app store”. By forming a rapid development and commerce environment for iPod/iPhone owners and thousands (perhaps millions) of creative software developers — including a Wiki environment for user ratings — Apple dramatically dropped the barriers between a classic publishing model and an eBay-like marketplace model.
What if we could do the same thing for work? How long would it take for meaningful units of work to surface and be completed? What if a secure online marketplace, within or across companies, could accelerate the speed of collaboration, effectively creating a market-led environment for projects versus the traditional command and control structure for work?

M.I.T. Professor Tom Malone, author of the book The Future of Work, is one of the best cartographers of changing workplace dynamics, mapping the shift from command and control to collaboration. In his book, he described 4 kinds of emerging work styles:
• Loose hierarchies,
• Democracies,
• External markets, and
• Internal markets

In Dr. Malone’s research, technology is the enabler of these work styles, but human characteristics and values dictate how workplaces come together: what we at Cisco would call a technology architecture juxtaposed beside a business architecture.

I had the distinct pleasure of sharing a soda with Tom earlier this week. We discussed another work architecture: what I call “flash collaboration,” the notion that a work team could come together, across company or cultural boundaries, to rapidly complete a task or project, and then dissolve, within days, even within hours. In essence, flash collaboration is a nearly frictionless environment resulting in a tangible product or service. From Tom’s research, it is clear we are seeing this work style emerge. He cites InnoCentive as an example of a breakthrough innovation and collaboration marketplace where thousands of researchers and inventors come together to solve business and technical problems. As stated in the company’s mission statement:

“InnoCentive will change the world and influence the lives of people everywhere by applying our planet’s human creativity and intelligence to solving the most important challenges facing commercial, governmental, and humanitarian organizations today. By combining technology, economic incentives, and human ingenuity, we will address and resolve these problems better, faster, and cheaper than ever before possible.”

Indeed it was only five years ago that the first “flash mob” was organized to bring groups of people to staging areas in a city. At the time, the messaging capability of a cell phone was all it took. Participants were sent to locations around Manhattan and then given various instructions on the next set of actions.

It turns out the idea of flash collaboration may not even be that surprising. A year after the first flash mob assembled in New York, a group of people on the other coast created the first flash mob computing environment focused on harnessing a temporary clustering of computers to form a single supercomputer. Rather than a cell phone network, a social networking and news site for our industry, Slashdot, provided the vehicle for bringing hundreds of computers into a powerful virtualized machine.

So the antecedents for Flash Collaboration are very strong.

I also discussed this concept with Amy Shuen, an economist, college professor and prolific chronicler of the emergence of Web 2.0. She provided additional insights:

1. Flash collaboration could be a kind of instantaneous catalyzing of knowledge incorporated in the heads of a large number of people to quickly master/achieve a mission-critical task or problem.
2. Potentially, flash collaboration is a faster or instantaneous triggering of collective (and interactive, dynamic) behavior of decentralized nodes through a Web 2.0-enabled platform. Additionally, this triggering of collective behavior might follow Web 2.0 and ‘wisdom of the crowd’ concepts and independently aggregate information algorithmically, refining input so that the outcome would be value-multiplied/enhanced.

In essence, Flash Collaboration is a work environment that includes the tools and technologies to support spontaneous work teams with clear business results.

Is your company ready for Flash Collaboration? If not, in the words of John Lennon, it might just “knock you off your feet.”

by Alan S. Cohen, vice president, enterprise/mid-market solutions

Posted by Alan Cohen at 01:38PM PST

July 08, 2008

The Network and the Natural World: Geoffrey Moore Meet Aldo Leopold

Alan S. Cohen, Vice President, Enterprise and Mid-Market Solutions, Cisco Systems

“Our brains developed under the pressure of natural selection to make us great foragers, which is how humans have spent 99% of their time on earth. The presence of flowers, as even I understood as a boy, is a reliable predictor of future food.” — Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire

Over the past two decades, the Internet yielded several well-documented network effects: computer operating systems and networking protocols, real-time communications, the “Internet of Things,” social networking, etc. Now we are seeing a new network effect: the network meeting the natural world.

Former Cisco Product Line Manager Matthew Glenn took a long career in networking and combined it with a passion for photosynthesis to create and launch PlantSense (, a pioneering Internet company targeted to home botany. PlantSense provides a complete system starting with a physical sensor that is stuck into the ground to determine soil, light, heat, temperature and moisture conditions. The sensor has a USB plug-in that synchs with a web-based database and plant referral system as well as a social network for plant aficionados. Based on the sensor’s data and the geography (inputted as a zip code), PlantSense’s smart advisor prescribes which plants will thrive in that locale. PlantSense is sort of like a routed network for plants, but instead of computing the optimal route for a signal, it computes what will optimally grow.

The network effect here is subtle, albeit very powerful: the restitution of generational, tribal knowledge — in this case, knowledge about which flowers, bushes and trees will flourish in your yard. My wife has a black belt in gardening — seeing our yard says it all — but she acquired her knowledge of our East Bay ecosystem over the past 10 years through trial and error, conversations with neighbors and visits to garden centers all around our region. Perhaps new business models like PlantSense suggest businesses can steal a page from the natural world?

For a physically, socially and career mobile society, one of the most difficult aspects of building productive, innovative companies is not just the acquisition and deployment of talent and capital. It is the creation of a contextual working environment where co-workers share knowledge to accelerate each others’ business objectives.

So how does knowledge-sharing manifest itself in business settings, especially those undergoing great change? How does context manifest within the organization when tribal knowledge at all levels and geographies become increasingly difficult to anchor or even find? How is insight shared inside a company where everything, including information, moves, seemingly, at the speed of electrons?

Ultimately, collaboration tools must become a self-reinforcing platform for germinating the organic matter of business knowledge and insight. Whether these collaboration tools are communications technologies like VoIP or forms of messaging, or newer Web 2.0 community social or work spaces, whether they are delivered on-premise for the company or through the “cloud” (or both), they live to serve as fertilization of business processes, to support business results. Developing an organic and learning community, that rapidly adapts to changing organizational and business environments, is a vital contribution to the world of communications.

Equally importantly, the advent of introducing practices from the natural world to the information, communications and technology market could yield other network effects we cannot comprehend today.

The plant world introduced evolutionary models beyond those of Darwin’s The Origins of Species or even perhaps beyond those of Geoffrey Moore’s Dealing with Darwin. Humans conquered animals to gain supremacy, but plants, to a great extent, have domesticated humans, using physical beauty, scent, and texture to their competitive advantage.

Indeed, through the ability to convert sunlight into sugar, plants changed how we eat, live and the shape of countries from forest to farmland to cityscape.

Perhaps natural network effect companies such as PlantSense will help us understand how organizational “gorillas” are not the only approach to business evolution and adaptation. In the new world of IT, the end user increasing rules, effectively adapting management to new ways to communicate and work. Perhaps “botanic destiny” has some applicability to the world of business.

Or, in the words of Michael Pollan (again from The Botany of Desire):

“While we were nailing down things like locomotion and consciousness, the plants, without even lifting a finger or giving it a thought, acquired an array of extraordinary…powers by discovering how to synthesize relatively complex modules.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 02:35PM

May 30, 2008

Mobility Superheroes

“You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.” — Nick Fury, IRON MAN (post-credit closing scene)

In thinking about our recent Motion launch, I found the confluence of two key factors peppering my thoughts about Cisco’s new Mobility Services Engine: a laser beam focus on enabling IT managers to practically enable mobility applications and the Memorial Day kickoff of movies inspired by comic books.

Traditionally wireless and mobility are like “superpowers”: they amaze and astound us, even if we are neither sure how they work nor if they can be controlled. We increasingly run our businesses and lives through mobility but rely on others to provide the capabilities. Our mobile society is overseen by the good graces of a mobility superclass. Cisco’s answer: make our customers, core IT managers, “Mobility Superheroes.” That is, take the province of a few and make it easy for many by separating the deeper physics of the network from the application enablement IT knows cold.

Although I am not a comic-book aficionado, I grok the basic thesis of Superhero 101: take an unlikely ordinary individual through a technically transformative experience, add dash of courage or initiative, and, ta da, great things come out on the other side.

Cisco’s Business Mobility initiative is bringing 4 superpowers to IT:

1. FLY THROUGH ANY MEDIUM: Through Mobile Intelligent Roaming, dissolve the architectural divisions among business networks (LAN, WAN, Wireless, RFID, etc.) and increase network utilization and seamless application experience;

2. PROVIDE A FORCEFIELD TO PROTECT THE GOOD: through Adaptive Wireless Intrusion Prevention (wIPS), efficiently collect and correlate wireless traffic analysis and security status from all reaches of the network to provide a simple, unified view into the security state of the wireless network, using the same wireless network access points that provide service to do it;

3. READ MINDS, SEE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, DETECT CHANGES IN PRESSURE, TEMPERATURE, MOTION: enhance the collaboration-effectiveness of mobile networks by making them context-aware. That is, beyond the location of a person or object, understand presence, use-frequency, or need for repair or service;

4. SERVE THE MASSES: Address the tsunami of new devices coming into the Enterprise — just say yes to compelling new smart phones and other mobile devices.

And, most democratically, use open APIs to facilitate integration of all of these capabilities. Keep the doors of commerce open to all those willing to securely take advantage. Give everyone these superpowers and unlock business transformation.

We live in the era of the Mobility Generation. But this is also the Collaboration/Web 2.0 Generation, and, as the father of two teenagers, I can tell you they are an IMPATIENT BUNCH! These new entrants to the workforce instinctively collaborate when they are mobile. They retrieve, inform and decide while mobile.

Mobility is the great amplifier, the great catalyst for collaboration. A year ago, we launched our first Mobility Quotient study to begin measuring the benefit of a company’s mobility assets and how a company could benefit from Mobility.

Yet I do not think we went far enough. We did not look closely enough at what it took, practically, to make it all happen — how to unite existing networks and applications to provide a consistent, super experience.That is why all Superheroes have civilian aliases and second acts. Truth, justice and the Mobility Way! Posted by Alan Cohen at 11:10 a.m.

May 13, 2008

Mother’s [Earth] Day Epistle

Posting date: 2008-May-13 06: | Author: Alan Cohen

In the 1970s, many of the climate change issues that now dominate our public debate first surfaced. Among the more enduring periodicals from that period was Mother Earth News, a homespun pioneer in practical approaches to ecology, renewable energy, recycling and Emersonian approaches to self-reliance.

As I write this, just past Mother’s Day here in the U.S., it is an appropriate time to reflect on the betterment of our planet and to consult Mother Earth News for a definition of total ecology:

“A scientific means for discovering the expeditious ways of employing the world’s resources in a way which will render a higher standard of living for all mankind… a means of accumulating facts, information and statistics related to world resources…a way of discovering trends in the use and misuse of resources…a network for relating these trends and developing a logical sequence of events to show how a future state might evolve.”

Climate change is not a fashion issue: it is a boardroom issue. Increasingly we see environmental responsibility taken seriously. Businesses, consumers and service providers of all sizes are driving behavioral change to protect the environment. Tightening environmental regulations accelerate this trend.

So it is not surprising that our industry is now turning to a system of green product testing and analysis. In fact, on April 29, 2008, Miercom, a leading network product test center and consultancy, introduced its “Certified Green” product testing and evaluation program. Aimed at establishing complete ‘green’ analysis of networking products, Miercom’s Certified Green program is based on detailed lab test results and qualitative product assessments in addition to a holistic view of product impact. The program provides meaningful, independent guidance to IT organizations looking to improve their own ‘green’ IT and business practices.

As noted in a recent InformationWeek article, Cisco’s Catalyst® 3750-E, 3560-E, 3750, 3560 and 2960 Series Switches were the first products designated as Certified Green:
See here and here.

Miercom’s Cisco Catalyst testing focused on power efficiency, including power usage and management, heat dissipation, cooling requirements, and overall energy efficiency.

Focusing on power efficiency and ‘green’ product practices is a top priority for Cisco. We are proud that our Catalyst switches are the first to be certified under this important new program.

But we also recognize this is only the beginning. Meeting more stringent standards for energy usage is only one part of the equation. It will take new kinds of architecture for technology to play a role in reducing the harmful effects of climate change. In an earlier blog, I shared how a Unified Communications “architecture of inclusion” could play a role:

These new kinds of technology architecture support the four-pillar approach to addressing climate change Cisco adopted over 6 years ago:

1. Providing employees with approaches to reduce/conserve energy consumption (telecommuting, web conferencing, Telepresence, carpooling, etc.)

2. Sustainable business practices (energy/resource efficient workplaces, more efficient product packaging, etc.)

3. Designing each successive generation of products to use less energy (lower energy usage when not in duty cycle, cold standby, etc.)

4. Customer-centric solutions that reduce duplicative, energy-inefficient systems (connected real-estate/cities, etc.).

As we just celebrated Mother’s Day, I salute all mothers around the world, including Mother Earth. In closing, I cite the writing of Washington Irving, an American man of letters who began his career two centuries ago. A prolific essayist, he is best known for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He also has some wise words for why we must protect Mother Earth:

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 02:30PM

May 06, 2008

Babe and Lou, If You Could See the Sports Museum of America

In spring my thoughts turn to the “Boys of Summer” (it was Babe Ruth who said “this baseball game of ours comes up from the youth”), that time when daylight lengthens, when school gives way to the competition of baseball and the eternal imagination of youths self-identifying with sports heroes. The smell of fresh-mowed sod, the sharp crack of a fastball meeting a Louisville slugger, and the exhilarating fear and unrestrained joy of taking off for first — emotions as fresh today as they were decades ago. These are memories etched in the “YouTube” of our brains, retrieved, sometimes, just by a chance conversation or the smell of a hotdog slathered in deli mustard and sauerkraut.

On May 7 we celebrate the launch of the Sports Museum of America (SMA),, the first museum dedicated to just about every sport played in America. The SMA has partnered with more than 50 sport organizations’ Halls of Fame, national governing bodies and other top athletic associations to showcase exhibits, memorabilia, stories and heroes that resonate with all of us.

Partnering with the museum’s founders and all-star roster of directors (from too many different sports to list here), Cisco is providing a range of visual networking and emerging technologies to build a human network within the museum and online — as the web version never closes — converging technology and history to enhance the attendee experience.

Even if you grew up playing soccer in Spain, cricket in Pakistan, or gymnastics in the Ukraine, the SMA invokes the personal passion of watching your team win a close contest or the heated exertion of an argument over a judge’s disputed call. In seeing the physical artifacts and video assets of the SMA, there are countless “do you remember?” moments.

Thus sports fit visual networking like a hand in a well-worn mitt. There is compelling visceral appeal in seeing and hearing our heroes at play, at competition.

To paraphrase baseball legend Lou Gehrig, I feel like the luckiest man in the world to attend the SMA opening, to be present at the beginning. As Gehrig softly and wisely said to over 50,000 dedicated and choked up fans as retired from the New York Yankees over seven decades ago:

“I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?”

There are millions of perfect moments in sports. All fans want to get closer to these perfect moments, to touch a piece of history, to relive a moment of life through the experience of an athlete. And now through the innovation of Telepresence, fans will have real time visual communications with sports figures on an unparalleled scale, allowing heroes into the room many more times than travel schedules permit.

Fans will experience how new digital kiosk technology and interactive video enhances their experience in the Stadium of the Future. As Grant Hill noted in a recent blog on the promise of interactive video: “If I were a fan, I always felt it would be neat to sit at a game but also watch it on a screen and hear, whether it’s a local television broadcast, national broadcast, or NBA TV, whoever talking about my team, talking about that game. Being able to rewind or scroll, watch a play that happened earlier in the game. All those different types of things I think the fans will get in the near future.”

Whether it’s re-living the heads-up play of Bill Russell in the raucous old Boston Garden or an over the shoulder catch by Willie Mays (“say hey!”) or bending it like Pele, like Beckham, the fans will know it and experience it at the SMA.

Although many would like technology to increase the span of our lives, digital video technology is doing something important as well: linking us to our youth, to those eternal moments we shared with parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers, friends and family. In his departing comments, Gehrig reminded us “When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing.” For in our youth, sports bring us both the thrill of competition and the power of collaboration and teamwork.

In closing, I would recommend you experience the SMA — in person or online — with a parent or a child. In the immortal words of Babe Ruth, the Bambino himself:

“You’ve gotta start from way down [at] the bottom, when you’re six or seven years of age. You can’t wait until you’re fifteen or sixteen. You gotta let it grow up with you.”

You can visit the Sports Museum in person starting tomorrow May 7 at 26 Broadway in New York, New York…or online at Sports Museum of America.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 12:00PM

April 21, 2008

InformationWeek Video: Alan Cohen on Unified Communications (NOT ON BLOG WEBSITE)

Fritz Nelson of InformationWeek recently posted an interview with our own Alan Cohen, VP of Enterprise & Mid-Market Solutions. They chatted about WebEx, unified communications, presence and more. See the video below or Fritz’ entire post here.

Posted by John Earnhardt at 12:16PM

Sunday, 2008-Mar-30

Seeing our Green Vision (NOT ON BLOG WEBSITE)

Posting date: 2008-Mar-30 09: | Author: Alan Cohen

Over half a century ago, Mohandas Gandhi noted: “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Just 10 days ago, Cisco decided to put that maxim to work in showing how our Unified Communications technology, especially TelePresence, could fulfill that mission. We not only proved our point in the eco-panel hosted by Sue Bostrom on stage in front of thousands at VoiceCon in Orlando, Florida, we reached a worldwide audience across the world through TelePresence connections in London, City, Bedfont Lakes, UK, Warsaw, Poland, and Dubai, as well as webcasts, globally.

