Vitamin Y: new Cisco Canada headquarters an “IoT living lab”

RBC Waterpark Place III
RBC Waterpark Place III

Context: Cisco Canada is set to open doors this coming May on new Canadian headquarters in the RBC Waterpark Place III building at Harbour Square. The company will occupy floors 26 to 29 of the complex, as well as the second floor, which will house an Innovation Hub for customers and ecosystem partners to explore the potential for technology integration and new IoT solution co-creation. The building itself acts as a ‘hub’ – with ready access to key transportation arteries, including the Gardiner Expressway and the PATH pedestrian network which links to the GO Transit, TTC (subway) and VIA Rail systems, and with 292 bike stalls.

A LEED and Shell Platinum building, the Oxford Properties structure features heat reclamation on all ventilation units, high efficiency condensing boilers, deep lake water cooling from Lake Ontario, an outdoor air system equipped with CO2 sensors that delivers fresh air intake, LED lighting with occupancy sensors, daylight harvesting through extensive glass construction and roller blinds integrated into smart window systems, low emitting building materials and low flow fixtures that reduce water consumption by 35 percent.

As an anchor tenant, Cisco has made significant contributions to RBC Waterpark Place innovation: the building has been constructed with a single, converged IP network infrastructure that supports advanced building technologies such as PoE lighting and automated HVAC management to enable energy savings and better occupant control over the environment. With networking closets on each of its floors and extensive WiFi, Cisco is also supporting the creation of ‘connected workspaces’, an approach to powering employee productivity that takes into account mobile workforce trends and open workplace design for improved collaboration.

Two keYs:

Advance of IoT – inside out: The Internet of Things has captured the imaginations of the vendor community and market watchers alike, but as with any emerging technology area, real life use cases are in shorter supply. For some time now, the counting of connected devices (a recent Postscape/Harbour Research count puts the number at 8 billion by 2020, excluding smartphones) has served as a favoured activity designed to indicate IoT potential, while more structured analysis has aimed at estimating market value for the product and service provider community: estimates from analyst firms range from Gartner’s $300 billion in incremental value in 2020 to IDC’s $7.1 trillion in total IoT solution revenue for that same year. Cisco has taken a different approach, developing an IoE Value Index with calculations aimed at helping the end user organization better understand the value that can be realized through Internet of Everything implementations over the next decade. Since introduction, Cisco has revised up its global estimate to $19 trillion in value for 2020. But for the adopting organization, this profusion of numbers provides questionable guidance – IoT is clearly important, but what exactly is one to do with it? Here is where the value of the new Cisco headquarters comes in. With its array of occupancy sensors, connected via advanced fixed and mobile networking into PoE lighting and blind systems, and networked heating and cooling systems, Cisco’s new offices provide a working demonstration of the advance of IoT technologies. In addition, as one of as one of five global centres of excellence, the Toronto Innovation Hub will be devoted to IoT research.

Building for mobile workforce trends: Much has been made of the near ubiquity of broadband and the extension of WiFi connectivity, at least in the developed regions, as a means to support new workforce trends. In its new headquarters, Cisco has taken pains to create a live wired environment that allows employees and guests easy online onboard from virtually any place in the space. But the new offices have also been designed for high density occupancy and flexible levels of physical collaboration with a mix of small and large conference rooms, buffered quiet rooms and active “creativity zones” to support individual work and varying configurations of group activity. Walls within the structure, in fact, have been constructed to offer their own brand of mobility: they may be moved, based on monitoring of occupancy and use, and reconfigured to address changing space demand. With this shift from the individual cubicle/board room format, Cisco is in good company. A recent global study into the evolving workforce conducted by Dell/Intel has found that 53 percent of offices now use open floor plans: of these, 28 percent sport a mix of offices and open spaces and 25 percent are fully open with no barrier between employees. Going forward, Cisco intends to build out additional regional offices according to the Toronto template, with individual departments/divisions/open spaces located in the same place within the office structures. The goal is to create continuity of experience for employees and visitors across Canadian Cisco office footprint.

The bottom line: Interestingly, Cisco’s implementation at Waterpark Place offers neither an example of IoT in a consumer context (the reason for all those devices) nor in an industrial setting (the driver of IoT revenues), but rather in a commercial building. It is also one that has been applied to the building’s interior, though as Wim Elfrink, chief globalization officer and architect of Cisco’s IoE strategy, explained at the recent IoT Forum, Cisco itself measures its own IoE revenue on the sale of ruggedized routers suited to exterior or industrial conditions. This disjuncture illustrates the challenges associated with market sizing in an emerging market, and the critical importance of use case in driving IoT adoption. But the new headquarters build, which curiously creates approximately 20 percent more physical space than was available in Cisco’s existing downtown location at a time when restructuring is reducing global employee numbers, serves another function. It delivers showcase marketing for IoT and for the host of other Cisco networking and collaboration technologies that will be on display in the new headquarters workspace and Innovation Hub and as the ‘connected workspace’ juggernaut rolls out across the rest of the country.

For an advance peek, see the Cisco headquarters tour video below.

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