Cisco focuses on skills, security for Internet of Things

Cisco has announced a global consortium to reskill IT workforces for the shift to Internet of Things.

Cisco has signed up 11 corporations and education institutions to a new global consortium aimed at employing more people, and re-skilling up to 2 million network engineers today.

In the year since Cisco first launched its Internet of Things division at the company's first conference in Barcelona, it now has 250 public customers, with thousands of deployments worldwide for connected devices. At the launch of the company's second conference in Chicago on Tuesday, Cisco's VP for enterprise product and marketing, Inbar Lasser-Raab, said that there has been a shift from viewing the Internet of Things as an early-adoption technology to something that businesses are now deploying broadly, and from a discussion around connected devices to what business outcomes can be derived from those connected devices.

To cope with the ramp up in IoT deployments, she said that there is a need to grow the ecosystem, address security and privacy issues, and re-skill the workforce.

Cisco's vice president and general manager of services, Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, told journalists in Chicago on Tuesday that there is a need to fundamentally overhaul the education system to re-skill the 2.4 million people in networking to be equipped with the skills for working in a world with connected devices.

"The business world is going to be looking for people who can take all this information from these things and do something new with it," she said.

The biggest shift will be the need for cybersecurity analysts, Beliveau-Dunn said.

"No one is going to connect all these things in an open IP network without securing it very tightly," she said.

"The cybersecurity analyst is going to be one of the biggest growth roles. We need a million new people in this area alone."

The role of the CIO would also be changing with the shift to the Internet of Things, she said.

"In the past, the CIO was responsible for building everything, now ... we're talking about being the orchestrator of business outcomes," she said.

"Building some things for sure ... but most importantly taking the wealth of IT solutions and bringing them together to produce better outcomes."

To that end, Cisco announced that it has formed an industry talent consortium made up of businesses, recruiters, and educational institutions to develop the skills required.

Included in the consortium are The New York Academy of Sciences, MIT, and Stanford for academia; Careerbuilder for recruitment; Rockwell Automation, Davra Networks, GE, and Cisco for employers; and Xerox, Udacity, Pearson, and Knod for change agents.

GE already announced its plans to work with Cisco for the Internet of Things earlier this month.

"There's going to be a massive effort to change the people that are there ... as well as connecting new people into the talent base where we need them," Beliveau-Dunn said.

"There are plenty of people in the world ... the problem is that the people don't have the right skills for this agenda."

The top roles that the consortium would be looking to skill for are data scientists, cybersecurity analysts, mobile app developers, and network programmers, she said, adding that companies need to ensure that they are re-skilling their own workforces.

One of Cisco's partners in the venture, Rockwell Automation's VP of market development John Nesi, said manufacturing as an industry is often slow to upgrade, but these industries need to get the skills in place now to cope with more devices connected in production lines.

"They're now having to deal with things like security issues all the time," he said. "Some of those roles are not only going to be hired by Rockwell, but also Rockwell's customers."

Beliveau-Dunn said that the consortium would have a global focus on education through its partners.

"All of the players listed are serving a global audience. We have a number of opportunities we have been working with over the past few years ... what we're hoping to do is use the ecosystems of global partners to accelerate that," she said.

"What we're doing in this new consortium is bringing together educators around the world ... we have hundreds of thousands of organisations ... now what we need to do is expand that, even. We hope to create a uniform approach to education in this area by making the education very accessible, and removing the barriers."

Cisco also announced today a new seven-layer reference model for the industry to explain the various layers of the Internet of Things, similar to the OSI model aimed at explaining the different elements of the Internet of Things. The model was developed by the Internet of Things World Forum Steering Committee, which includes 104 members such as GE, SAP, Itron, and Oracle.

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Reference model Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet

At the forum, Cisco will also focus on its recently announced "fog computing" platform IOx . Cisco's general manager and vice president of IoT Systems and Software, Kip Compton, said that fog computing is beginning to be used to complement cloud computing in allowing companies to process data locally. He said it is frequently being used in places such as oil rigs, where there is limited connectivity, or places where latency is an issue or where work can continue even when a wider network is down.

Cisco now has new partnerships for IOx, including with GE, SAP, SK Singapore, Itron, Bitstew, OSIsoft, and Darwa networks.

"We're seeing these use cases across a number of different verticals," he said.

Cisco has now extended the number of its router products with IOx available, up from two at launch to 16, and the company has also upgraded its Application Management module.

Josh Taylor travelled to Chicago as a guest of Cisco.

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