For many of us, it was a particularly rich experience, having former Vice President and Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore, Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers, science writer Lawrence McGinty and Sue discuss what is perhaps the most pressing issue of our time. What made it for me was the intimacy and impact of the discussion, the reduction of the space-time continuum (sorry, Star Trek fans) by TelePresence, and the profound elevation of the dialogue for our industry.

Our competition suffered from a paucity of imagination during the VoiceCon event. They spent their keynote sessions attacking Cisco at a product level, while were elevating the discussion well beyond the narrow jibes aimed at us.

And Sue presented the industry with a challenge: can we begin to reduce global warming through the same technology we provide for business collaboration.

In Orlando, we could see the answer. If a picture is worth ten thousand words, TelePresence is worth a million. And as a member of audience, I could see Cisco’s vision for a greener world at work. Isn’t this the “Human Network @ Work?”

If you have not see the broadcast of the eco-panel, trust me, it’s an hour well spent, not only for your career, but for your children and their children to come.

To quote Mr. Gore from his remarkable book, An Inconvenient Truth: “You see that pale, blue dot? That’s us. Everything that has ever happened in all of human history, has happened on that pixel. All the triumphs and all the tragedies, all the wars all the famines, all the major advances… it’s our only home. And that is what is at stake, our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a future as a civilization. I believe this is a moral issue, it is your time to cease this issue, it is our time to rise again to secure our future.”

Alan S. Cohen

Vice President, Enterprise and Mid-Market Solutions

Category: General | View/Add Comments [0]

March 17, 2008

An Architecture of Inclusion to Save the Planet?

In a few days, Cisco is going to host an industry first: a virtual “eco-panel.” The session will be simulcast live to audiences around the world, including 2,500 attendees of the Voicecon conference in Orlando, Florida. Using TelePresence, former Vice President and Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore will be participating from Nashville, Tennessee, Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers will be participating from Cisco headquarters in San Jose, Cisco EVP of Marketing and Government Affairs Sue Bostrom will be live on the keynote stage at VoiceCon, and science journalist Lawrence McGinty will be beaming in from London, UK.

It’s not going to be your father’s tradeshow event.

Rather than foreshadow the keynote let me herald the question: can the information and communication industry apply our technology and talents to address what is clearly one of the most significant problems of our day? Can we use the tools and the time given to us to help reverse global warming?

Addressing climate change is not an opt-in technology subject. It’s not an upgrade cycle you could or should delay. Solutions and insights are not proprietary to a specific company, country or part of the globe.

And it bears a direct relationship to Unified Communications, which we see as the unification of all forms of communications. Because we must work together, to connect, communicate and collaborate together to solve our environmental problems — in ways that span companies, countries, and cultures. Climate change tests the true underpinning of UC in a real way. Even how we speak, how we communicate about climate change will be different, as witnessed by the recently chartered George Mason University Center of Excellence in Climate Change Communications Research.

As an industry, we like to think in terms of architectures. What about architecture of inclusion, one that supports openness and the rich context, and nuance of video communications as a part of collaboration? One that integrates video as effortlessly as voice, texting and IM? Can the unification of communications insert efficiency and effectiveness into business?

There is an inherent economy to inclusion. Lowering the barriers to helping people and technologies work together improves cycle time, lowers the cost of integration and re-work, and brings a multiplier of participants to any challenge. In the Flat World, globalization — which is an inclusive architecture — requires people to communicate more effectively to achieve business goals.

The Internet changed communications and business, irrevocably by flattening the barriers first to communicate anyway on the globe, and, secondly, to allow businesses to reinvent themselves around a networked business model. Now, Web 2.0, in particular video, is reinventing how people communicate with each other.

Thus the communications industry, too, stands at the crossroad of climate change. And if we can enable the rich context that people communicate in person but instead over the network, maybe we are supporting the planet’s amazing aesthetic, noted, simply, by the late great Louis Armstrong:

“I see skies of blue, and clouds of white;
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night,
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

Everyone’s included.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 10:37AM

Monday, 2008-Mar-03

Green is the New Red, White and Blue (NOT ON BLOG WEBSITE)

Posting date: 2008-Mar-03 06: | Author: Alan Cohen

Team, as many of you know, our organization has been in the forefront of marketing green (but are we green marketers??). This critical issue proposes both challenges and opportunities for the tech industry. Gartner, for example, estimates that IT now produces as much greenhouse gases as the entire airline industry.

Tom Friedman, author of The World is Flat and The Lexus and the Olive Tree is publishing a new book in a few months called Green is the New Red, White and Blue. It could not come at a more important time.

To faciliate a conversation, an industry discussion on how technology can help lead us back from the environmental brink, we have proposed an exciting program at Voicecon involving John Chambers, Sue Bostrom and Nobel Prize Winner (and former US VP) Al Gore. IT should be quite an event.

To learn more about what Cisco as a company as well as a technology player is advancing, please check out the Green Briefcase which the CIO thought leadership team produced

Green will be a key part of our solutions mix going forward. I would love to hear more about how it is being used as a wedge using across our organization.

As Gandhi said: “be the change you want to see in the world”


The NBA All-Star Game and the Heart of Human Communications (NOT ON BLOG WEBSITE)

February 15, 2008

This weekend marks Cisco’s second participation in the NBA All-Star Game. As it takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana, it takes on a twin importance for us: both global and local.

We share the NBA’s commitment to the revitalization of New Orleans and the Gulf region — we, through our 21st Century Schools Initiative (21S) and the league through its NBA Cares program — still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Secondly, we share a vision of sports as an ultimate venue where technology can dramatically enhance the total and global experience of sports.

And for many of us, our identification with sports begins in childhood and spans our entire life: from the soccer fields, blacktops, sandlots and schoolyard venues of youth to metaphor of work/industry competition to the persistent personalization of a lifelong fan.

While sports can be narrowly reduced to athleticism, it is so much more about teamwork and collaboration. No less a management expert than Mike Krzyzewski, “Coach K” of the Duke Blue Devils basketball program (and coach of the U.S. Olympic Basketball squad) notes: “effective teamwork begins and ends with collaboration…people want to be part of a team. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be in a situation where they feel that they are doing something for the greater good.”

Having gotten to know the NBA quite well over the past year, I can let you in on a little secret: NBA Commissioner David Stern and Cisco CEO John Chambers both know the next wave of the Internet is about Human Communications and Collaboration on a massive, global scale unlike anything we have seen before.

The power of sports and technology is not a North American phenomenon, but a global one. Why is it that both Cisco and NBA have recently announced ambitious multi-billion dollar plans to expand in China? Perhaps it something to do with the number of Internet users growing in China as well as the growth of basketball (today, over 300 million people play basketball in China).

While upwards of a billion people will follow the All-Star festivities — the NBA has over 70 international players and its programming is seen in over 215 countries in 44 languages — this weekend’s blending of technology and
sports is more about localization than globalization. It is about our support for the people and the city of New Orleans, a city characterized by an open, friendly culture, the heart of a classic music form, Jazz, and the crossroads of cultures, where the great Mississippi River flows into the Gulf.

Technology can play a role in helping New Orleans get back on its feet: it is a great leveler for education and commerce. Or as NBA Great Bill Russell once said: “the idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.” Technology can dramatically connect a community to the world on an amazing scale.

As we saw earlier this week at the GSM event in Barcelona, every screen fixed or mobile, will be connected to the Internet, striving to integrate the experience of video, The next wave of the Internet, powered by Collaboration and driven by the compelling experience of Video, is changing how we relate to sports, soon allowing us to experience the power of sports collectively. Even if we are thousands of miles apart, we will soon watch a game together and argue and laugh over our favorite players and teams.

Post by Alan S. Cohen, Vice President Enterprise and Mid-Market Solutions

Posting date: 2008-Feb-17 10: | Author: Alan Cohen

January 16, 2008

Reducing Human Latency in the Human Network (Part 2 of 2)

In my prior Collaboration blog entry, I reflected on the shift to rich media — how it enriches Unified Communications (UC) and heralds a shift back to more natural forms of interactions among people. Today I am thinking about undiscovered territory: cross-company, secure and flexible forms of communication, which, we believe, will unlock a new wave of productivity gains through reduction of “human latency.”

In looking at most UC productivity systems, traditionally the focus has been on intra-company communications. In the flat world, however, competitive advantage is created not only in how companies work inside, but how well they work outside — with customers, partners, suppliers, and, even competitors. In the world where command and control over one’s business is giving way to various forms of collaboration — albeit some that are only sustained for a few transactions — it is essential to look at the workforce and the workspace differently. Indeed we are caught between two paradigms:

• Traditional messaging and voice systems are not designed for inter-company ucommunications. There are a host of inhibitors in the way, including lack of adherence to standards or more significantly, security limitations
• Emerging Web 2.0 Collaboration technologies such as Facebook or video technologies are compelling, but cannot provide the compliance, auditing and security requirements that business requires?

This leaves innovative, fast-moving businesses caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of flexibility with security when trying to accelerate integration and collaboration outside of the enterprise.

The next frontier for UC is providing for a context-aware approach to entitlement and security that allows companies to collaborate across various borders in real-time. New policy capabilities that are provided by our Securent acquisition provide scalable, distributed policy platform that allow enterprises to administer, enforce, and audit access to data, communications, and applications in heterogeneous IT application environments. Said simpler, policy capabilities now can make inter-company communications safe, granular and fluid.

Traditional identity access management solutions have succeeded at the perimeter level (i.e., authenticating “who” is allowed inside) but once someone has been granted general access organizations do not have effective tools with which to manage access at the application level for fine-grained security controls (“what” is allowed). These fine-grained security policies must then be dealt with on a per-application basis. Think about it as a series of doors, each of which must be opened one at time. If one key is lost, transit is blocked.

Practical applications of this concept…situations in an investment bank, where stock analysts can instant message with each other but are prevented from doing so with stock brokers. And, an audit trail is created. Or, M&A teams from two companies, discretely working on a merger.

Now we have the ability to further dissolve the barriers and delays of cross-company, even cross-border and communications and information flows. By being able to embed policy by user, application, and role — to name a few approaches — we can unlock even greater productivity for business and support the increasing regulation and compliance requirements of the information economy. It’s now about asking the question, ‘What new things could I do if I could do them securely?’

The old adage goes, “time is money,” thus delay builds cost — an ancient paradigm made new by security issues of the Web 2.0 world. Perhaps Hamlet would have survived, had not the most procrastinator in literature spent nearly the entire play crippled by delay:

“For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes.” Posted by
Alan Cohen at 01:19PM

December 10, 2007

Once You’ve UCed with Rich Media, How Are You Going to Keep ’em on the Email/Text Farm? (part 1 of a 2-part series)

I was having dinner this weekend with a friend of mine who is an entrepreneur and true science fiction aficionado. A few cups into the evening, we moved into a discussion of how much of the technology envisaged into the Star Trek television series as well as the Star Wars movies has come to fruition. Not one to argue with someone holding a light saber — even if is a $40 toy — I gave him his due: most of the communications technologies used on the original television series has shown up in some form in commercialized offerings. Or as Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone noted: “Science fiction is the improbable made possible”:

- The “communicator” from the original show gave life to the original Motorola StarTac
— Lieutenant Uhura’s wireless headset showed up as the now ubiquitous Bluetooth headset, best evidenced by the Jawbone
— The teleportation and video technologies shown in most science fiction are melded into the newest Telepresence offerings from Cisco and video products from other players.

In fact, Sci-Fi fans, the recent introduction of On-Stage Telepresence, adding a 3D image next to our CEO during a recent keynote in India, showed the entire world that George Lucas was probably onto to something 30 years ago when he took us into a movie far, far away.

We are in the beginning phases of a communications revolution where two key trends are occurring:

- Every application is going to talk to every application because everyone wants to talk with everyone.
— Rich media is going to become HDTV where email is going to look like ASCii

In my next blog entry, I am going to tackle how business-class Unified Communications technologies support the unification of all communications technologies, across applications and corporate boundaries. This week, however, I want to touch on how rich media changes how we communicate and we work.

Rich media — whether it is business video, context-aware applications, a downloadable podcast/webcast, or interactive widgets in a webpage — implies some form of dynamism, something that is more “alive” than text.

While communications technology has changed how we work, it has not necessarily made work a more enjoyable or more human experience. The loneliness of trying to wade through a thousand emails after a week of vacation is neither particularly productive nor morale enhancing. Text forms of communications are a great way to share data and facts; they are lousy ways to share nuance and intent. As we have seen, instant messenger applications have rapidly surpassed email as the faster and easiest way to get information or stay in contact with a friend or co-worker. What was the first new invention in that universe? The emoticon! : )

Thus Web 2.0 is igniting a revolution in the way we communicate, integrating rich media and contextual information flows at every turn. The best way to insert into a dialogue or work session, even if you are entering in the middle of a project that is already underway, is to understand the context of who is working on said project: their dialogue, their attachment to various perspectives — not just the data they are working from. If you want to know someone is serious about something, seeing the look on their face or the tone of their voice is worth a thousand words.

Of course, the companies and communities that will benefit from rich media will depend. In the words of the late Douglas Adams; “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”

Coming Next: The Privacy and Legal Imperative in Unified Communications: How Enforcing Policy Changes Everything

Posted by Alan Cohen at 12:15PM

October 31, 2007

Ghostbusters and New “Law of Collaboration”

In the sprit of Halloween, I thought about the classic Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis film, Ghostbusters, after apparently defeating the evil spirit “Gozer,” the character Winston Zedmore joyously declares: “We have the tools. We have the talent.”

In an offbeat way, these comedians created a snapshot of many of the collaboration issues that businesses are dealing with in the area of Unified Communications and Web 2.0 social networking technologies. How do you marry the rich complex talent of your employees, partners and customers to solve a business challenge within the secure boundaries of your information and communication systems?

To be more pointed, a significant challenge arises when you try to break down command and control business cultures to create agile enterprises that embrace inclusion, while maintaining the boundaries of privacy and security and adhering to ever-increasing industry regulations such as accounting reform (Sarbanes-Oxley), health care information privacy (HIPPA), and account data security (PCI). While “the wall” on Facebook is a great place to post messages, I am not sure most people want their dentist or banker posting private information in this emerging communications environment.

The broad range of business-class unified communications — including IP telephony, messaging, presence, web and audio conferencing, email, contact center, CRM, business video and telepresence, and digital media systems — used among and across a range of device environments increasingly requires an open, yet secure way, to interoperate, even if such systems were not designed to work together.

The process of Collaboration is, at its heart, about effectively improving team output, and particularly the behavioral and communications capabilities of those teams — whether they are made up of 2 or 2000 people. It requires a view about diversity in business that is not political, but rather, about the power of talent inclusion. Hence the underlying power of Unified Communications technology — which I see as the gearbox of Collaboration — requires a certain rethinking that spans both cultural and social mores.

The “Culturebusters” analog for Collaboration is a rich understanding that a diversity of talents and perspectives can improve a work product. At Cisco, many of our customers host and drive discussion forums about the efficacy and quality of our products. What was once reserved as a semi-annual set of ritual “Technical Advisory Boards” is now complemented by a real-time set of open discussion forums on our public website. Granted, it is not always pretty to get somewhat unvarnished input, but it makes for better products. As Harold Ramis says about Signourney Weaver after taking her through a polygraph early in Ghostbusters to verify a supernatural experience: “She’s telling the truth — or at least she thinks she is.”

What we are now learning is that lots of communications tools that were not designed to work together actually benefit the work experience if you can bring them together. Business video enabled in WebEx bundled with call control and presence is a phenomenal “mash-up.” We are effectively “crossing the streams” on the “proton packs” by bringing traditional and disparate communications and desktop messaging architectures together, and more significantly, in a mobile environment.

The real next wave of communicationsbusters will come when we add even more speech recognition and visual input interfaces into unified communications, as I wrote about in a mobility blog about Gallaudet University last year. By allowing people with visual or hearing impairment to participate in our economy, we will be able to unlock the talent of more than 30 million Americans. That’s a lot of talent to include by not just depending on the keyboard or the keypad.

Business advantage enabled by Collaboration, I would posit, is best advantaged by those systems that securely flatten layers of communication and support the most diverse, unification across networks, applications and devices. Here is Cohen’s “Law of Collaboration” (with a clear “assist” from Bob Metcalfe): the power of the collaborative business environment is the sum of communications tools that are integrated to support rich media communications times the number of platforms it supports.

Now, who ya gonna call?

Posted by Alan Cohen at 10:00AM

October 11, 2007

Woody Allen, Malcolm Gladwell and Unified Communications

At Cisco’s recent CIO Summit, Malcolm Gladwell, the author of The Tipping Point and Blink, reminded us how people draw their conclusions from rapid cognition as much they do from detailed analysis. In discussing how companies could be more effective from a sales and marketing perspective, he suggested: “if you can personalize a product or service, you can find the crack in the door.”

Much of what I have been thinking about recently in the UC/Collaboration space follows a similar logic. I call it the “nose at the glass.”

Traditionally, when work occurred at the office — instead of on the road, in your car, at the airport, from a hotel or at home — there was a time-honored idea that you would go find someone and deal with an issue if something was important enough. Even if they were on the phone, you could stand in front of their office window and make your urgency known. If the person you needed to work with was on the phone or ignoring you, you could inch your way into the office until you could get their attention. Your “presence server” was based on the relationship you had with the other person.

