The Microscopic Technology Change You Need to Be Watching

In the video below, Motley Fool analyst Eric Bleeker talks with Cisco's (NASDAQ: CSCO  ) Chris White, who is a general manager of Internet of Things sales at the company. 

The biggest technology changes come from small places. While the Internet of Things promises to have an annual economic measured in the trillions of dollars in coming years, at its central foundation it promises to connect billions of "things" to the Internet. That requires small sensors spanning from cameras, to sensors that detect movement, or sensors in large farm lands measuring moisture levels. 

Chris discusses some of the major advancements in sensor technology in recent years, and how those advancements are helping make the Internet of Things a reality. 

A transcript follows the video. 

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Eric Bleeker: You're part of the solution, but whether sold through your own [Cisco's] sales force or system integrators, you're going to be partnering with a lot of companies, because this is too big an industry for one company to do all alone. I was wondering, could you talk about some of the surrounding technologies that really excite you? Things like real-time data analysis, anything of that sort, security ...

No company can have a full portfolio, so if you could talk about some adjacent technologies that have really impressed you in the past few years?

Chris White: Just to walk into that question a minute, that's the reason we launched the IoT World Forum last year. Yes, we're excited about 99% of the world not being connected, but to your point, we also recognize we can't do it alone; the data analytical issues, the camera technology, the sensor issues, etc.

I think the one fundamental that just amazes me -- and I guess the relative good news is it's not a single company that stands out -- but the way sensor technology has changed in the last five to ten years, it is incredible. Literally, you are talking microscopic with IPv6 security processing compute power.

We all love to talk about how much processing power a smartphone has in the middle of Africa nowadays. What's the analogy? I think a guy with a smartphone in Africa has more communication power than Ronald Reagan had when he was fighting the Cold War, and what President Clinton had when he was trying to change the global economy.

But drop down a level and look at what sensors and cameras can do nowadays. I think that's a very exciting area that has been pretty staid and stodgy for a while.

Bleeker: Let's (unclear) down that just a little bit. When I talk with people I find a lot of the time I use the word "sensor" and their eyes glaze over, because it's very hard to understand. But the crux of this is taking 99% of the analog world and digitizing it, essentially. Could you give some examples of really innovative sensors that would take the word "sensor" and make it real to people out there?

White: I think we've touched on one which even baffled me, as a guy that's been at Cisco for a while. When you see a sensor on the top of an industrial green garbage can in the corner of Barcelona, that is pretty damn amazing -- I've got to be honest!

We talked about the Internet-enabled refrigerator back in the '90s and the '20s when the dot-com boom was raving, and we said, "You're going to get that six pack of beer in your fridge before you even get home."

Well, what we're seeing is, sensors in refrigerators basically want to tell Whirlpool when that little light on your refrigerator is flashing, and you haven't changed that filter. They don't want you to get on Amazon and buy some third-party filter. They want to sell it to you directly, and they want to be able to call you up or send you a text and say, "Hey, you know what? The reason that light's on is now that refrigerator is costing you 30% more energy to run than if you change that sensor."

I think the applications of sensors, to your point, makes it way more real than people picking up little bits of silicon and saying, "Look how cool this is," and IP6 and billions of IP addresses. People are like, "Whatever. What do I use it for?"


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