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IBM and Cisco ink IoT deal integrating Watson AI into Cisco edge routers

TechCrunch TechCrunch 2/06/2016 Ingrid Lunden

IBM has been giving a push both to its Watson artificial intelligence and Internet of Things businesses as part of its bigger strategy to grow new streams of revenue to offset declines in older ones. Today came the latest development on that front: IBM has inked a deal with Cisco to bring Watson IoT technology into Cisco’s architecture, specifically aimed at providing analytics services for networks of autonomous and unmanned connected devices.

Harriet Green, GM, IBM Watson IoT, Commerce and Education, said in an interview that there are no direct financial deals between the two companies or targets for how much they plan to invest on working together.

Rather, sales teams at each will work to bring in new IoT business that will hopefully also result in a business bump for the other. (Early customers for the service include Bell Canada, the Port of Cartagena, and Silverhook Powerboats, all of whom were already working with both before this new service, Green told me.)

Green says that the problem that IBM and Cisco are trying to tackle has to do with tapping the wider range of IoT devices, including unmanned devices in remote locations, in a more efficient way.

“While we have a focus on Watson as a cloud-based system, for certain clients with remote or autonomous operations we need something else,” she said. “Shipping, mining and many factories all operate at the edge of the computer network, where bandwidth might be expensive or unreliable.”

This is where Cisco’s edge analytics come in. The idea is to put in Cisco hardware, specifically edge routers and switches that already run Cisco’s analytics, that will host the Watson tech to both collect and hand off IoT analytics data. That data can then be handed off in real time into the cloud-based network.

And that, in turn, can be used to better manage connected devices, as well as to obtain analytics as part of a wider big data information-gathering effort that spreads across IBM’s bigger IoT network, where devices that are used to deliver data also become points of data ingestion that will help train and fuel the bigger Watson AI brain.

Green added that while the deal between IBM and Cisco is not exclusive, it is the first of its kind for both in the approach to working with another huge vendor to tackle new business areas — in this case, the new wave of IoT business as well as the emerging market for big data analytics.

Cisco has not been a stranger to partnering up with third parties as a route to selling more of its routers. Last year, the company inked a deal with Ericsson for the two to partner, develop and sell products together across the full range of their businesses.

IBM, meanwhile, has been touting partnership as the way ahead to build IoT services: it says it works with some 1,400 companies already in one way or another, although it highlights 11 big ones on its IoT partner site — including chip companies like ARM and Intel.

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