With today’s never-ending stream of asynchronous communications, including unanswered emails, vmails, and text messages, business communications are probably suffering from a volume/quality perspective. If Woody Allen was to channel this, he would say “the food was lousy and there was too much of it.”

As companies become flatter, more global and more decentralized, unified communications can play a key role in re-establishing the urgency and “body English” of business. To wit, the reason why video and mobile communications technologies (such as TelePresence and Cisco Unified Mobile Communicator) are getting so much attention and demand is because they bridge us back to a more human time of business: when people worked with other people more than when they worked with machines.

When people look at TelePresence, they need to understand value is about business transformation rather than 1080p. Putting your employees, customers, partners, and supplier back into your office is the most efficient way to communicate and collaborate, especially when time and distance are a challenge. Powerful video communications provide for a full-on experience driving people to work with each other, really understanding, at a sociological basis, the other person’s level of engagement. As we like to say, being there is about being here.

Mobility is my favorite though. Allowing my office to move with me provides a greater level of continuity in communications. Knowing who is trying to reach me — and having the right capabilities to deal with open privileges of a flat communications environment — is a powerful tool in tightening the human elements of collaboration
And of course, doing this is a secure manner eliminates privacy and business risk of using open capabilities on the Internet, issues that both inspire and scare IT and business decision-makers alike.

The next wave of UC will come from bringing people back into our business processes in a way that allows them to both have meaningful collaboration as well as deal with information overload of a flat communications system. Who knows, perhaps Alexander Graham Bell was thinking of a long unanswered queue of letters when he invented the telephone. In his own words: “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 11:54AM

September 17, 2007 (NOT ON BLOG WEBSITE)

The Next Wave of the Business Internet: The Human Network@Work

Post by Alan S. Cohen, Vice President, Enterprise Solutions

Reading my colleague Joe Burton’s blog a few days on UC “Analysis Paralysis” got me to thinking a little more deeply about how the next wave of the Internet was started by Web 2.0 and Social Networking (the Human Network), but may be completed by how businesses are taking advantage of the changing dynamics of Collaboration and Unified Communications (the Human Network @ Work).

If the first wave of the Web Internet was largely defined by commerce and customer support (“find it, buy it, help it”), the second wave is more about rich collaboration (“find me, work with me”). The entrance of rich media and video into the equation shows how fast people-to-machine transactions are moving to people-to-people-to-contextual/real-time information types of interactions. People are in the center, not computers. And every device, fixed and mobile, is in play.

Despite the prognostications you might hear about the unified communications marketplace, it is crystal clear that the user, and all the choices that users make, owns this emerging environment. Unified communications and collaboration is the new platform for businesses and winners in this market must take to heart the words of Winston Churchill: “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” Monolithic approaches and platforms are destined for the dustbin of Internet history.

To summarize, the Human Network @ Work has four guiding principles:

1. The next wave of the business Internet is real-time, contextual, borderless and user-centric. This is why an intelligent network fabric is so critical: it securely supports (and links to) the applications, devices and processes businesses are using. It allows capabilities such as identity to personalize services. The network is the great equalizer in a world of choice

2. By its nature, it is about secure rich collaboration and unified communications, not just IP Telephony or email or IM, but also web conferencing (e.g., WebEx), mobility, and video collaboration (TelePresence). TelePresence is not about 1080p HDTV video: it is about business transformation where your employees, partners and customers are truly integrated into your business operations and communications fabric. If this is not what Tom Friedman meant in The World is Flat, I am not sure what is.

3. It is open, not dictated by one vendor’s applications but a rich and diverse suite of capabilities from a very, very wide range of players from ERP to industry-specific. It takes advantages of application using all operating systems — Windows, Linux, UNIX, Symbian, etc., etc. — and a range of developer communities.

4. It can be delivered and consumed in a variety of manners: implemented at your business by your own IT staff or a great experienced technology partner (e.g., Cisco UC), managed by a VAR (Cisco Smart Business Communications System) or delivered by a service provider (WebEx)

And yes, Joe, businesses want and can have much of this inclusive communications fabric RIGHT NOW, integrated with the innovations emerging in the marketplace today.

Enabling the borderless, user-centric world of unified communications and collaboration will take networks, platforms and rich-media collaboration capabilities where the users choose and can integrate the applications, devices, and “workspaces.” Our concept of the workspace is anyplace is where you need to accomplish your job — hence our phrase, “work is an activity, not a place” — and it is one that is neither burdened by the absolutes of real estate nor a narrow definition of computer screens.

When you make an investment in a UC platform, you are taking out a future option on web conferencing and video collaboration, and ultimately on business transformation. Over the past decade, many of us in the IT industry rushed to show how our technology could support our customers’ businesses processes. Today, however, we are working with them to discover how business processes can adapt around the changes in the world driven by the networked world, including globalization, social networking, business continuity, the search for and retention of talent, etc.

Although the customer who starts with IP Telephony today may have no immediate plan for TelePresence and rich Collaboration platforms, there is no reason to make the former investment without the possibility on being able to use the latter with the same underlying technology. When you build a house from scratch, you rarely think I want “4 rooms, 3 bathrooms and a sunk-in family room for the rest of my life.” You start with that model — perhaps to meet your budget — but you also plan for the future capabilities (the game room, the backyard pool, etc.).

Mark Twain, in his Autobiography quipped: “I liked criticism, but it must be my way.” Cast a cold eye on any approach to business communications and collaboration that either limits your choices or does not bring the capabilities you rely on, today.

Posted by Cisco PR at 02:03PM

September 03, 2007

“Too Long A Sacrifice”: Thoughts on Muni Wi-Fi

Readers Note: this is second blog relating to thoughts on my dual-mode device.

“Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.”
— W.B. Yeats, “Easter 1916”

I am in a literary mood this labor day and I was thinking about the seminal poem on the Irish revolution, whereby W.B. Yeats noted that “too long a sacrifice/can make a stone of the heart.” To this, the Muni Wi-Fi cottage industry, of which we at Cisco are, to be fair, members, has wrestled with business models and performance claims. With the delay of the much heralded San Francisco network, and its attendant issues all around to service providers, digital inclusion partners, and, yes, equipment vendors, it is clear we have now ended Muni Wi-Fi’s “summer of discontent.”

Yet I do not think we are at the unremarkable end of city-wide Wi-Fi networks. Indeed, now that we have burned off the ephemeral and seemingly endless dialogues about “advertising-led” networks (can you imagine, we spend our lives DVRing all of television so we can be assaulted by more ads when we are out and about???), we can get back to the real goals and financial models of these networks.

Yes, they are networks. They have network economics. Lots of people have to use them for real reasons for them to make sense. Increasingly, in the Web 2.0/collaborative world, the reason might have less to do with web-surfing then with being able to create mobile social networks. My top use of my dual-mode include new messaging apps that are rapidly replacing email in my communications pantheon.

Thus the avalanche of dual-mode devices, including my trusty Nokia e61i, starts to kick in. These are exactly the kinds of devices, including the lovely Apple iPhone that can take advantage of these networks. Connecting ME/YOU to specific kinds of information, adding a real-time nature to social/business collaboration might be a (cough) killer app. Increasingly I use my dual mode for downloading forms of video (training, entertainment, etc.) It is an ideal medium for 2–3 minute clips.

So speed does count. I am now just starting to get reports of people using the iPhone on our WLAN mesh networks across the country. The superior download speeds of these networks compared to the Edge cellular networks make for a more compelling surfing/ downloading experience. And as HPDSA/3G becomes more pervasive, the bar becomes notched up just another level. Guess what? 802.11n comes into Muni networks, next. What a great thing for users!

To paraphrase Twain: rumors on demise of Muni Wi-Fi networks are much exaggerated.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 11:39AM

August 24, 2007

6 Months on A Dual Mode. Not Quite Walt Mossberg, but Here I Go….

Good Morning Blogosphere,

I have just completed my first 6 months using a dual-mode smartphone and wanted to share some early observations on the experience. My model was Nokia’s excellent e61i, which went from a stealth device on our corporate IT plan to a full-fledged choice for all Cisco Mobility users.

With a tip of the hat to Walt Mossberg, I wanted to offer a quick review of my dual-mode corporate mobility experience for the first six months, including the service and the device.

Truth in packaging opening:
For someone in my position, carrying one of these devices is an absolute must. It like being part of a political party or a club: it says, I belong to the dual mode, seamless collaboration generation. Nonetheless, the explosion of these devices in the Cisco environment suggest to me, in the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Let’s start with the things I like. While the features provided by the secure environment do not vary dramatically from my prior smart phone, there are a range of new things and improvements that blow away the first mobile platform I carried for the past two years:

- Web access through this device is a huge gain. I have the opportunity to pre-configure an “access point” in the installation of the device. Thanks to our trusty friends in the 3GPP world, access point can be a choice of cellular data networks or it can be a Wi-Fi access point. Or I can actually let the network ask me which is the best air interface approach when I device to click on a web link

- In the words of WNBU CTO Pat Calhoun, you can travel the world with this device and never need a guide book. The Google website and a dual mode phone is a virtual Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. What I have found is I have replaced directory assistance on the phone with Google searches wherever I am. So if I am in Las Vegas looking for Sushi, the e61i is in gear. If about to hop in the car for the drudge home, I check the California traffic site and check on the best roads to take home

-Cisco Unified Mobile Communicator (CUM) is a huge part of my productivity environment. My entire UC environment is in the palm of my hand, including one click to my conference environment, presence-enabled buddy lists, vm, etc.

- A plug for the device! There is much to like about the e61i. I will leave that, for the most part, to product reviewers. I find the navigation very straight forward and one to make a key point. The battery life has been great. Switching between Wi-Fi and Cellular, I have been able to get a full work day completed without a sweaty brow to the gas tank. It is very stable from an OS point of view, very lightweight, and with a little use, pretty intuitive.

What needs work?

- At some time, I would like to see the device and network have a much tighter approach to sensing and determining what network access is fastest without personal intervention. There are a lot of companies offering so-called “fixed-mobile convergence” solutions, but from where a common business person stands, they are highly klugey, particularly in the area of call control. The CUMC approach is much tighter than anything I have used and we have only released 1.1 Stay tuned for a range of new features and enhancements
-More corporate applications, faster, faster, faster. My buddies in IT have shown me the next generation of corporate applications that will be integrated into this device. To me, that is where the real money is.

What has this meant for me as a worker?

- It if fair to say that for most of the work day, I have stopped carrying my laptop. Although one would not compose the Declaration of Independence on the smart phone (although Robin Williams did try something similar in the movie RV), you can pretty much monitor and work all day around one of these devices
— The further integration of applications in these devices appears inevitable.

So dual mode fans, I would rate this first 6 months a solid B with a B+ for the device and a B- for the range of applications I am currently using.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:28AM

July 24, 2007

Wi-Fi Gurus?: Hear the Latest Podcast with Jim Geier

Where the WLAN industry is going….

Posted by Alan Cohen at 04:08PM

July 19, 2007

Mobility and the Connected Life

Mobility and the Connected Life
My partners on the service provider side of the Cisco house are sponsoring a contest called “Help Design Your Connected Life.” We are inviting entries from people (ages 13 and older) to participate.

The idea behind the contest is to generate innovative ideas for a connected life (one of my favorites, using your cell phone to pay for your Starbuck’s coffee). The contest runs through September 14, 2007. The grand prize is $10,000 and there are ten runner-up $1000 prizes being given away as well. We are accepting both written and video entries.

Note that Cisco employees (and their families) are not eligible to participate in the contest. Even those of us who blog!

The “official rules” are here.

So what do you think, do you have a good suggestion for the Connected Life?

Posted by Alan Cohen at 05:54PM

July 06, 2007

The RF Superhighway

In 1970, my uncle moved his branch of the clan out to Southern California, fleeing the dreaded Northeast winters, congestion and a dwindling set of personal opportunities (during a tough economic time). My father visited his brother in the sun-kissed paradise of a new suburb, watching my uncle brag: “look at all this land; look at these new roads and open space. This is paradise.”

Forty years later, southern California, while still beautiful, has some of the worst commutes and densities of any metropolitan regions in the U.S. And, with the take off of Enterprise Wi-Fi and the continuing explosion of consumer wireless technologies (including, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and others), will the worldwide wireless market look like SoCal during rush hour or something less congested?

As we move into the mainstream era of WLAN in the Enterprise, the RF Management capabilities we pioneered during the WLAN era, couple with good analog engineering, including RF antenna design, RF interference detection and remediation, and the relationship between clients and access points will actually increase in importance rather than decrease. If someone tells you all the RF problems are licked, then:

1. Hide your wallet
2. Be prepared to live with a bad airspace

While we cannot expect an expanded set of users to become more RF knowledgeable (i.e., IT administrators, end users, guests), we do need to plan for systems that are.

Gentle readers, please weigh in with your thoughts here. Over the next few blogs, myself and fellow bloggers wille be weighing in here

Posted by Alan Cohen at 12:57PM

June 09, 2007

Mobilizing the Human Network: Part 1

Last week I finally go it. Mobility in the Web 2.0 world is about seamless integrating the experience between the physical world and the digital world when you are moving. Today, we have an increasing part of our economy dependent on information gathering, shopping, and now, creating community on the Internet. Leading merchants and commerce communities like Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and CNET are blending product information, shopping and user reviews/comments to re-personalize the information and advice loop for a range of products.

Recently when deciding on a pair of replacement tires for a car, I used the message boards on to get the experience of several dozen prior owners. More significantly, I brought the information to my car dealer to show a fault pattern in my current set of tires. He questioned me on the results, so I pulled out my Nokia e61i and showed him the comments on (my dealer has a customer Wi-Fi network) The result: he replaced them, with the newer model for free.

What I increasingly see is a blending together of the digital world and the physical world for business, starting with a range of consumer commerce situations. The in-store shopping experience we delivered recently with Mediacart ( blended the information content and targeted marketing of an entire supermarket and its brands to an individual consumer, based on their location in the store. In this latter case, the WLAN enabled tablet on the front of the supermarket cart was the delivery vehicle.

What is interesting, what really is striking here, is that the drive to dual-mode smart phones and other devices, with larger and larger screens and simplified navigation schemes, is making every individual a potential commerce/community target in the Human Network. And the entrance of a larger and larger number of physical objects connected to networks through passive and active RFID as well as a range of emerging sensor technologies is putting things into play from a community sense.

If Descartes lived today and wrote about Mobility and the Human network, he might say: “I am there, connected, even when I move, therefore I am.”

My predicted evolution for this movement is something like this (I will be refining this over the next few weeks):

Consumer Commerce Applications (books, music, clothes)

Service/Consumption Industries (food, restaurants)

Tourism (travel spots)


Business Applications (D&B to SAP)

Generationally, I think we are currently seeing a movement where folks under 25 are particularly adept in bringing their digital experience into full-body contact with their day-to-day personal lives, wherever and whenever we go. The growing access to pervasive high-speed wireless networks simply becomes a steroid in this emerging interaction.

If this idea makes you uncomfortable, remember the words of the great Beat writer Jack Kerouac on changes in society: “All of life is a foreign country.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 10:57AM

May 31, 2007

Nature Will Find a Way: Security and Mobility

One of our readers wrote in recently on the Mobility Quotient to ask about security.

Actually, he was very prescient. Security is a top line issue for Mobility and came out strongly in the research. We found that most companies did not monitor their air space for wireless threats (e.g., rogue access points) and that many companies may have been out of compliance from a PCI/HIPPA or other regulatory perspective. In general, security, rather than cost, as an inhibitor to mobility initiatives, especially in large enterprises.

Since mobility is about freedom, like in all societies or systems, you want the assurance you are moving securely. As devices become more personalized and smaller, there is a greater risk involved in losing them. It is a real problem.

This is not a new argument, though.

When IBM introduced the PC decades ago, IT administrators accustomed to mainframe or mini-computers were terrified about the transition from “green screens” and secure “glasshouses” to computers that could be easily moved off the premises. We know the result of that battle: as the Sam Neill character said in Jurassic Park: “nature found a way.”

All of the solutions we have launched (not just in the past week) have both strong security and compliance approaches designed in — rather than bolted on.

Stay tuned in this space for more debate on this subject.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 12:48PM

May 20, 2007

You Business Moves With You

“Every day sees humanity more victorious in the struggle with space and time.”
Guglielmo Marconi

This week we are bringing a new, expanded view of business mobility to the marketplace. Traditionally, mobility’s chasm was a cell phone: most people defined mobility by the device they carried. While devices play a key role in how mobility can be experienced, mobility is more than cell phones or smart phones. It is more than wireless networks. It is more than voice applications or satellite communications. Business Mobility is being about to interact, to complete, to experience:

- collaboration among people,
— insight into data and processes, and
— awareness and utilization of assets (people or things)

These are capabilities tthat you would have when you are in the office, when, simply you are not — whether you are moving around your office/campus, are on the go, at home or half way around the world. Business Mobility is about the experience of business when you are not in the office. It is about experience not devices.

The great thing about mobility is how its removes the obstacles to communications derived by time and space — it is, in Tom Friedman’s words, “the great sterioid.” One of the forces that flatten the world. But mobility is an innately human property. From birth, as soon as we can move, we crawl on all fours. We move across geographic, education, cultural, social and economic planes on a regular basis (someday we might actually teleport, across time and space). And when someone violates the rules of most societies, what do we do? We incarcerate them, hence immobilizing them.

