In a previous post I touched on the partnership Schneider Electric has with Cisco aimed at helping customers build more efficient data centers. As our two companies have gotten closer together, the scope of our relationship has expanded significantly. Together, we are charting a course to instrument and communicate data from the infrastructure of our daily lives, allowing better control, better efficiency and contributing to a world where we use less of our precious resources.
Cisco, as you may be aware, talks a lot these days about the Internet of Things, which is basically the idea that just about anything can be outfitted with a sensor and send meaningful data – somewhere. John Chambers of Cisco has even been so bold as to estimate this to be a $14 trillion market. Yes, trillion with a T.
Cisco has a pretty cool graphic that gives you a good sense of what the Internet of Things is all about. (One tidbit: A Dutch startup is putting sensors on cattle, so when one gets sick or pregnant, it sends a message to the farmer. Each cow generates 200 MB of data per year.)
The role Cisco plays in the Internet of Things, of course, is to supply communications between all these sensing devices and the control systems that turn this data into useful information. Schneider Electric is a leader in instrumenting the infrastructure, enabling all kinds of “devices” to generate and send their data over those Cisco IP networks. Today, we are already pumping terabytes of data over Cisco networks.
Let me give you a few examples of how the Internet of Things is playing out. One is in the mining business, which is served by our Industry business unit. Think about all the heavy machinery and processes it takes to run a mining operation and to produce the finished product fit for sale. Much of this process is automated and Schneider Electric solutions provide much of the instrumentation that makes it all work. Cisco, meanwhile, offers a line of specialized, ruggedized hubs, routers and switches to supply communications in this harsh environment. Together, the solution gives business owners precise control over their operations.
Mining is just one example. We’re also having great success with our industrial solutions in the Middle East where water is a precious commodity. Desalinization plants that take the salt out of seawater, making it suitable for drinking and other uses, are a requirement to sustain human life and agriculture in the region. Here again, Schneider Electric solutions help automate these plants and their processes to make them energy efficient while Cisco provides the solutions to allow the critical communication. Together, we can help the plants run more efficiently and use less energy. This is important because if we can shave even a fraction of a percent off their energy use, it amounts to material savings.
The movement to a smart grid is another area where the Internet of Things comes into play. Historically, the electric grid was essentially a “dumb” network. If the power goes out to your home, you would have to call the electric company and tell them because they won’t necessarily know that you were down. Today, power companies are taking steps to add intelligence to the power distribution network, by automating components such as substations, feeders and electric meters. Schneider Electric, of course, makes many of these components and provides instrumentation that enables utilities to automate and control the flow of electricity. These solutions also provide reporting and enable a precise level of control. In short, together with Cisco, we’re making the electric grid more intelligent, with more machine-to-machine communication and less human intervention.
Keep an eye out for that term, Internet of Things, and think about ways you may be able to use instrumentation and communications technology to bring improvements to your industry. The possibilities are truly endless. Watch this space!