Fridges that talk, watches that listen and thermostats that learn your secret domestic habits: these are some of the most visible examples of the so-called “internet of things” (or “IoT” for aficionados).
Cisco, the global computing hardware group, is a big supporter of IoT. It announced yesterday that it was increasing its investment in early-stage companies in the sector to $250m over two to three years, up from the $100m it announced in January. It also unveiled three minority investments: in the enterprise start-up accelerator Alchemist Accelerator, as well two IoT software start-ups, Ayla Networks and Evrythng.
Cisco Systems, under investor pressure from disappointing profits and a scatter-shot approach to new markets, on Thursday said it would fix the latter in hopes of improving the former.
While around 75 per cent of US homes have broadband, only 39 per cent have a Wi-Fi router that makes their connection usable by wireless devices around the house,according to the IDC research firm. That represents a market opportunity for Cisco as consumers bring home more wireless products like the iPad and expect to be able to access the internet away from their hard-wired PC. Hence, its new range of Linksys routers launched on Tuesday, all of them using the latest “N” standard, which has penetrated only 11 per cent of homes to date.
Wireless technologies have always seemed a black art to me. From Bluetooth to Wi-Fi to 3G, mysterious signal dropouts and connection failures seem to occur at regular intervals. So finding the perfect home Wi-Fi router has been like a search for the Holy Grail, and it hasn’t exactly ended with Cisco’s latest product – the Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Dual Band N Router.
Cisco launched ūmi on Wednesday, a video conferencing system for the living room that is big in bulk, price and bandwidth requirements.
It may appeal to some as a premium single-function product, but it faces stiff competition from smaller, far cheaper multi-function video conferencing rivals.
Video conferencing may finally be set to go mainstream with Logitech and Cisco both set to unveil HD cameras linked to internet-connected living room TV sets next Wednesday.
With Skype HD cameras already being integrated with TVs and Microsoft due to offer video conferencing in its Kinect motion controller accessory in November, TV viewers will be getting used to being watched themselves.
The latest Personal Technology column in the FT’s Business Life section looks at the new version of the Flip camcorder:
“The success of the Flip style of camcorder has encouraged rivals such as Kodak, Samsung and Sanyo to launch similar devices, but the SlideHD is the first low-cost camcorder to feature such a large HD widescreen.”
Setting up a Wi-Fi network in the home appears to be beyond many consumers, with retailers sometimes seeing returns of upwards of 20-25 per cent on wireless routers.
Enter the Cisco Valet – a simplified product that doesn’t even say it’s a router on the box – aimed at the two-thirds of US homes still without wireless.