The changing nature of business is driving business decision makers to adopt, to drive mobility in their businesses. Some key factors include:

- Large distributed global work forces, suppliers and customers
— The nomadic nature of much work
— Requirements for business continuity due to natural and man-made disasters
— The green movement driving us all to travel less, burn less fossil fuel

And most significantly, the changing work force drives mobility, The Mobility Generation that I have blogged about previously is changing the nature of work, of collaboration of when, where and how they work. In a business environment where there is a worldwide talent shortage, attracting and retaining talent, is a sine qua non for successful enterprises of all sizes. (

In addition, we are introducing the Mobility Quotient today: The Mobility Quotient baselines readiness to support today’s mobile workforce in order to perform their job, no matter where they are — within the office, at home or on the go.

Cisco, working collaboratively with partners across the spectrum — application partners, system integrators, service provider partners, reseller partners — is launching a new vision of mobility: one where you business moves with you, where rich collaboration is the starting point. An experience where technologies are designed to work together to support mobility — including wired and wireless networks, unified communications and security — where are baked in, not bolted on. It is a mobility play where services in the network such as location, identity, security, presence and device status are enablers of customer business processes. It is a mobility play where rich APIs (e.g., SOAP, XML) open the network for mobile business. And it was developed collaboratively, both within Cisco and with partners across the spectrum.

We drove mobility with a top down vision of how businesses work, then created solutions, and drove products to meet those needs. We did not start with a smartphone and said, define mobility around “this.”

We also learned in a collaborative, Web 2.0, Mobile world, sometimes we would take the technology market, sometimes we would follows others leads. In industries like Retail and Oil and Gas, key technology and integration partners led and we followed. In other, horizontal collaboration mobility plays, we led the dance and asked partners to join us to richen the experience.

You do not have to visit our booth at Interop this week to lean about Cisco’s Business Mobility focus. You can tune into our Webcast or Second Life press conference from the show floor this Tuesday. There are a range of podcasts, VODs, press releases, white papers, and web links to allow you share our mobility experience wherever you, on any device, across any network, at any time. Details can easily be found at:

Or as John Mayer sings

“One day our generation
Is gonna rule the population
So we keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change”

Wait No Longer. Now Business Mobility Changes Everything.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 02:34PM

May 07, 2007

Video in the Consumer Mobility Experience

On this blog, we tend to focus most heavily on the business mobility or business-class wireless experience. Given, at Cisco, we play a key role in the business IT marketplace, it is not surprising to work this aperture.

Mobility just as much as many social networking or Web 2.0 technologies really has a strong consumer angle. Even in the Enterprise WLAN segment was driven by the broadband rollout (extending the connection across the household) and was marketed brilliantly by Intel with its pervasive Centrino campaign.

When I look at my teenagers, I find they have a deeper and wider social fabric with their friends then I did at their age. My daughter writes a fashion blog that is read around the world and my son seems to run the Golden State Warriors middle school fan club from his cell phone via text messaging.

One of the key debates in the industry resides around the role video will play in Mobility. Despite Matt Glenn’s non-furtive jabs at my perspective on video mail, I do think that a lot of consumer content may not be appropriate for the small screen and business applications will be. When the video iPod came out, I rushed to put a few films on it for a trip to Asia. What a rude surprise. Try watching Pirates of the Caribbean on a 2.5 inch square screen. Mobility is an extension of the Internet and the TV/Cable network, but it is not a substitute. While you may be willing to watch certain items on a small screen, it might be only when there is no alternative.

Interestingly, I think a lot of training and messaging Video-on-Demand (VODs) are probably highly appropriate, much more than entertainment or even sports. Real-time mobile face-to-face video conference will also be compellling, especially if the alternative is just a call. When the actual experience matters, the dramatic drop in flat panel pricing is one sweet gift. While lots of applications will morph to mobile devices, a smart phone is not a clean substitute for a computer or television monitor.

Yes, there are lots of hybrid devices — including those cool Sony Vaios — coming, but is Spiderman really Spiderman if you miss most of the web-spinning, falling-through-air approach.

So I think short video mails and training kinds of videos will take off on mobile devices, and we will see a reversal of trends where business markets lead consumer markets in video applications.

In the words of no less an entertainment genius than Groucho Marx:

“Well, art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh… now you tell me what you know. “

Posted by Alan Cohen at 05:07PM

April 16, 2007

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen…but are felt in the heart….Helen

I think the big inhibitors here are probably more cultural, than technical.
Videomail is going to push a level of intimacy that the multi-tasking work may not love: we have to focus directly on those subjects we are communicating to/with. To me, this is the essence of why videomail will ultimately make it: in the cold, lonely reaches of cyberspace, people are looking for more intimate, direct connections with co-workers, friends and families (i.e., this is the heart of why we are moving to the human network, from the network of search and commerce). So for me, videomail, enabled with wireless networking is an act of faith; if you build it, they will come.

Let’s tackle your issues, one at a time.

1. Cost: in the history of Moore’s law, when has bandwidth costs not come down over time?

2. Application consistency: well the mash up world of the Internet is about living with inconsistencies. My cellphone “snaps, crackles and drops” every night as I hit the coverage hole on the road home. Do I drop the phone or redial?

3. Etiquette changes all the time, despite what Emily Post says The real is a matter of choice. Video when you can, email/voicemail when you must. It’s the YOU decade, so communicate in the way you find most effective. Or in the words of the author of Peter Pan

“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others, cannot keep it from themselves.”
James M. Barrie

Posted by Alan Cohen at 04:15PM

April 07, 2007

Video Mail — The Beacons are Lit and Alan Will Answer

Matt, you must have been in a Wi-Fi Bubble these last few years. People have introduced all kinds of video mail in the last two years, including some of the Mobile Operators. As a colleague Hamada-san from Japan writes in, NTT DoCoMo introduced this capability with its FOMA phones over a year ago. :->

So, let me throw down shot number 1….

The lack of available wireless broadband has been the biggest challenge for widespread adoption of mobile video applications. With the Municipal Wi-Fi avalanche picking up steam, for example, the large networks being built in Silicon Valley and Northern Singapore, as well as the continued build-out of HPSDA and 3G networks, we are going to see multiple, seamless carpets of inexpensive broadband in the airspace. Not complete, but coming.

Throwing down again…

As you noted, the wave of converged, dual-mode smart phones with high quality cameras (read, lots of pixels) will provide every mobile user with the change to quickly shoot off a quick vid. HAVEN’T you been on YouTube lately? If you want video mail, do not expect it all to come from PCs. When you are out and about, do you fire up your PC to leave someone a message?

Throwing down the third time (money shot)…

Unified Communications are just taking off and it is fair to say video is playing a large role. For the Hi-Def experience — and video, Matt, is about experience — we are rolling with Telepresence — but for the day-to-day localized video, we will see video mail starting to make its way into the mainstream over the next few years.

UC platforms will have the capability to allow you to communicate in a variety of methods. If you cannot play the video, a presence server, will in the future help strip out the audio piece and listen to it, using your phone or other mobile device, the way you would use an iPod. Voice/Text is here, already, and it’s pretty safe to suggest the total media rollout will be concommitent with UC deployments.

Video of all forms are moving from the realm of entertainment to business. And it’s not only bandwidth alone. Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) are now available to optimize the WAN (i.e., to improve video improvement), including technologies suchs as compression, redundancy elimination, transport optimizations, caching, and content distribution.

So you will get you vidmail. To paraphrase the great songwriter Mark Knopfler

We gotta install UC systems
IP phone deliveries
We gotta move TDM boat-anchors
We gotta move Wi-Fi to these color screens….

Posted by Alan Cohen at 04:44PM

March 25, 2007

Destination Dubai: Greenfield Mobility Market? (Part 2 of 2)

When you land in Dubai International Airport and drive into the city, the Emirate’s most telling landmark (and seemingly national bird!) is the building crane. An enormous metropolis of office towers, shopping malls and man-made islands is rapidly rising from the desert floor. While building cranes feedstock the rapid construction of skyscrapers, the definition of a crane is “a device for lifting and moving heavy weights in suspension.”

To this observer, the most remarkable heavy weight in motion in Dubai is the rapid transition of a tribal, desert culture — albeit one that is found on thousands of years of trading and more recently, hydrocarbon wealth — into a modern, service-oriented economy. The country’s leadership well understands this challenge and is in overdrive to make this transition.

Mobility, thus, is one of the critical underpinnings of any service-based, including the one that is occurring in Dubai:

- Mobility of capital
— Mobility of people (information capital, http earlier blog)
— Mobility of communications

Capital is flowing into the Emirates, followed by large numbers of services workers and new residents. The country seemingly, too, has a voracious appetite for communications technologies as well.

From our little keyhole, we are watching to see if Dubai embraces new empowering technologies like the Mobile Internet and Wi-Mesh, providing a blanket of secure broadband into the emerging canyons of the new downtown district. This will should not be a big stretch, as these kinds of first mile technologies could be used off-shore where new islands must be connected to the Internet (first mile wireless is already being piloted on oil rigs in other parts of the Middle East).

With it’s influx of mobile, entrepreneurial new residents, mobile devices are likely to be the norm rather than reliance of a fixed infrastructure. New applications like Mobile Instant Messaging seem like a natural to a competitive culture like Dubai, which also must compete with its hydrocarbon-rich neighbors that have similar visions of technology-laden modern cities rising from the ground. In addition, wishing to stay in touch with family and friends back home, these new residents are likely to turn to social networking and video technologies to build a stronger community and family bond across geographies and time zones. The challenge for Dubai is to support the mobile identity of its new residents as well as distinct country-centric view of itself.

We developed the Mobility Quotient ( to understand how well businesses are taking advantage of mobility technologies. Perhaps the MQ for an entire nation lies in its ability to take the best of the old (culture, values, working systems, etc.) and blend it with the technologies, best practices and human empowerment of what is new. In Dubai, I think the country’s Mobility Quotient will ultimately be measured in how well the commercial and public sector can marshal and utilize the best of what the world has to offer while it continues to build both a national and a global identity. So far the nation seems off to a fast start with lots of repeatable successes.

Proverbs tend to be re-used in many cultures. Over 20 years ago, a Qatari classmate of mine shared an Arab proverb: “Anything that happens once does not necessarily happen again, everything that happens twice is likely to happen for the third time as well.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:05AM

March 11, 2007

Destination Dubai: Human Software as a Mobility Service (Part 1 of 2)

In The World is Flat, Tom Friedman writes about how human as well as digital “software” is required to make a society work. This includes: medical care, education, effective legal systems, etc.

I am just back from my first trip to Dubai and can affirm that the Emirates, in addition to building the world’s largest buildings and shopping malls, are pioneering another first: transforming human software into a service through importing and maintaing human talent.

At roughly 15% -20% of the total population, native born Emiratis might seem scare in the hyper development scene of Dubai. Most of the people I met on this first trip came from someone else, lured by Dubai’s dramatic economic development, career opportunities and tolerant society.

For most people in the technology industry, the definition of mobility usually involved cell phones, Wi-Fi, RFID or application access. In Dubai (where the cellphone coverage was excellent and the bandwidth from the hotel, adequate), there are other interesting forms of Mobility.

- Capital is pouring into Dubai from all over the Arab and Western world, leading to an avalanche of building cranes working steadily to build apartments and office buildings that are sold out 1–3 years in advance of construction

-People are flocking to work and live in the Emirates. The UAE population is expected to grow by 3.3% per annum to reach 4.15 million by 2010. Dubai is expected to have a population of 1.4 million by 2010 (up from roughly 1 million today).

-Property ownership is liberalizing and being extended to non-Gulf citizens, allowing them to purchase freehold property in certain areas. By allowing freehold ownership the Dubai government hopes to attract more skilled professionals to stay in the Emirate

So far this model seems to be working. On a visit to a university, I found an American CIO, a Singaporean-raised Indian running the network and an Egyptian woman in charge of application development. They were all interested in driving pervasively wireless connectivity throughout the school

The UAE has shown great foresight in transforming their depleting hydrocarbon wealth into a nation built on thriving economic and leisure industries. The open question is will the human software also transplant, creating long-term advantages to the economic development of the gulf nation. No that is mobility.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 02:36PM

February 25, 2007

Into Thin Air: Mobility, the NBA and Fans in the Human Network

Last weekend I had the distinct labor of co-hosting the NBA All-Star Game for Cisco (methinks the blogger doth protest too disingenuously). While much of the weekend’s focus was on the physical pyrotechnics of the slam dunk, celebrity sightings, and very, very cool parties with tall people, there was another key angle to this pinnacle of sports and entertainment, the NBA Technology Summit. Arch entrepreneur and NBA Commissioner David Stern made it clear he was in touch with role the Internet and Mobility would be playing the future of the league. He noted that much of the world would be reaching the Internet, hence the NBA, from the cell phones going forward, not from PCs.

When the Commissioner of the NBA recognizes his future is the mobile web, it’s not hard to see why. Sports fans are intensely involved with their favorite leagues and teams. I caught up to WNBA Superstar Lisa Leslie ( on the break and over a soda discussed her interest in the subject. She told me that basketball fans are “always on the new thing.” Toronto Raptor forward Chris Bosh led a discussion on why fans were always asking for personal information non him (like what cereal he ate and what video games he played) that was answered by Magic Johnson. Magic noted: “because kids want to be like you, they want immediate information so they can one up their friends by showing how much in touch they are with you.”

It is clear that progressive sports organizations, rather than fight this move to mobility, are going to exploit it in building their brands. And plenty of people, including venture capitalists, financial analysts and the media were on hand to soak in the implications. For the NBA the focus was less on potential programming — there was a terse, uneventful Q&A on the no-show ESPN Mobile Device announced a year ago — but on the future role advertising could play in this mobile sports works. The top keynote of the morning was no less than Google CEO Eric Schmitt, who was on hand to share his views and take some pretty serious questions of the financial implications of this shift of the advertising model as well as payment models for NBA video.

While much of the industry debates where the financial mode for Metro Mesh networks will come from, maybe some of it will come from the NBA?

Although the summit was a strictly off the record event, David Stern was clear on one quotable area: “I can say is that in this wonderful age of wireless, of video on demand, on the device formally known as the cell phone, which is now a handheld device, at a time when the statistics are overwhelming that there will be soon two billion people on cell phones with the third generation, to have compelling content — which is our game — means that our game is going to be brought to fans in ways that not only that we couldn’t have anticipated, but we probably couldn’t have imagined, and that’s all good on a global scale.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:40AM

February 15, 2007

“The Prosumer” in the Human Network

One of the clearest human derivatives of the Human Network — enabled by mobility — is the increasing breakdown of the wall between our personal and our work lives. As our brand campaign reminds people, “work is an activity, not a place.”

The ability to work, when you need to work, wherever you need to work now means wireless networks, security, and unified communications now provide seamless access to people, assets and critical information. Now you can:

- Catch up on a product development project at a coffee shop on vacation

- Get a message from your kids they arrived safely home from school during a snowstorm, even when you are in a foreign country on business

- Set up a 3 way video call with your team around the world.

Now your business moves with you.

There is a second order derivative that goes with this mobile transformation. For many, how they define themselves, from a technology usage perspective is changing. The traditional segmentation that you might get in a market research study tends to put you in 1 of 3 categories consumer, business or student. However, technology is bleeding across these categories and how you define yourself is changing. My favorite definition of this dissolution is the “prosumer.” People are now professionals and consumers at the same time.

From a mobility point of view, the requirement is to have the same IT resources, applications, services and security available to me wherever I am. Effectively, this means I want to be as effective professionally when I am not in the office than when I am in the office. As a consumer, I want to be able to run my life when I am not home.

In the next few blogs, stay tuned for some perspectives on how technology must adapt to meet the people requirements of this evolving world.

Things are going to get mixed up, As Mark Twain said in Following the Equator

“The compass in my head has been out of order from my birth . . . In me the east was born west, the battle-plans which have the east on the right-hand side are of no use to me.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 01:19PM

February 10, 2007

Other Technologies

Dave Binetti asks:

“I’ve seen these posts as well as others you’ve written on the concept of localization (like with the Stockholm subway project and RFID.) How do other technologies that are wireless and lower-power (like Zigbee) factor in to the equation? Do they stand a chance against ubiquitous WiFi? Or are things like 802.11n too power-hungry to get the job done alone?”

It is a very good question.

I think other wireless technologies clearly will play a role in the development of innovative applications and lowerpower approaches provide entries to an order of magnitude addition of new things (i.e., the Internet of Things) that are attached to both wired and wireless IP networks. The open question is

1. What is the timing for their mass commercialization
2. What we can do to add them to the growing pervasive WLAN networks emerging all over the world

Readers, thoughts on innovation or other comapnies you have seen playing a role here?

Posted by Alan Cohen at 10:29AM

February 04, 2007

SuperBowl of Wireless: WiMAX vs. Wi-Fi Why Not Both?

It’s Sunday morning and most my household is quiet, clinging tightly to the last drops of sleepy refreshment from the Sandman, the bringer of dreams and rest. For many sports fans, today is the big day where the pageantry, where the competition, achievement and hype play onto the world stage of media: the Superbowl. It’s not called the national championship. It’s not called the world championship. It’s the SUPERbowl, invoking images of cartooned, masked superheroes battling for the forces of good and evil.

