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CES 2014: Cisco predicts an automated, connected future

In unequivocal terms, Cisco CEO John Chambers made clear during a keynote and by an invitation-only media event at CES, the company's direction is toward IP video and Internet/network-connected everything.

At the media event, Chambers and other Cisco executives demonstrated its Videoscape TV services delivery platform. The platform is offered to service providers and media companies to deliver new video services and capabilities to customers.

The scenario included new ways of viewing entertainment, with apps as the driving force for controlling the way we view content. In one demo, Cisco engineers showed how a customer could easily "carry" video from room-to-room via the use of a mobile device and smart TV.

In another, integration between web pages and TV channels was demonstrated via a cookware infomercial, where a consumer could pause, rewind, and replay the video, and also view relevant information about the products in the informercial on the web.

Cisco also announced that NBC Universal will use Videoscape for its coverage of the winter Olympics. It will support transcoding and content management for the purpose of allowing NBC to deliver live streaming and on-demand content onsite in Sochi.

During his keynote, Chambers speech centered on the concept of the "Internet of Everything, " which is enabling network and Internet connectivity on everyday objects that are not normally associated with the web.

Chambers had the aid of some guests on stage to help convey his vision of the Internet of Things. Comedienne Sarah Silverman was featured in a video where she got a glimpse of her future self using giant interactive touch screens. They popped up all over her home to do everything from remind her about her appointments to track her bowel movements. (This is Sarah Silverman, after all.)

The Mayor of Barcelona also appeared on-stage with Chambers. Barcelona is one of the rare, if only, large European city, enjoying a budget surplus. The city is partnering with Cisco to become a "smart city." IP devices, such as network-connected street lamps are helping Barcelona reduce costs on things like energy and waste management.

Chambers spoke enthusiastically of a world where everything is automated, IP-enabled, and connected. He touted the benefits of smart shopping carts that would personalise your shopping experience to Internet-connected street lighting to help reduce crime and serve double-duty as electric car chargers.

It's apparent that Cisco is laser-focused on this vision of connected everything. And with good reason, the company needs to restructure after stagnation in sales of network hardware, which has been Cisco's cash cow.

The Internet of Things was a huge focus for the networking industry and at CES. Everything from wearable tech and smart cars to Internet-connected cookware, lights, baby cams, and more. It's a trend that is here to stay.

But it's not without critics.

Christopher Budd, Trend Micro's Global Threat Communications Manager, in a blog post, cautioned, "As the Internet of Everything (IoE) approaches, the stakes around privacy and security are getting higher." He continued, "We've seen security flaws enable attackers to hijack webcams on laptops; it's reasonable to assume that wearables with video capture capabilities will be similarly vulnerable. How can you know who's watching the video capture from your Google Glass set?"

Even the Wi-Fi Alliance, the organisation overseeing wireless standards, released a study which cites concerns about connected everything:

"Eighty-four percent of consumers cite concerns about integrating smart technologies into their homes: ease of use and compatibility chief among them," the study says.

Even with concerns about ease of use, security, and compatibility, connected devices are at the forefront of what we want. According to the same study, 91 per cent of consumers are more likely to purchase smart products if they are able to synchronise everything with their existing Wi-Fi network. More than half of respondents already have Wi-Fi-enabled household items such as appliances, thermostats or lighting systems.