Cisco engineers debate what emerging tech will disrupt business in next 10 years

Summary:CTOs and engineers debate which new technologies are most likely to transform the way we live, work, learn and play in the decade ahead.

SAN JOSE -- Everyone loves to predict the future and what technologies will get us there. There are plenty of forecasts about how many connected devices there will be in the next decade, but others might be more keen on learning more about what these technologies will be doing then.

Some expert engineers and executives at Cisco have shared their predictions of which pieces of emerging tech are going to be most disruptive for networking worldwide.

See also: Cisco pegs potential profit value for Internet of Everything at $14.4 trillion | Tapping M2M: The Internet of Things

Speaking during Cisco's second annual Editors Conference on Wednesday afternoon, the CTOs and engineers debated which emerging technologies could be the most engaging (and most valuable) for networking over the next few years.

Kip Compton, CTO of the video and collaboration unit at Cisco, focused on video, highlighting high-efficiency video codecs, 4K video and the WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications) open source project led by Mozilla to turn all devices into web conferencing end points.

"What's really missing right now in the industry is an application ecosystem about networking," Ward remarked, explaining that "we hear so much about mobile web apps," but that SDN is really about what you're trying to do with the network.

As this stuff hits the market, Compton predicted that ultra-HD video is going to redefine the user experience -- along with the amount of traffic generated by and the value of video.

Dr. Ananth Sankar, a distinguished engineer within the collaboration technology group at Cisco, suggested real-time conversational speech recognition.

Sankar said that Cisco is already using apps for this right now for transcription and jumping to exact points in videos, adding that it could eventually be used for more purposes such as language translation.

But, as Sankar pointed out, translation requires more than speech recognition from voice-to-text, but also machine translation of text-to-text and speech synthesis of text back to voice.

Sankar also acknowledged that some languages are easier, such as Spanish or English, but others such as Mandarin require a lot more work.

Nevertheless, Sankar remained optimistic, positing that this technology could be incredibly valuable for more international verticals such as the travel industry as well as for legal purposes.

Cisco's chief technology officer of engineering, Dave Ward, said he couldn't decide on just one technology, but instead settled on two quite different ones: software-defined networking and silicon photonics.

"What's really missing right now in the industry is an application ecosystem about networking," Ward remarked, explaining that "we hear so much about mobile web apps," but that SDN is really about what you're trying to do with the network.

He argued than an open, programmable framework unlocks value, such as through monetizing indoor locations and sponsored data while optimizing access and transportation of said data across the cloud.

Ward added that SDN also allows service providers to dynamically add more resources, and then tune each aspect of their networks to deliver those services.

Switching completely to silicon photonics, Ward argued that it's the "only disruptive technology" that can address longer-term technical and commercial requirements for microprocessors.

Ward outlined some of the benefits of leveraging investment in silicon productiziation, including smaller power usage rates matched with a greater density of I/O bandwidth. He continued that we're now able to take interface construction and create "much smaller, higher-speed pluggable optics."

Topics: CXO, Cisco, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Social Enterprise


Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider,, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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