Clearly Football’s Superbowl is one of the pinnacles of competitive sports, but at the end of the day, one team will win and one will lose (kind of, as both teams make a lot of money along the way). This year’s bout is a conundrum, as the teams are relatively evenly matched. The Cinderella Bears — how is that for twisting a few fairy tales — are led by a defense second to none and the Indianapolis Colts are led by a potential Hall of Fame Quarterback’s offense.

It’s a bit like the discussion about Wi-Fi and WiMAX.

Wi-Fi is the Chicago Bears
Wi-Fi is rapidly becoming the Ethernet of wireless technologies, where are an open standard is driving innovation across the entire value chain as it becomes faster (.11n), more robust (MIMO), more secure (.11i, w). This year the industry is expected to ship as many chips in devices as it did over the past several years combined. The relatively cost advantages of a shared connection have driven the hospitality and entertainment industry to start to offer it like a utility to their guests. Last week, I sat down with the CIO of an international movie theater chain that was preparing to roll it out so people could be connected in the common areas of the theater to enhance the entertainment value of their venues (I thought the movies and the popcorn were the experience!). Enterprises are rolling out secure access so contractors, customers and suppliers can share their networks. With this growing pervasiveness, Wi-Fi has a killer defense — try to take it out — and a pretty good offense as well.

WiMAX is the Indianapolis Colts
After several years of hype and a past 18 months of pilots, WiMAX is moving closer to being a tremendously powerful wireless technology in a lot of areas. Not likely going replace cellular technology any time soon as a primary air interface for telephony and mobile data in developed markets and nations, WiMAX represents a potential disruptive force in the emerging world, where the wiring, well, just does not exist. In developed markets like Europe, which are wired/unwired through the mobile telephony company’s hundreds of billions of investment in spectrum, equipment and pull-through of corresponding handsets, the marginal costs of competing with a brand new spectrum technology are pretty low. The same is true with fixed line DSL, Cable and FTTH technologies. It’s hard to compete with installed and depreciated plant.

However, in emerging markets like India, China and the Middle East, where wired broadband connections are not going to come anytime soon, the innovation and investment in WiMAX are starting to look pretty attractive. The governments and companies that operate in the world where broadband does not exist clearly understand the economic levers WiMAX technology will bring to a region’s development socially and economically. On those playing fields, WiMAX has a strong passing game, able to make up some broadband yardage in a hurry.

Superbowls, however, are not won either singularly by offenses or defenses alone. It takes a bit of both. Hence I see these two technologies playing a critical role working together: think of it as a wireless ProBowl (all-star) team. Today we are combining WiMAX as a backhaul technology for Wi-Fi Mesh. In other parts of the world, WiMAX looks to be the outdoor provider of choice and be distributed in-building by Wi-Fi. Both support data well, today, are becoming optimized for voice, and some day might be able to support robust, pervasive video, although the latter is tough to predict.

If you are a fan of football history, you know the Superbowl is the breeding ground of upsets. The one burned into my psyche as a youth was the 1968 Superbowl where “Broadway Joe” Namath took the New York Jets to a surprise victory over the Baltimore Colts (the predecessor of today’s Indianapolis team). And we must also remember there is a third team on the ground: today’s 2G/3G cellular industry, which is moving to an IPRAN and its own designs on winning the Superbowl of wireless. Will it partner with or co-opt Wi-Fi/WiMAX s as it evolves? Well, that’s what makes today’s game so much fun.

Go wireless!

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:34AM

January 21, 2007

All Technology and Politics are Local: Wi-Fi in the Home, Part Two

For all intents and purposes, the Wi-Fi revolution started in the home, rather than in the office (some would say it started in the supply chain industries, but it was a pretty niche technology in terms of numbers). Propelled by a very rich Intel Centrino marketing budget, the avalanche of wireless-enabled laptops and available hotspots, propelled the much connected wireless lifestyle. According to the Yankee Group, Wi-Fi hot spots will grow to over 70,000 in 2007, a 2300% increase from 2002.

As we move to the ratification of 802.11n, we are now beset by a rich variety of “pre-N” home Wireless LAN options. While it is unwise to select a pre-standard Access Point for use in the office — large scale, forkliftable incompatibility is a bad thing — there is lots of room for experimentation at home.

There are 2 key elements to emerging technology worth looking at:

- Faster air-link speed
— Better performance through the use of Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) antennas.

While your home DSL or Cable Modem connection is not going to take much advantage of this kind of speed — think about it as a new 300 HP Mustang creeping along during rush hour — this second area, better performance, is particularly interesting, as beam steering/switching approaches turn traditional wireless negatives such as multi-path into more reliable, robust signal around your place. Streaming video from your set-top or home router to your experience devices (TV, music system, PC, gaming platform) does open up a world of possibilities.

My prediction is the devices that come to your home this year and beyond will reset expectation for wireless and work, driving the next generation of business-class wireless to then make it scaleable, manageable, and of course, secure. Look to a 2008/2009 for this push into the Enterprise, just proving that history does repeat itself.

The other key trend here is that the growing individualization of technology (some would call it consumerization) is upon us, reversing the traditional business-home technology migration curve that we saw in the computing industry. Or to borrow a little from former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Thomas P (TIP) O’Neill: “all technology is local.” At least now it is.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 11:18AM

January 11, 2007

In the Human Network, A Picture is Worth a Million Bytes

Photographs and memories
Christmas cards you sent to me
All that I have are these
To remember you

- Jim Croce, Photographs and Memories

Welcome to 2007 fellow bloggers. For many of us, holidays are a time of family get togethers, of remembrances of things past. Another year passes and we remember old friends and loved ones.

Thanks to a tip from fellow Wi-Fi Blogger, Glen Fleishman, I have just learned that Kodak, has released a Wi-Fi enabled picture frame, where you can stream pictures via that trusty 802.11 protocol from your computer to any where you want in the house or office.

Not only does this mean that you entire digital library is now fair game, I hope over time, your can connect some kind of RFID or identity system. Think of it: when my brother visits, all the frames in the house can automatically change to pictures of his (we agree) adorable kids.

It is over 125 years ago since, George Eastman set up his first factory, having perfected the dry plate process for photography. It was a revolution in being able to communicate on a mass market basis through pictures. He would have loved the Wi-Fi-enabled frame. Eastman was a lifelong bachelor, a tinkerer and a restless soul. He did give us one of more memorable quotes about work and life:

“What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 07:19AM

December 21, 2006

Top 10 Enterprise Mobility Predictions for 2007

“I always avoid prophesying beforehand because it is much better to prophesy after the event has already taken place. “
— Winston Churchill

It is the time of the year where many of us are sprinting — or crawling on all fours — to the rest and rewards of the holidays. Seeing today is the winter solstice, I thought it an apt time to post my top 10 predictions for Enterprise Mobility for 2007. As the days start, again, to lengthen, let us see how accurate these will prove.

1. 2007 will be the year mobility means more than cell phones. For most people, mobility is exclusively tied to our mobile phones. While voice communications clearly will be one of the key drivers for enterprise mobility for many years to come, I think we saw a lot of other activity in 2006 that suggests more will be afoot next year. Access to horizontal business applications like SAP as well as specialized vertical applications in healthcare, insurance, government and every other industry will become the next drive. And as varied as the applications are, so we will see the utilization of lots of other mobile devices, including PDAs and mini-PCs ( In addition, emerging consumer variation of platforms like gaming devices — as we saw in the entrance of the Sony MYLO — will appear in 2007.

2. Mobility services, more than access technologies, will drive the growth of wireless and mobile technologies. In 2006, Cisco introduced the concept of “mobility solutions.” Although Internet and LAN access has driven much of the push for secure wireless services, we saw our work in context-rich applications such as location-based asset tracking really start to take off (expect integrated GPS services also to start to play bigger). Also, rich handoffs and variations of unified communications services are likely to be a big winner next year as will guest services. Stay tuned for 4 new services in 2007.

3. Mobility will become more about the experience. At their inception, we accepted performance trade-offs for the use of mobile networks and devices (remember, the opening jingle of the cellular industry 30 years ago was snap, crackle and drop!). But with increasing capability and quality, the bar has been raised. Increasingly, the performance of mobile networks is becoming richer, more bulletproof and bandwidth/QOS rich. To this, expect companies to take advantage of a more robust infrastructure by developing applications that are more mobile-aware as well as conditioned to take advantage of some of the inherent capabilities in mobility. For example, companies will make significant investments in making their webpages and internet-based applications appear/perform better on mobile (non-PC devices) as well as take advantage of mobility to provide location specific information in both business-to-business (e.g., municipal information systems) as well as business-to-consumer applications (e.g., local services)

4. Expect significant increases in enterprise-wide (pervasive) WLAN deployments. As many of the initial security and management/performance issues for WLANs have been solved — and the cloud hanging over them dispersed — businesses of all sizes will see WLANs as mission-critical, specifying them in, alongside wired networks, as key infrastructure. Expect pervasive deployments to grow faster in the “office vertical” than the market growth rate for WLAN.

5. Emerging markets will lead the way in wireless broadband as a primary access infrastructure. In many emerging markets, wireless data networks, including Wi-Fi Mesh as well as WiMAX, along with cellular, will offer new alternatives for primary broadband access. In existing markets with strong wired infrastructure, the marginal costs of adding new subscribers are very low. In markets without wired broadband, wireless technologies could prove very interesting, economically, as an alternative to wiring.

6. Network Identity will emerge as a critical component of mobility services. Increasingly how you “are served” on the network will depend on who you are. Mobile network services will now offer services (bandwidth/QoS, security), capabilities (based on location or presence) and application access by knowing who you are.

7. Gaming approaches will support mobile networks. As the generation of workers weaned on Internet or multi-party gaming join the work force, expect them to use mobile technologies to change the nature of work. So, lest you think I launched into spiked eggnog too early, let me explain. What is interesting about gamers is how they form together to start a game (guild). The leader (guild master) puts the game in play and then dissolves it when it is over. The next game may be led by another leader. To wit, project work can integrate people and information from a broad range of environments, whether people are in the same network or company, or whether than are in another country on a wireless connection.

8. The hype around mobile TV and advertisements will give way to corporate mobile video. With all due respect to the people watching ESPNMobile, I think a lot of short video may come from corporations reaching people via non-pc devices. What could be more useful than a salesperson about to go in being able to watch a video of the company’s best salesperson pitching their newest product on their TREO for 2 ½ minutes. Increasingly, video is making its way into business training and communications, not just YouTube, and that is something people will pay for

9. Cellular operators will become open to new wireless access technologies. Although many cellular equipment vendors tried to cause a WLAN v. cellular technology religion debate over the past few years, increasingly carriers are looking at newer technologies as a way to deliver broadband data and other services. One of the clearest examples of this is SingTel’s decision to build a Wi-Fi mesh network across Northern Singapore.

10. Mobility will help drive the Internet of Things. Although much of the discussion around mobile technologies focuses on people communicating with people or people accessing information, increasingly devices talking to other devices is becoming important. This is the critical underpinning behind RFID and Active WLAN tags. In 2007, the language of location and tags will move more to asset optimization and the one of the critical aspects of Web 2.0: bringing analog assets into the digital world. What this last point means is that sensors, RFID and other capabilities will allow billions and billions of assets (goods, badges, blade servers, subway cards — you name it) to be recognized by the network and hence provide data and insight into how systems are run and lives take place. This will ultimately mean the 400M WLAN devices in service today will look like a drop in the bucket in comparison to the hundreds of billions or trillions of devices connected through wireless and mobile networks. Now, that sounds like Enterprise Mobility

Posted by Alan Cohen at 01:50PM

December 07, 2006

Wlcm 2 d HNK

Wlcm 2 d HNK
hEr Mobility wiL chAng how we communicate.
Mobility changes evryting
TWT whether we ll comnC8 dis wA
bt we ll knw tttt
As d mobility gNR8N enters d wrk 4S
u myt sA Im %-),
ppl r gunA stop spkg n ryTN n sentences?
Im :-K
wel, d ability 2 comnC8 n real tym, W msngr clients, smrt fons n cmputAs S changiN d nature of lang, cr8ing a wrld of messengerists
n biz wl nvr B d same
f u cn msg, yr biz cn mve w/u
f I cn lern it, so cn u
tym 2 TCOB

And now, the translation:

Welcome to the human network.
Here Mobility will change how we communicate
Mobility changes everything
Time will tell whether we all communicate this way
But we all know these things take time
As the mobility generation enters the work force
Call me if I am wrong
You might say I am confused,
People are going to stop speaking and writing in sentences?
I am puzzled
Well, the ability to communicate in real time, with messenger clients, smart phones and computers is changing the nature of language, creating a world of messengerists
And business will never be the same
It’s true
If you can message, your business can move with you
Chin up
If I can learn it, so can you
Time to take care of business

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:34PM

November 29, 2006

The Outdoor Shoot-Out That Did Not Occur

Today Cisco made an announcement about a very large Wi-Fi Mesh network that is going to be deployed by SingTel and the InfoCom authority of Singapore

Rather than reflect on the news, I would like to fast foward 3 years and try to tackle a burning question in the marketplace today: will outdoor Wi-Fi canablize cellular services.

My personal belief is absolutely not.

We are increasingly moving into an era where the issue the issue is not Cellular or Wi-Fi, but Cellular and Wi-Fi. Fast forward 3 years, and it will be Cellular and Wi-Fi and WiMAX. As devices become smarter, able to move seamless across differ RF and Wired network networks, increasingly being able to deliver seamless, un-interrupted services, we will see these services coexist.

Much of the investment going into public, unlicensed services are predicated upon a range of new users for data services. Over time, voice is likely to come as well. Client technology will improve and also contribute to supporting latency sensitive applications.

The interesting issue, is that the spectrum, interference, reliability and operations issues are common across these networks. There are benefits and pitfalls of operating at different frequencies (e.g., higher frequency, smaller cell size) as well as if the spectrum is shared or dedicated. To wit, much of the hype around WiMAX is around whether unlicensed WiMAX will take off. For many of the applications being discussed, licensed WiMAX makes more sense. Wi-Fi, to wit, was concieved for a busy environment where users must live with interference within the efforts to share the spectrum established by the standard.

One of the myths during the early Internet era was would it kill television. It turned out people consumed more media, not less. Cable is killing network television. It is about choice..

What do you think readers? As Mark Twain noted: “Plain question and plain answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 12:51PM

November 19, 2006

Leaves Falling, Turkey, One Man’s Quest for the Boys of Summer

Here in the U.S. we are easing toward the Thanksgiving Holiday, a traditional meal and gathering at the close of Harvest season. In the Livermore valley, the grape leaves are gold, red and brown, shriveing into to the relatively mild season that passes for winter here in Northern California. U.S. traditions peg the Thanksgiiving holiday to a meal held in 1621 by the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Perhaps a mythic event, it represents the best of what we believe in our nation: that we can share the land, share in our nation’s bounty and respect our neighbors, no matter what color, creed or religous belief they hold.

For me, however, Thanksgiving time has one flaw: it the holiday that celebrates the football game (including the backyard football game of my extended family). Now, don’t get me wrong, I love football, but I always wondered why we did not play babeball on Thanksgiving. Baseball is America’s “past-time,” and when Abraham Lincoln declared thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 baseball was a well known AMERICAN sport with established teams and rules. An even older sport, football was played in various forms apparently since 600 A.D., with a strong thread running through the British Isles.

In addition to my baseball yearnings for Thanksgiving, another great American (and our boss) John Chambers marked a breakthrough event for sports and technology fans, everywhere, with the announcement of Cisco field. In the next few years, the Oakland As will be moving south to Fremont to take residence in what I can only imagine will be the most technologically sophisticated ballpark/stadium in the world. It was a rich table of sport and technology he laid not only for Silicon Valley, but all of the world.

The 34,000-seat Cisco Field will feature a wireless network on which fans can use handheld devices to watch instant replays, order food and beverages, communicate with friends, and keep score. Fans will be able to buy tickets online, receive their ticket as a file on a smartphone to show at the gate, and visit kiosks inside the stadium to upgrade their seats. Stadium employees will use other handheld communicators that use radio-frequency identity (RFID) technology to locate and talk to each other.

“This is about how we take America’s favorite pastime and enable it for where the future will be,” Chambers at the announcement, accompanied by A’s owner Lewis Wolff, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and others. He added that as many as 80 technology applications have been considered for the stadium.

Completion of the new stadium, near Cisco’s San Jose headquarters, may be three to five years away. Cisco is also weighing which technology companies it will will partner with to develop the platform for Cisco Field. Similar Cisco technology is deployed at Busch Stadium, the home field of WORLD SERIES CHAMPION baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis, Missouri.

Technology, especially wireless technology, is permeating and influencing every aspect of our lives. In John Chambers’ words “consumers are embracing technology in their work and home environments, more now than ever before, and we believe that technology can have a major impact on the fan experience at ballparks as well. Today, there is a certain expectation from fans that new athletic facilities have cutting-edge technology. Cisco and the A’s will be setting new standards in terms of the field and the surrounding village…we can leverage both entertainment and sports to showcase the value of the network to enhance the fan experience.”

