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Last week saw an interesting strategic partnership being announced in the IoT space, as Cisco and AGT International  said that they had agreed to form a “Smart City Global Strategic Alliance” to drive future smart-city deployments and innovation.

The alliance between the two IoT pioneers makes sense in many levels. For AGT International, Cisco serves as a strong infrastructure partner whose involvement will help addressing many technology issues that would otherwise inhibit the deployment of AGT’s solutions. Meanwhile, Cisco gains an ally that has specialized in the system-integration layer of smart cities, combining a great deal of relevant domain expertise with knowledge of the locally specific nature of such projects. Cities are always unique entities – often differing hugely in terms of national legislation, topology, demographics, existing infrastructure, and so forth – and therefore the complex problems they face are never like-for-like. AGT’s dedicated IoT platform for city environments, UrbanShield, is built on exactly the sort of analytics-centric problem-solving experience the company has gained over the past years in these areas.

Importantly, the announcement coincides with the news around Cisco IOx, which is meant to serve as an application enablement platform to deliver “fog computing”, the company’s vision for bridging the network edge with the cloud. The idea behind fog computing, to put it simply, is that since a large share of IoT applications will be inherently local, operating in relatively small geographical areas, also much of the data processing needs to be distributed to the edge. In such circumstances, the traditional cloud architectures that rely solely on a small number of geographically remote datacentres can’t necessarily deliver the low latency required by local and often real-time use cases. It is one of the most significant issues that need to be addressed if a city wants to be truly data-driven. (When it comes to the subject, I’d like to give a hat tip to Chris Swan, the CTO of CohesiveFT, who has in the past given me a lot of food for thought about the said dynamic between the IoT and the cloud.)

Bear in mind also the big picture. The rise of cities is one of the most fundamental megatrends that we’ll be dealing with in the coming decades. It’s a trend that will challenge many of our traditional notions across themes such as nation state, migration, citizenship, government, and commerce – and at the same time, it will also lead to various unprecedented technological changes. The emergence of the IoT/IoE is one such change, being to a great extent driven by actions that take place within individual cities and urban regions, rather than countries. For that reason, it is likely that we will witness many further technology alliances between stakeholders covering different parts of the smart-city value chain. At ABI Research, we'll be watching the space closely under our Internet of Everything research service.

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