Cisco: "Reinventing the physical security business?"

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

SAN JOSE, Calif.--"We think we have the opportunity to reinvent the physical security business," said Guido Jouret, vice president and chief technology officer of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Group, during a tour of the software giant's headquarters here. "And we see convergence as an opportunity to change the way technology is done."
Though a relative newcomer to the physical security space, the resources behind the company would make any visitor to its 19-building campus here--with more than 7.5 million square feet in its combined floor plan, and another million to be added in the next year--believe that Cisco means business. "I've been here three weeks and I'm still in awe of the number of resources here," said Bill Stuntz, the newly installed general manager and vice president of the physical security business unit at Cisco and former chief executive officer of Broadware Technologies (see sidebar, this page).
During Jouret's presentation, he also said that the physical security venture was part of a broader strategy at Cisco, with the goal in the Emerging Technologies group to have one new acquisition per quarter. So far, the company is on track to announce a total of four this year. (In the physical security space, Cisco also acquired SyPixx in March of 2006.) Other new enterprises in the Emerging Technology division include IP radio, digital signage and its Telepresence technology, a networked teleconferencing solution that employs large flat-screen monitors.
"People expect us to offer a total solution," said Jouret. Will Cisco become a major player in the security space? For all intents and purposes, they are here to stay. According to Jouret, "We think there is a lot of money to be made here. For us, this is a very serious business."
As just one example of a new Cisco product that reaches into a number of fields, see the Network Emergency Response Vehicle (or "NERV"), rolled out in March of this year. It is a tactical mobile solution that can be deployed to establish communications--including those needed for IP security--by serving as a back-up for networks that may be down due to a weather event, such as a hurricane, or other large-scale disaster. The communication center of the truck is configured with five racks of radio, telecommunication, computer, video and IP technology.
"We are broadening into a lot of different areas," said Jouret, "and we're prepared to take some risks."
They also practice what they preach.
Cisco's internal safety and security operations have been run by Bill Jacobs, senior manager of enterprise safety and security, for 13 years. Jacobs stressed his insistence on interoperability in all of the company's security systems, which utilize converging technologies in its facilities. "Interoperability of a rules-based policy engine creates a tremendous amount of cost-savings and sustainability," said Jacobs. Echoing Jouret, he continued, "The way I see the security business evolving is into a solutions-oriented business."
Cisco expanded its emergency operations center here and upgraded the facility's technology six months ago. An emergency alert system, called IPICCS, is also in place: If there's a security breach or disaster of any kind, within seconds all employees at the facility receive messages with instructions via email, PDA, and telephone.