Now, pass the gravy and stuffing. This thanksgiving we can celebrate, sport, family, community and technology together here in the Bay area.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 03:42PM

November 05, 2006

In RF Veritas: Wine, Wireless and “Lovers’ Cups”

Recently, I read an article where a Boston Back Bay seafood restaurant’s guests were getting a kick out of the “Wine Skipper”: 12-inch touch screen device with Wi-Fi enabled that is used in conjunction with a hard copy of the restaurant’s wine list. system’s high-speed connection to the internet allows users to access not only the websites of every winery on the list, but also reviews, descriptions and pairing suggestions for every label. The goal was to informationalize the wine selection process for patrons, table-side, including reviews of boutique wineries, including some in my neck of the woods, the Livermore Valley of Northern California. More significantly, it can make any wine layperson sound like Robert Parker through a few taps on a screen.

This story made me remember some other “wine and wireless” experiences I have had or noted over the past few years.

Although not technically a real-time wireless service, in 2000, Wine.Com launched a channel on the AvantGo Mobile Internet Service. This provided users with a platform to purchase wine during wired or wireless synchronization. It started modestly with several dozen wines from around the world and included tasting notes from noted experts (now, how do I get a job like this). At the time, then Wine.Com CEO Bill Newlands noted this application as an example of how “cutting-edge technology can change the 4,000 year-old wine business.”

A few years afterwards, one vineyard owner, Don King, used wireless sensors to coax 30,000 plants to grow grapes of exactly the right color, size and sweetness to produce great ice wine and other fine vintages…with the help of judicious watering, a knowledge of the age-old art of viniculture. The electronic sensors were linked together in a wireless network using an Intel-based TinyOS and TinyDB, allowing the multiple sensing devices to monitor grape micro climates and help determine irrigation and frost patterns.

Around the same time, in Washington, D.C., Schneiders of Capitol Hill pioneered the world’s first wireless wine shop with a Phoenix, Ariz.-based restaurant industry interface. TasteNtalk provided the technology to allowe the inventory from Schneider’s 7,500-square-foot wine cellar to be available for buyers with Web-enabled wireless phones. The service has subsequently morphed into a more general online wireless service for restaurant ordering.

Last year the IntelliScanner Corporation introduced the Wine Collector 150, a personal handheld barcode scanner with included wine management software for Mac OS X and Windows. By simply scanning the retail bar code found on a bottle of the wine with the USB or Bluetooth wireless IntelliScanner barcode reader, the system then downloads the name, varietal, winery, country, type, color, and region, in a computer database. The technology offering provides:
— Personal wine inventory management:
— Access to a 62,000 wine database

And finally, earlier this year, two researchers at the MIT Media Lab have developed a set of Wi-Fi Wine glases that incorporate a variety of coloured LEDs, liquid sensors and wireless (GPRS or Wi-Fi) links into a pair of glass tumblers allowing long-distance sweethearts to share some intimacy with vino even when they are not together in the same room or even the same continent. When either person picks up the one of the so-called “lovers’ cups,”red LEDs on their partner’s glass glow gently. And when either puts the glass to their lips, sensors make white LEDs on the rim of the other glass glow brightly, so you can tell when your other half takes a sip.

I don’t know about you, but wireless and wine makes me feel warm all over (and that has little to do with the fact that 2.4Ghz is the same frequency as a microwave oven). Time to meander over to the cellar.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 10:23AM

October 27, 2006

That rabbit’s got a vicious streak. It’s a killer!

“That is not an ordinary rabbit … ’tis the most foul cruel and bad-tempered thing you ever set eyes on.”
Monthy Python and the Holy Grail

OK gentle readers, it’s Friday and we are closing in on Halloween. For your Wi-Fi weekend, I would offer up one of the strangest toys to hit he market, Nabaztag, the first smart (read Wi-Fi) rabbit. Recently introduced this RF bunny uses a Wi-Fi connection and text-to-speech software to read things like RSS, e-mails and weather reports out loud.

As reported in CNET and other sites, some Nabaztag users in France have created their own online community with a atmosphere in which they share photos of their smart rabbit and its environment. Nabaztag members apparently have been orchestrating flash-mob-type happenings. Up to 100 people often show up with smart rabbits in tow

No only is this the first convergence device to blend unlicensed spectrum and Pokemon-like cuteness. Don’t take my word for it, check out the photo gallery on TechRepublic.
OK, I like Wi-Fi as much as the next RF nut, but this is a trick or treat must. Caveat emptor: it’s a $150 to play.

Happy Halloween.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 12:52PM

October 15, 2006

RF and the Highway System

Over the past few months there have been 2 distinct technical threads in the wireless industry regarding RF. There are those who claim all RF problems will be solved in the standards bodies, a rote exercise for chip and system manufacturers building wireless products. There are others — including myself — who believe the real RF challenges are still in front of us and still remain to be solved. At the Bard of New England, Robert Frost suggested, oh Mobility Blog faithful, there is your role: “a jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.”

The explosion of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth mobile (and stationary devices) attaching to RF networks continues to explode, particularly increasing issues in the unlicensed 2.4Ghz band. ABI Research predicts that the 40 million+ devices that ship with Wi-Fi today will explode to 250 million in the next 5 years. This means computers, smart phones, infusion pumps, sensors, game consoles, etc. That’s a lot of beaconing going on. That’s a lot of devices sharing a limited set of frequencies.

The 160,000 miles of roadways in the U.S. are critical to the nation’s economy and security much as our precious spectrum is. Hence I believe increasingly these frequencies will face the same challenges of our nation’s highway system, which for the most part was the brainchild of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt but really took off under President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s.

Think about all of these 802.11 devices like cars. In 1950, there were less than 50 million vehicles on the road. Today, there are over 250 million passenger vehicles in service on America’s roads.

Frequencies are a lot like roads. They are not easily added (there are other uses for the land, even with the power of eminent domain) and crowded during rush hours. Even if we could more frequencies, it is not the answer.

Just as smart traffic management systems including car pooling, public transportation and intelligent routing will play a key role in keeping the flow of vehicles on the road flowing — lest we constrain our children to a future of endless gridlock — smart RF management systems are required if we are going to realize the future pervasive wireless networks. An excellent view on this is provided by our own Bob Friday and Cognio’s Neil Diener in a short video

Jury, you choose.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:14AM

October 05, 2006

The Long Tail of Mobility: Connecting Trillions of People and Devices on the Human Network

In his book on changing economics of web commerce, The Long Tail, Chris Anderson illustrates how the Internet is changing the laws of distribution from digital products from entertainment (movies and CDs) to manufactured products
Wireless networks are, too, growing a long tail, as billions, maybe even, trillions, of devices are being connected to an increasing pervasive and integrated array of wireless networks powering the mobility generation.

Traditionally, networked devices have been high value, powerful computers of various sorts or very expensive mission-critical data access and retrieval devices such as bar coders (at $2K per pop). Over time, the largest number of wirelessly-networked, mobile devices will come from non-traditional forms, including billions and billions of RFID tags as well as hundreds of billions of tiny sensors providing small amounts of data into the network. Moreover, although these devices are not all on the same wireless network, there is no reason these networks cannot be federated.

I believe as the number of mobile devices increase in the network, the value/cost of each device will drop proportionately to the amount of data they carry. To illustrate:

• Millions of bar code scanners led by supply chain industries (manufacturing, distribution, retail): thousands of dollars
• Tens-Hundreds of millions of laptops, riding the Intel Centrino curve: hundreds of dollars to a thousand dollars
• Billion of cell phones (and over time, dual-mode, e.g., Cellular and Wi-Fi): tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars
• Billions of Active RFID tags: dollars
• Tens of billions of Passive RFID tags: cents
• Hundreds of billion of sensors: ???
What is driving this curve? An avalanche of new applications and services built on top small bits of information that are context and location aware.

While we are some time off from an economics point of view, you can see the antecedents of this coming wave. A good example of this is a series of location-based services we built with partner Appear Networks for the Stockholm Subway, based on the contextual information such as time of day, job role, and current physical location. Based on this data, the solution is able to access the right information, which is interpreted and pushed out in real time to the right users, and to the right location. Federating RFID Factor and Sensors to the Internet
Today most wireless networks connect people and computing devices, but over time, objects and new applications will come into the Internet. In particular, RFID and sensor devices:

RFID has suffered deeply from the hype cycle, it is clearly coming and will play a key role in a range of applications. The work underway to create standards around RFID tags and networks are akin to the IEEE or IETF a few decades ago with the rise of IP networking. A catalyst for the growth of RFID networks is the emergence of cross-over approaches to networking RFID, including adding Wi-Fi networking to support RFID data collection.

The wireless sensor industry, although in its infancy, has good momentum. One company that is pioneering in this is space is Crossbow Technologies that is today delivering wireless sensor solutions based on TinyOS an open source research project driven out of Berkeley.

The Internet grew out of DARPA in the late sixties and it was only 21 years ago that the RFC for “subnetting” helped standardize the creation of a network of networks appeared. We have a similar opportunity in front of us with the emergence of so many powerful wireless technologies.

We tend to see wireless networks “looking down” on to computing devices (by its nature, wireless networks are deployed from a height to provide broader coverage) To paraphrase Mark Twain, “the human being always looks down when he is examining another person’s standard; he never finds one that he has to examine by looking up.”

We may have to look up to see the emerging possibility of a trillion wireless devices all connected to the human network

Posted by Alan Cohen at 02:27AM

September 28, 2006

My Life Online

Last week I received my long awaited Sony mylo (which stands for My Life Online, and is NOT CAPITALIZED), a personal communicator that used Wi-Fi rather than Cellular technologies to support its communications capabilities. The mylo, according to Sony’s marketing spiel, allows you to put the “entire world under your thumbs” (take that, Mick Jagger), and allows you to “take the best part of your computer with you” wherever you go.

While I will let Sony do the heavy lifting here in describing all the cool capabilities of the mylo — and there is a lot going on in this device including email, music, video/photos, chat, etc. — what is interesting about this device it that it has not linkage to the cellular world and only uses Wi-Fi hotspots to gain connectivity to the Internet. Indeed, the PSP/Gameboy meets Sidekick meets Pager meets IPod’s primary communications tools are Instant Messenger and Voice Messaging from Google(talk), Yahoo and Skype.

A true child of the Web 2.0 Revolution, the mylo assumes voice and text messaging will be free and that access to the Internet will also come from Hotspots, which could be free or for pay. It bundles a JWire application to help you find open hotspots by geography. Okay, the real world, today, does not work that way, but as Hemingway intoned at the end of The Sun Also Rises: “isn’t it pretty to think so.”

Call this the first “crossover” device of the Mobility Generation, it’s an opening salvo in the shape of things to come for computing, communications and gaming.

Imperfect and expensive, like all first generation miracles, it has the whiff of the inevitable. As the gamers and Mobility Generation enter the workforce, they will increasingly dictate not only how we communicate, but how we work, carrying the openness of youth into the mores of the work world. And, like the earlier generation, which brought PCs into the workforce, against the wishes of IT management, we will be under their thumb.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:55PM

September 21, 2006

Green Day for Wi-Fi, For Cisco

I was walking up 8th Avenue in Manhattan yesterday, listening to Green Day on my IPod, as I wove my way through the pedestrian tango of Midtown.

“Time grabs you by the wrist and directs you where to go”

I grabbed Unstrung’s Dan Jones by his wrist and pulled him into the new Hearst Tower, which has been officially designated the first building to receive a Gold LEED certified rating for “core and shell and interiors” in New York City from the United States Green Building Council. Building on a series of “diagrid” traingles, reaching upwards, like a series of giant glass and metal slashes 46 stories into the sky, the Hearst Tower is a marvel of technology, ecology and architecture. And — this is where Dan comes in — it turns out Hearst has deployed a Unified Wireless LAN throughout the entire 856,000 square feet of the Tower, to help it meet both its mobility needs as well as support its green strategy.

Rising out of the stone Art Deco shell of the earlier Hearst building, the 46 floor tower

- Used 20% less steel to construct
— Reycled 90% of the materials of the original building
— Is furnished with bio-sustainable materials for the furniture and carpeting
— Uses sensors (vs. light switches) to turn off the power in rooms when no one is in them
— Uses RF shielding to keep the building cool (and, interesting, lowers the amount of RF signal bleed out of the building)
— Collects rainwater from the room which is collected in a 16,000 gallon tank to provide a magnificent waterfall in the atrium and cooling for the lower floors. For more on the Tower:

Hearst deployed 260 Lightweight Access Points and 4 WLAN Controllers to provide pervasive mobility services to the more than 2000 employees and thousands of annual visitors working in the Tower. The WLAN connections are delivered through Mobile Access’s Distributed Antenna System (DAS), which also delivers cellular connectivity across the building from base stations from Cingular, Verizon, and T-Mobile.

So can wireless be a green technology?

Seven environmental drivers stand out how:

- Seamlessly roaming around the building (including the magnificent atrium), increases productivity and more fully utilizes the available space
— Providing guest networking features allows other users to access the network and avoid traveling back to their offices or to a hotspot
— The DAS system reduces cabling:
o Requiring less metal to be used
o Fewer cables to be pulled and powered (e.g., POE).
o Efficiently deliver multiple wireless signals to users while preserving the key features of the Unified system
— Reducing costs and energy expended in moves/adds/changes as people change workspace
— Supporting location-based services such as asset-tracking can save time and energy.
— Enabling real-time access to Web 2.0 types of info and systems can reduce both increase worker productivity and eliminate to print documents or carry CDs or DVDs for accessing relevant work media.. [Warning: Relevant Diversion Alert] The 400 CDs worth of music on my IPod, if they are all delivered digitally, eliminate the need to burn CDs, wrap them in plastic cases that will sit in garbage heaps for thousands of years.
— Supporting, over time, additional environmental sensors

Imagine using the technology we build to reduce strain on precious earth? Wow, my benchmark lesson came from a company in the printing and media business?

Today our CEO John Chambers, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, announced a signficant Carbon Reduction Initiative, as ever, showing Cisco’s focus on using our own technology to run our business more efficiently. Now we are using our technology to reduce carbon emissions. For more on this effort:

For me, it was a green day in New York. Or as Green Day said in their song “Are We the Waiting”:

“Starry nights, city lights coming down over me
Skyscrapers, stargazers in my head.”

You thought I was going to say Rosebud?

Posted by Alan Cohen at 07:54AM

September 12, 2006

Collaboration, Wi-Fi and Sept. 11

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a reception for all the parties involved in the Silicon Valley Wireless Mesh Network:, the winning bidders (including Cisco), the Silicon Valley Partnership, city managers and IT folks, public policy experts and a coterie of other interested parties. While much has been written about this network and mesh networking in general, I will pause on replaying this for the moment as there was another element to the day worth reflecting upon.

September 11 was a moment in our country’s history that left a deep emotional and physical gash in the landscape. Yesterday morning, I had a chance to speak with my uncle, Bradley, a retired telecommunications field service engineer who actually managed to get out of the 18th floor of WTC 9 minutes before the building collapsed (he was, on that fateful clear morning, no joking, installing Cisco routers at the Federal Reserve). We talked about his memory of the day and then our conversation then drifted to a discussion of what I was working on, and that led to our discussion of the Silicon Valley Wireless Network.

We talked in the easy way we have about what occured in Palo Alto on 9/11/06, almost 5 years to the hour when the towers fell down: how a group of men and women from differnet walks of life, from different parts of the economy, representing different groups could come together to launch a project that could serve so many.

What I remember most about 9/11 was how our nation came together in that time of crisis, to support each other and focus on the greater good of the nation, of the wounded, the survivors, and the comfort of the grieving families and friends of those who had lost loved ones. 9/11 is poignant and always current to me. I grew up in New York and watched the World Trade Center towers go up: it was the engineering feat of my childhood. My college roomate’s father was the architect for the Port Authority who designed the restaurant that became the Windows on the World.

I hope our project in Silicon Valley becomes a digital Windows on the World: a bright shining, engineering feat. But more: a model for the entire world on what we an accomplish working together. For Silicon Valley is a lot like New York: we are a community that is blessed with a remarkable model of integrating people, ideas and ambition. The sheer number of immigrants to this tech mecca (myself included) are fortunate to become instant residents. Just as the Internet flattens the barriers of time and space for all kind of communications and information, so I hope the Silicon Valley Mesh Network flattens all kinds of cultural, economic and technical barriers that can benefit from being connected to the Internet anytime, anywhere.

The Silicon Valley Mesh Network, when completed, will be a great symbol of an entire community that came together to do something. How American. Or, to paraphrase the American writer, Thomas Wolfe (I am partial to Look Homeward, Angel), perhaps our large, beautiful, pervasive network can become “How New York.” As Wolfe wrote: “One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” He could have been writing about any day in Palo Alto.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 05:55AM

August 30, 2006

Podcasting Mobility

Glenn Fleishman, editor of the, one of the top Blogs in our industry has now taken his Web 2.0 approach a step further with podcasts.

We had a chance to rap recently on Mobility and the future of the enterprise

Happy listening

Posted by Alan Cohen at 05:49PM

August 27, 2006

Mobility and choice should trump dogmatism

Last week, CNET’s site ran my signed editorial that provided a counterpoint to a Nortel executive who had written in earlier to state that only cellular technologies were well positioned to support the mobile Internet. While I am an old cellular warrior and a clear fan of the technology — look, it’s impact on the planet cannot be understatated — we as technologists must constantly look past our own pariochial positions on what we build toward what problems we trying to solve, both technically and financially. If we do this, I believe Wi-Fi is going to be a compelling play in the public arena for many reasons. Moreover, I see Wi-Fi complementing other wireless technlogies including cellular, WiMax and others, still to come, in the rush to mobilize society

Said simpler: applications, bandwidth, spectrum and equipment costs must be considered in development of public WAN kinds of services.

Here is the piece in its entirety

In a recent CNET column, Richard Lowe suggested that Cellular and Wireless LAN are competitive technologies. These two wireless approaches, however, are actually allies in the race to mobilize society.

It is worth dispelling three of the WLAN (wireless local area network) myths — security, mobility and bandwidth — raised in Lowe’s article and better understand how both technologies benefit the end user.

WLANs already support some of the most demanding, business-critical applications in the world, including stock exchanges, the U.S. government and military, and large manufacturers. Increasingly, security for this technology has become more bulletproof. No longer just a convenience technology, WLANs represent a resilient and robust access method. Indeed, the issue is not whether WLAN is as secure as other wireless approaches, but whether the advanced security features available for this technology are being implemented.
WLAN access to the Internet is clearly not inferior to the more closed approaches propelled by cellular equipment vendors.

Cellular networks are now, too, subject to viruses and must be self-defending like WLANs. Hence, when thinking about all network security, we must remember the famous words attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

With the emergence of centralized WLAN management, including techniques derived from earlier cellular systems, mobility is not a weakness but a strength for these networks. Today, many municipalities use mobile access routers in police cars with WLANs to connect to critical information. Our outdoor mesh supports very fast hand-offs, but you are unlikely to be going more than 100 miles per hour in a downtown area to test it. Just in case, though, we demonstrated with Cheever racing at the Indianapolis 500 — and reported in CNET just a year ago — that the ultra high-speed mobility barrier can be solved. (

Bandwidth and coverage:
Provision of bandwidth to end users is inherently constrained, not simply by network technologies but also by the amount of available spectrum and how a service is provisioned. Clearly, cellular technologies have advantages in areas of sparser population and larger geographies (e.g., suburban and rural areas), but the “you get what you pay for” rule always applies to it. Thus the real issue is not cellular operators versus Google.

WLAN access to the Internet is clearly not inferior to the more closed approaches propelled by cellular equipment vendors. Indeed the emergence of rich-media applications such as Unified Communications and video actually support the case for higher-speed WLANs to satisfy customer demand for personalized communications services. I love my Razr, but do not want to use it for a rich-media conferencing application or to watch a movie on its two-inch screen.

Why fight? As Infonetics recently reported, we are seeing rocketing appeal of WLAN VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony services, with a particular uptake in the appeal of dual-mode (cellular and WLAN) phones. Infonetics projects WLAN telephony will be a $3.7 billion market in 2009, when 91 percent of revenue is expected to come from dual-mode handsets.

As devices increasingly become more dual and multimode, including WiMax, choice in wireless networks will support more cost-effective scenarios for users. When smart devices and users can move from network to network to take advantage of higher performance, lower cost or even different security scenarios, then switching costs drop, and consumers benefit from a world of choice. At the end of the day, consumers do not care what network they connect to but how well their applications perform.

Thus, the real issue is not cellular operators versus Google. This is an apples-and-apple-pie comparison. Technology cannot substitute for strong business models, but it can certainly support changing business models. As we learned with Google, if you can direct where people spend their time and focus, the advertising community might build you a pathway of gold.

To wit, having worked in the cellular industry during the early phases of cellular, I remember several studies in the late 1980s that suggested cellular use would not exceed 1 million phones in the U.S. and would appeal only to a very limited customer demographic.

Similarly, public WLAN services are in a nascent phase, and there are already several constituencies, including municipal governments, happily taking advantage of them. More mobility and choice seem better than dogmatism. All industry players should be wary of technology religion, lest they, in the closing words of Shakespeare’s Othello, “love not wisely, but too well.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 08:48AM

August 01, 2006

Dave Molta’s Unwires FUD

One of the people I most respect in our industry is David Molta, the Senior Technology Editor for Network Computing who covers the mobile space as well as serves as an engineering professor at Syracuse University. In addition to running the most objective test team in the industry — and I am not saying it because we have done well by it; certainly we have felt the wrath of his pen as well — he is one of the best analysts and observers on the growth of the wireless marketplace.

In his column last week in Network Computing Wireless FUD: Alive and Well,” he reflects on the emotional state customers must deal with after listening to Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) from vendors. It’s worth perusing.

He aptly notes “[t]he wireless network market is an industry that lives and dies by innovation, so fear, uncertainty and doubt are all things we have to learn to live and work with.”

For those of us with a touch of gray, we also remember the reports in the mid-to-late eighties that predicted there would be only 1 million cell phones in the U.S. and cautioned telecom players from investing in this emerging segment.

As my 11 year old son would say, Rock on Dave!

Posted by Alan Cohen at 11:21AM

July 13, 2006

Instant Mobility: FEDEX Meets Instant Karma!

For WHATEVER REASON, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about music and Matt Glenn’s columns, thinking how a music provides an explosion of ideas –some good, some bad, some part of our society and some confined to the dustbin of history — rocketing across our society for the past few hundred years without the ubiquity of the Internet, currently “googling” us down the yellow brick superhighway.

For the past few years, Wi-Fi mobility has burst on to the scene, a veritable revolution in how we communicate and who controls networks: very upsetting to the old order of wireless networking. What comes to mind is John Lennon’s “Instant Karma.” I am not sure John would have approved of my borrowing, here, but give this piece a chance::

“Instant mobility’s s gonna get you,
Gonna knock you off your feet,
Better recognize your devices
Wi-Fi’s in everything you meet
Why in the world are we here,
Surely to live connected to the air,
Why on earth are you there,
When you’re ev’rywhere,
Come and get your share.”

Increasingly, wireless is revolutionizing how PEOPLE connect, how applications are morphing to meet our changing work- and life-styles.

In the post-Centrino generation, mobile workers would gain access to wireless networks in an asynchronous manner and the way we worked, the way we collaborated, has been dictated by these islands, these pockets of rapid connectivity.

We are now moving more rapidly to a world of ubiquitous mobility, where we go from quick bursts of connection to great moments of continuous collaboration. To this, I can offer one analogy. Let’s talk about our friend Horatio, who is a big traveler. Let’s look at his day from a current mobility perspective

7:45 a.m., Hortatio logs into a Wi-Fi Connection from his room at the castle. He downloads a pile of email and scans the Monday pipeline report

9:45 a.m.: Horatio stops for a cup of joe at Starbucks and starts flirting with Gertrude on Yahoo Instant Messenger

12:00 Horatio arrives at work. At 1:00 pm he learns about a serious deal his team is trying to close, just as he is about to step into a cab for the airport.

2:00 p.m., Whie on his flight, Horatio reads an urgent, 3 hour-old email from Polonius, warning him to be careful with using company capital in the transaction. Horatio forwards it to the deal team

8:00 p.m., Horatio lands in JFK, and uploads 40 emails related to the deal. He logs on again at 10 p.m. at the hotel and learns his company lost the deal. Why did they lose? They did not offer vendor financing and the competition did.

So what happened here? Horatio appeared to be emailing his team, but in actuality, he was in and out of touch during the transaction, popping into the email conversation periodically (sound familiar?). He went asynchronous is a real-time, live world. It’s kind of like the FEDEX package tracking application:

- June 1, 6 a.m., Pick up Yorick’s skull in Finland
— June 3. 3;30 am, sorted in Memphis, TN
— June 4 2:00 pm, arrived in Denmark
— June 4 6:00 pm, on truck for delivery to Ellsinore Castle
— June 5: 7:30 a.m., delivered to Ellsinore. Signed for by Claudius

Next year, how would have this been different? 2 years from now, Horatio

- Wi-Fi in Hotel
— Mesh in the city on the drive
— Wi-Fi on the airplane, via satellite connection to the Internet
— Mesh network on landing
— Wi-Fi in the hotel

He could have been in touch all of the time and no detail could have gotten past him. In his own words:

“Not a whit, we defy augury: there’s a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,
’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the
readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he
leaves, what is’t to leave betimes?”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 02:40PM

July 06, 2006

In the age of bare hands and cast iron — Vacation Missive

The great Irish, Nobel Prize Poet Seamus Heaney is one of my favorite writers. In his newest collection, District and Circle, he reflects on the mechanism of farming, weaving it with the circular, pattern of life and even the weather and earth itself. In the opening poem of the slim, powerful collection, “The Turnip-Snedder,” he reflects:

“‘This is the way God sees Life,’
it said, ‘from seedling-braird to snedder,’

as the handle turned
and turnip-heads were let fall and fed

to the juiced-up inner blades,
‘this is the turnip-cycle,;

as it dropped its raw sliced mess
bucketful by glistening bucketful.”

In some ways, I am starting to see the technology cycle of the mobile industry turning, “bucketful by glistening bucketful,” across the fabic of our societies. Yesterday cellular, today Wi-Fi, and who knows, tomorrow, WiMAX, turns the handle of mobility.

Juxtapose this against my visit to London last week. Walking my footsore, but always good natured little family across the amazing sites and vast flush of humanity of this most utilized of world cities, I could not help think about how technology washes across the metropolis, generation by glistening generation, to alter the lives of the city dwellers, but not necessarily changing the city itself; making a rapid snedding — if you have not got it yet, it means cutting — of people’s communications patterns. Nonetheless, if you are near Westminister, you can feel time pass in 15 minute increments. Reading Dickens Hard Times during the first part of my visit, I remembered that not every age of technology was welcome by he masses impacted by it.

During the end of the trip, we motored down to Winchester, to walk the nave of the 900 year old Cathedral — built to order by William the Conquerer — strolling the monuments and carvings of saints, kings, bishops statesmen, and writers. Winchester Cathedral is one of the oldest great medieval churches in the world, home to the Winchester bible, a 12th centruy illuminated manuscript, which alone is worth the risk of driving on the other side of the road :-> It was the great technology accomplishment of its day.

Only Jane Austen (who is interred in the Cathedral) could have dreamt up our hurried entrance at the end of the day where the organ and choir were deep into Evensong.

Remember readers, we who move technology may only be lightly moved by it. In the age of bare hands and cast iron, technology, mobility are tools, for life itself. To borrow from another Irish poet will:

“Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 06:40AM

June 28, 2006

Quiet Dual Mode Revolution

Please check out Time Warner’s dual mode announcement

Having worked on the Time Warner FSN in Orlando and U.S. WEST’s interactive TV trial in Omaha, I can tell you first hand these guys like to push the envelop. Stay tuned for a future blog on this

Posted by Alan Cohen at 01:55AM

June 21, 2006

Follow on story regarding Connected Teenagers

Worth a glance
Tech creates a bubble for kids

Posted by Alan Cohen at 01:13PM

June 18, 2006

Mobility Generation: A Father’s Day Epistle

My daughter graduated middle school this week. Sitting in the warm gym, listening to a very articulate 8th grader deliver the commencement address, I found my mind wandering down other paths. Traditionally, I think, this was the moment when flashbacks of your little girl as a baby come to mind: digging out our driveway in Connecticut in her first psychedelic snowsuit; in a mask and fins in Maui pointing at a colorful butterfly fish 10 feet under the surface; bouncing in a tube along Lake Tahoe behind a motorboat. It was that classic moment in every father’s life when Jerry Garcia’s Touch of Grey hits home.

“It’s a lesson to me
The deltas and the east and the freeze
The ABC’s we all think of
Try to give a little love.”

When Cathren went to middle school, she decided to enroll in a laptop program. Before the year started, I visited the school to meet with the IT staff, and found some random Access Points scattered around a few classrooms. This would not do at all. Within 3 weeks, a brand new series of Airespace controllers and 60 Lightweight Access Points painted the campus in a seamless and invisible carpet of secure RF. If they were going to explore wireless, I proudly thought, then they need to fly business class!

Over the past 3 years I watched my daughter develop as a student and as a woman, and now realize she is my great prototype for the Mobility Generation. Equipped with laptop, cell phone, i-Pod and an innate desire to learn, she Googles her way through life and school, making strong friendships and nailing down a 4.0 GPA (ok, it’s Father’s Day; I’m proud). This latter point always amazed me, as she seems to be connected to her friends through Instant Messenger and her dreams through ITunes, all the while she did her homework, her honors projects and organized her social life ALL AT THE SAME TIME. With far few distractions, I never managed to produce the grades and quality of work she shows. So what was going on here?

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Ron Ricci, Cisco’s great positioning genius, and we talked about how the generation coming through school can be totally connected to the world through mobility devices, yet still have “great moments of concentration.” Clearly my daughter’s generation can use all of this technology to harness thought and action, feeling empowered by mobility, rather than overwhelmed by it. To wit, see the raft of new books on how to “unplug” your life. To those people, I offer a Bronx cheer: the Ozzie and Harriet view of technology will leave your children in the dustbin of history.

Having a self-organized, self-disciplined and focused daughter, what, as a father, can I provide in terms of life’s lessons, as she already knows how to steer her through the interconnected networks of the world? In the words of William Butler Yeats in his great “Prayer for My Daughter,” I could share but one lesson this Father’s Day:

“In courtesy I’d have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned”

Happy Father’s Day gentle readers.


W.B. Yeats
“Prayer for My Daughter”

Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
But Gregory’s wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind.
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.
I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And-under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.
May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.
Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-legged smith for man.
It’s certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of plenty is undone.
In courtesy I’d have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty’s very self, has charm made wise.
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.

W.B. Yeats
“A Prayer for My Son”

Bid a strong ghost stand at the head
That my Michael may sleep sound,
Nor cry, nor turn in the bed
Till his morning meal come round;
And may departing twilight keep
All dread afar till morning’s back.
That his mother may not lack
Her fill of sleep.
Bid the ghost have sword in fist:
Some there are, for I avow
Such devilish things exist,
Who have planned his murder, for they know
Of some most haughty deed or thought
That waits upon his future days,
And would through hatred of the bays
Bring that to nought.
Though You can fashion everything
From nothing every day, and teach
The morning stars to sing,
You have lacked articulate speech
To tell Your simplest want, and known,
Wailing upon a woman’s knee,
All of that worst ignominy
Of flesh and bone;
And when through all the town there ran
The servants of Your enemy,
A woman and a man,
Unless the Holy Writings lie,
Hurried through the smooth and rough
And through the fertile and waste,
protecting, till the danger past,
With human love.

“Touch of Grey”
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia

Must be getting early
Clocks are running late
Paint by number morning sky
Looks so phony

Dawn is breaking everywhere
Light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains
I don’t care ’cause
It’s all right

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive

I see you’ve got your list out
Say your piece and get out
Yes I get the gist of it
but it’s all right

Sorry that you feel that way
The only thing there is to say
Every silver lining’s got a
Touch of grey

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive

It’s a lesson to me
The Ables and the Bakers and the C’s
The ABC’s we all must face
And try to keep a little grace

It’s a lesson to me
The deltas and the east and the freeze
The ABC’s we all think of
Try to give a little love.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It’s even worse than it appears
but it’s all right.

Cows giving kerosene
Kid can’t read at seventeen
The words he knows are all obscene
but it’s all right

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive

The shoe is on the hand it fits
There’s really nothing much to it
Whistle through your teeth and spit
causeit’s all right.

Oh well a Touch Of Grey
Kind of suits you anyway.
That was all I had to say
It’s all right.

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive
We will get by / We will get by
We will get by / We will survive

Posted by Alan Cohen at 11:04AM

June 08, 2006

The First Mobile Phone Call — Alexander Graham Bell Strikes Again

Peter Judge Mobility Editor of Techworld shared this tidbit with me today

On February 22,1880 Alexander Graham Bell and his cousin Charles Bell communicated over the Photophone, a remarkable invention conceived of by Bell and executed by Sumner Tainter. [Grosvenor] This device transmitted voice over a light beam. A person’s voice projected through a glass test tube toward a thin mirror which acted as a transmitter. Acoustical vibrations caused by the voice produced like or sympathetic vibrations in the mirror.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 07:57AM

June 07, 2006

It’s Not About the Access Point

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” — Lance Armstrong

I have been thinking a lot about Lance Armstrong this spring. I am in the market for a new bike, looking to re-ignite my quest to someday ride in the Pyrenees, a lifelong dream. On an off, I have ridden for over 2 decades, about the same amount of time I have been in or around the mobility business. Mobility is an obsession, the desire to connect/unwire/touch something from a distance, wherever, whenever you are.

Today I write courtesy of a Mesh AP painting my backyard with a little 802.11. 15 years ago it was a slower — but then promising — CDPD modem connected to a “notebook” computer 4 times the size of my Thinkpad. The same underlying desires and dreams were and are still there for us in the mobility business. If I could paraphrase Lance: “It’s not about the access point.”

People have been about some form of mobility of communications for time eternal. Petroglyphs on cave walls were about parting information to people generations ahead. Notes in bottles were about sending messages. Messages, mail, messengers and Marconi were all about communicating across distances, from long time to real time.

Cisco recently announced the sale of our 3 millionth access point. That was an eternity ago…like a month or two ago. We’ve have flown pass that landmark on to new mobility landmarks. And the time it takes to sell another million compresses like a neutron star, like your personal time on vacation during this connected age. 1 million APs is like 10–30 million users. It’s like growing a wireless Malaysia.

For the cynics out there, i have one closing thought from Lance: “If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope?”

Lance was talking about an emotional battle with a killer. Tie a yellow bracelet around your life. It’s about mobility.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 09:28PM

May 29, 2006

Location, Location, Location

For the past 3 years, I have been pushing hard on location as one of the top mobility services WLANs can provide. One of our European partners, Appear Networks, has deployed a landmark location service in the Stockholm subway. For a write up and video on the service, try here:

Posted by Alan Cohen at 10:37AM

May 23, 2006

Mobility Flattens Barriers for the Hearing Impaired

Recently I have been following the news about Gallaudet University as it chooses a new President and it reminded me of our deployment there. Gallaudet is also one of the first large deployments of the centralized WLAN architecture, starting in the June/July 2003 timeframe. We are deployed in all 32 buildings, including the President’s home and the recent press reminded me of this customer who I stay in touch with on a regular basis.

For those who don’t know about this university, it is the National College of Deaf Studies, funded by the U.S. Congress. It was the first college of its kind and was chartered by Abraham Lincoln in 1864; to date, it remains the premier institution of its kind in the world, home to college students from all 50 U.S. States and over 60 countries. It is the Oxbridge of hearing-impaired world. The campus is serene, beautiful — much of it a vintage snapshot of Civil War era architecture.

I toured the campus several years ago with then President, Dr. King Jordan, and spent most of the day with him. Lots of folks using the network (we reviewed usage patterns in WCS — the big jump is right after dinner). IM is big. Video CAMs are big. Walking by the student center, you can see the students logged on and blogging.

Gallaudet leads the world in both study programs as well as using technology for hearing-impaired and deaf education. They have pioneered video-relay of signed conversations to translators to make voice phone calls (they would be a great Beta for candidate for Cisco Unified Messaging). The campus is stuffed with PCs and video screens.

What grabbed me on that visit, what grabbed my heart, was seeing these students in action. I received my first guided tour from a graduate student studying linguistics (Tranformational Grammar, Noam Chomsky anyone?). She signed me (and another student translated) how technology allows her to understand and model how speech, thought/cognitive process works in the human mind. She pointed out students flirting with each other, wirelessly, with Instant Messenger. It was amazing and eerie: the student center was quiet and hands were flying through the air, signing with passion and with verve, visual expressions communicating as well as words. Then it hit me like 36” Louisville Slugger: technology, our technology, helps flatten the barriers for these gifted, wonderful young people, to participate and advance our society. Our network helped give them some advantages to their career and life development.

And they thanked us for it.

It was quite overwhelming and should stroke a passion in what we in the technology industry do. We will likely sell a lot of WLAN gear, but imagine the satisfaction of improving the lives and work of our customers like are at Gallaudet. Then we will be a great company that people will remember for a long time.

“Even though I am nearly deaf, I seem to be gifted with a kind of inner hearing which enables me to detect sounds and noises which the ordinary listener does not hear.”

- Thomas Edison

Posted by Alan Cohen at 05:39PM

May 16, 2006

The Wi-Fi Comes in (on little cat feet)

In 1878, Poet Laureate of Chicago, Carl Sandburg, wrote his Haikuish poem, “The Fog”

“THE fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.”

FINALLY, thanks to our good friends at Concourse Communications, Chicago O’Hare Aiport finally has Wi-Fi in the terminals (maybe its called O’Hare because it took so long to get Wi-Fi to this place?!>!)

People keep taking broadband outdoor wireless connections as a given. Well, its not. There is a LOT more to do, but mobility is inevitable. One of my other favorite adopted sons of Chicago, Michael Jordan, was also something of philospher. In his own words: “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen. “

Posted by Alan Cohen at 02:28PM

May 12, 2006

Mobility and the Human Condition

The more I think about mobility, the more it becomes apparent that it encompasses more than wireless or portable technologies. Indeed, you can say everything is mobile on some level. Here are my top 10 mobility paradigms for the human condition:

Mobility of ideas (democracy)
Mobility of leadership (elections, coups)
Mobility of people (immigration, travel)
Mobility of information (wireless internet, data systems)
Mobility of capital (financial markets, private equity)
Mobility of national risk (terrorism)
Mobility of national borders (war)
Mobility of messages (media)
Mobility of natural and man made global risk (plate tectonics, disease, pollution)
Mobiliy of social station (education, career, human achievement)

Everything is mobile

Posted by Alan Cohen at 08:25AM

May 05, 2006

“Change is the handmaiden nature requires to do her miracles” — Mark Twain

Time to Call Myself on Some Predictions

About 3 years ago, I made some predictions about how the Enterprise Wireless Market was going to shape up.
In the spirit of reflective self-improvement (and more, venally, self-promotion), I thought it would be worth giving myself a report card

Here is the link to the original blog

Here is the opening thoughts and the predicitons

“The force propelling WLANs into new business segments are productivity gains associated with extending a real-time, always-connected information architecture. WLANs are creating a new communications and collaboration model for all users. Yet, as Clayton Christensen reminded us in The Innovators’ Dilemma, when a market grows rapidly, when it inflects, it tends to morph and reset the rules of competition.”

Inflection Points for the WLAN Marketplace:

1. Wired to Wireless:

The first inflection point is the shift from wired to wireless networks. When wireless networks equal the reliability of wired networks, and meet the requirements of 90%+ of user applications, a new generation of network access will take off.

Today, the predictability and reliability of WLAN systems are dramatically better, as we see a wide range of industries using these systems in business critical situations, from stock exchange trading floors to a range of supply chain applications. Interesting, I think the major shift here is that there is a major fusing of the the concepts of wireless and wired. At Cisco, today, over 43% of all employees use Wireless as the principal access method

2. Consumers/SOHO to Enterprise/Service Provider:

The WLAN revolution started in the home but is going to finish in the enterprise and carrier market segments, perhaps even blurring some of those distinctions along the way. With this business shift, new control and performance requirements are emerging for the people who operate WLANs.


3. Convenience to Business Critical:

Today, WLANs are relatively ad hoc and are unpredictable (unlike your wired LAN or phone network). Increasingly, as end-users depend more and more on WLANs, they will change from convenience networks to production networks to, ultimately, business-critical networks, networks that operate as reliably as wired networks. To make this transition, WLAN platforms must evolve in terms of reliability, performance, and mobility.


4. Proprietary Clients to Heterogeneous Clients:

One of the dirty little secrets of the WLAN industry is that while most industry players adhere to standards and operability (e.g., WiFi), most of the advanced security and performance features are handled by proprietary clients loaded with — you guessed it — proprietary software. While this paradigm worked in the last phase of the industry, control of the WLAN client is lost, gone forever as PC, PDA, cell phone and other device manufacturers bundle WLAN chipsets in all kinds of devices. Going forward, all business-critical WLANs must live and thrive in a world of heterogeneous, standards-adherent clients.

Absolutely true. If you look at our CCX program, much of what we are pushing is the more rapid adoption of the standards. Take a look at Dave Molta and James Blandford’s column CCX plays by the rules

5. Stand-alone APs to Switched APs:

WLANs, like the first Ethernet networks before them, were designed as flat, peered networks, where the end-nodes on the network operated as independent entities. When there is a little traffic or no requirements for predictable performance, this program works fine. However, for WLANs to scale and support the new requirements outlined above, they will need to associate, to work together. Increasingly, intelligence and coordination will be handed by a centralized intelligence source, a WLAN Switch.

The history has been written on this one

6. Shared Media to RF Management:

The other dirty secret of the WLAN industry remains the industry’s lack of attention to the RF environment, a fixed resource with associated statistical problems. Business-critical WLANs will require network operators to implement self-optimizing radio resource systems that compensate for the frequent shifts of the RF environment — without forcing IT staff into becoming RF engineers.

More true today than ever. Lightweight APs are not the same as RF-insensitive devices.

7. Ad Hoc to Self-Managed:

WLANs have grown virally, with APs hanging off ethernet jacks like power cords off of a power strip. As wireless networks grow in size and usage in the office, attention to network design and optimization is becoming a first-order priority for network managers, building on the emergence of self-optimizing radio resource systems.

Ditto 6

8. Throughput-Constrained to Throughput-Rich:

Almost ten years ago, George Gilder started predicting “bandwidth will be free.” But he was talking about fiber optics, not spectrum. Increasingly, however, as Moore (versus Gilder)’s Law embraces the WLAN world, new RF paradigms like 802.11 and UWB will provide a rapid uplift in throughput, from today’s 11/54 Megabits per second (Mbps) systems to 100Mbps or even 1000 Mbps.

I am passionate about the pending spectrum crisis at 2.4, and much like today’s alternative energy evangelists, i think we need to better conserve the free airwaves through continuous improvement in RF management as well as take advantage of the addtional bandwidth available in the UNII band at 5 Gig (i.e., the oil sands of free spectrum). We love the coming capabilities promised by 802.11n, but it is later than the hype but definitely on the horizon

9. WEP Problem to Rogue Problem:

The first stage of the WLAN industry was characterized by a serious security flaw in the link layer, the failing of the WEP protocol. The advent of WPA and AES look like they will address this problem. The bigger problem most network operators face today is the Rogue problem, where evildoers and your own employees ( with no malicious intent) can now access the network by plugging in a $59 AP into the nearest Ethernet jack, hence punching a security hole into your network and computing environment Darth Vader could fly into to.

Sure enough

10. Data Apps to Voice and Data Apps:

Most WLANs today either support general office applications (email, file transfer, etc.) or some productivity applications in specific verticals (patient records in hospitals, supply chain in distribution). Increasingly, next generation WLAN platforms will also carry voice applications. Business-critical WLANs, we believe, must underpin real-time applications like voice (and video) on the same infrastructure.

The next wave of Mobility Applications are driving the market Check out Ben Gibson’s Voice-Ready Wireless Webinar with Abner Germanow and partners from Intel and Nokia.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 07:48AM

May 01, 2006

Metropolitan Mesh: Better Be Secure

Back from a week in the Big Apple

EVERYONE is talking mesh.

Then there is the wireless security initiative in Westchester County.

“The more things are forbidden, the more popular they become”
Mark Twain — Notebooks 1895:

No stopping mobility.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 05:24PM

April 24, 2006

Snap, Crack & Drop (or Look at Me, I Can Be Centerfield)

In New York this week on vacation. Matt’s column on BER reminded me of an earlier period in my career, about 15 years ago when I was working on a project for NYNEX Cellular. We developed a competitive cell site financial model to justify a huge NY City-wide build of micro-cells to improve coverage and roaming capabillities in Manhattan. Prior to the build-out plan that was aggressively matched by then McCaw Cellular (which got acquired by ATT, which got acquired by SBC, which got folded into Cingular), the average cellular experience for a Gotham City denizen was snap, crackle and drop.

At that time, the carriers had a hard time justifying the business case for pervasive, intra-urbran dense deployment of microcells. As late of 1990, many of the large consulting firms had completed analysis that there would only be a million cellular subscribers across the nation. Killer Applications? What Killer Ap? Then we were marketing “safety” as the key reason to own a cellphone (don’t let your loved ones leave home without out it!).

Sound familiar? Yesterday, despite the rain, I saw the “Big Unit” nail the Baltimore Orioles (helped along by Jason Giambi’s “big swatter”), and it reminded me about the whole city-wide Wi-Fi debate, which reminded me of the prophetic words of an earlier Yankee, Yogi Berra “It’s Deja-Vu, al over again.” (also a album/song title by another “old Fogerty”)

Let’s face it sports fans, pervasive city-wide Wi-Fi is as inevitable, as a Starbucks on every corner.

Roll the soundtrack:

Well, beat the drum and hold the phone — the sun came out today!
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.
A-roundin’ third, and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man;
Anyone can understand the way I feel.

Oh, put me in, Coach — I’m ready to play today;
Put me in, Coach — I’m ready to play today;
Look at me, I can be Centerfield.

Well, I spent some time in the Mudville Nine, watchin’ it from the bench;
You know I took some lumps when the Mighty Casey struck out.
So Say Hey Willie, tell Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio;
Don’t say “it ain’t so”, you know the time is now.

Oh, put me in, Coach — I’m ready to play today;
Put me in, Coach — I’m ready to play today;
Look at me, I can be Centerfield.

Yeah! I got it, I got it!
Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes;
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride.
Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all — a moment in the sun;
(pop) It’s gone and you can tell that one goodbye!

Oh, put me in, Coach — I’m ready to play today;
Put me in, Coach — I’m ready to play today;
Look at me, I can be Centerfield.

Posted by Alan Cohen at 06:45AM
April 13, 2006


Have you noticed that people can overblog? I think I have a new term for folks that overblog: SPLOG

It is when you SPAM your BLOGs

Mobile Vision Contributors: let’s watch out for SPLOG (especially me!)

Posted by Alan Cohen at 04:20PM

April 13, 2006

Sparkling New Wi-Fi Campus in Singapore

In general, everytime I get to Singapore, I am amazed how clean and efficient everything is. But I always see something new on each visit.

This time, I had the pleasure of visiting the Republic Polytechnic, a BRAND NEW UNIVERSITY that is still under construction (when is the last time you saw a NEW university). AND ITs (drumroll please) all wireless. Rows and rows of APs everywhere, like the mad rush of ships in Singapore harbor, beckoning prosperity and connection with the rest of the world. Students everywhere with tablets, with laptops, all communicating.

More remarkable?

I met with the charismatic IT director, Samuel Liu in his new office. Looking around, I could not find a phone. NO deskphone? The all use Cisco softphones connected to our call managers IP PBX. “Where is your handset?” I asked. He pointed to a stringy headset on his desk. Wow, this guy can show many of us some real world experience about mobility. He went on to tell me about his reliance on MSN Messenger and Cisco IP Communicator. He wants all his mobility services federated and he will get there, probably before most. Reminded me of the Mark Twain quote from Puddin’ Head Wilson

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.

Mobility pioneers. Some of the least know innovators?

Posted by Alan Cohen at 03:58PM

April 13, 2006

Dual Mode for Hong Kong

Hong Kong never sleeps and its seems EVERYONE is always on their phone. Here phones are fashion and not just functional. Yet 3G services, the promise of cellular broadband, is slow to take off. Definitely a conudrum for a society where many people carry two phones, one tethered to a necklace, dangling like a proud locket, megapixel camera and the ready.

Perhaps allowing these phones to connect corporate networks, to services such as directories and databases could drive faster adoption of 3G and Wi-Fi.

Remember the Chinese proverb: “Distant water won’t quench your immediate thirst.”

Posted by Alan Cohen at 04:15AM

April 10, 2006

Korean BBQ, Wi-Fi DMZ

Touched down last night in Seoul as the orange cloud of nightfall blanketed the Korean pennisula before drifting down to the sea in Inchon. Waiting for friends to come out of customs, an SP network (with a weird, downloadable application), but, them, ah, deus ex machina, an open Linksys AP for a fast upload/download fun. 12 hours jammed in a metal can, a few feverish hours working through my battery life, and the the Centrino springs to life for a brief final burst of frenzied activity, like my 74 Opel Manta’s last ride down Newfane Hill (Vermont) in 1983 before throwing a rod and its ultimate, less-than-noble tow to the wrecking yard.

Walked from the hotel next to the Cisco office to a Korean BBQ place (which if you have not been, is a communal cook-out on a tableside grill). 3 blocks and my hand-held wifi-seeker saw 7 networks.

Just a little distance off is the most militaritzed border in the world. Wonder if they are sharing an access point, playing a multi-party game? A guild master to connect the North and South….

Posted by Alan Cohen at 05:05PM

April 04, 2006

I want my boarding card…and the clicks for free

I was sitting in SFO yesterday waiting for a flight to Chicago, enjoying the TMobile Hotspot (you know, as a serious aside, I have been a customer for over 5 years. There should be a frequent downloader program or something for WISPs). It would have been great if I could have downloaded a boarding pass and either had a way to print it or store it to my PDA. Although bar-codes do not come off well today on LCDs, someone is going to fix this problem.

Robert Frost once said: “If society fits you comfortably enough, you call it freedom.”

As more of us develop mobile lifestyles, we are going to push business and government to morph around the changing work/play scenarios enabled by wireless networking. Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits please don’t be mad:

“I want my boarding card.
Public W-iFi for nothing,
And the clicks for free.”


Posted by Alan Cohen at 07:32AM

March 31, 2006

The Wi-Fi World is Flat

In his best selling book, Tom Friedman of the New York Times wrote “And now the icing on the cake, the ubersteroid that makes it all mobile: wireless. Wireless is what will allow you to take everything that has been digitized, made virtual and personal, and do it from anywhere.”

We see wireless becoming that “ubersteroid” for networking, helping network managers to provide a range of mobility services to end users, including location/presence services, real-time unified communications (voice, messaging, chat, etc.), and identity-services (based on who you are)

As Chris Kozup noted in the inaugural blog, wireless is the underpinning of mobility. Mobility is the new expectation of business, and to a certain extent, societies at large. Lest this sound like hyperbole, consider what mobility means to people, not concepts:

- Accessing information in real time where ever they are
— Completing interactions and transactions in real-time
— Creating virtual workrooms and communities on the fly (for more on this, see John Seely Brown’s comments on the entrance of gamers into society

We are all into mobility. Upwards mobility in our careers. Being unchained from our desks. Removing restrictions from business based on geography or time of day (check out the post time…let’s hope I was not in California!). We’re talking about a society transacting and interacting in motion. This means things happen FAST and the end user is in control of EVERYTHING. This is business riffing, in motion, to an iPOD and not to the component stereo at home. Mobility means business is moving to our fingertips (and ears and mouths) as we move.

And wireless is the force in networking that is taking us there.


Posted by Alan Cohen at 06:45AM

Partner at DCVC (Data Collective)

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