Cisco Live in pics: Who needs flying cars?

LAS VEGAS — Cisco Live — In the middle of a virtual reality demo of the Internet of Things for transportation, my smartwatch buzzed my wrist with a notification from the real world. Later, I got into a spirited disagreement with a woman from a company called Gupshup about how much personality chatbots should have.

“We’re living the future!” I thought, and used my pocket computer, connected to a global wireless network, to instantly shared the insight with thousands of friends all over the world.

We’re almost never amazed anymore by technology miracles like IoT, chatbots and wireless networks. We take them for granted. And yet, as Yvette Kanouff, SVP/GM service provider business for Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), observed at a Thursday session here, it’s up to service providers to deliver the bandwidth to make it all go. “It’s wonderful for the world to talk about how everything, everywhere is going to be connected, but the pressure is on us to provide the bandwidth and make it work,” she said.

Cisco Live is the company’s annual conference for its enterprise customers. Light Reading was there with its trusty camera. Here’s some of what we saw.

More photos: Cisco Live in Pics: Who Needs Flying Cars?

Me on Light Reading.

How GE Exorcised the Ghost of Jack Welch to Become a 124-Year-Old Startup

Under CEO Jeff Immelt, GE has shed its apppliance and GE Capital business, and is making a long bet on imbuing intelligence into its lines of industrial equipment – aka the Industrial Internet, or Internet of Really Big Things.

GE’s ambitions were greeted with skepticism in the Valley. In 2012, when Immelt promoted the software venture in San Francisco during a company-sponsored event with Marc Andreessen, the star venture capitalist and a friend of Immelt’s warned that it would be difficult for a hardware company like GE to assemble a team of data scientists that could perform the kind of tasks that GE had in mind. “It’s hard to be really good at that,” Andreessen said. “It’s really complicated.” (Bloomberg LP, which owns Bloomberg Businessweek, is an investor in Andreessen Horowitz.)

Jennifer Waldo, GE’s head of human relations in the San Ramon office, says recruiters had a hard time just getting people to come in for an interview. Nine out of 10 software developers they contacted had no idea GE was in the business or that it even had operations in California. Nor were they necessarily interested in learning anything more: Almost all had jobs and couldn’t see any upside to working for an East Coast microwave oven manufacturer. In 2013, Waldo appealed to Immelt for help when he visited San Ramon. “I walked him through all those issues,” she says. “I needed to compensate differently. I needed to in-source my recruiting team. We were competing in a marketplace where we’re not even a recognized player.” A former GE recruiter says the company offered stock options to job candidates, but not actual stock, the norm in Silicon Valley. There were also no nap rooms, no on-site child care, no dogs wandering around the office.

Waldo and her team found they could make headway by telling prospects that they would have a chance to develop trains and power equipment rather than some inconsequential social-networking app. “I had a candidate in the early days,” she recalls. “She came in and said, ‘I’m sitting there trying to figure out how to put a Pinterest button on something, and I get this phone call from GE, and you’re talking about making aircraft engines fly more efficiently.’ ” (A GE spokeswoman says the company now includes stock in its compensation for software developers, too.)

GE also targeted startup veterans who’d spent years putting in hours for low pay hoping to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. “They went around to guys who were in their second and third startup and had been eating ramen noodles for eight years,” says Nick Heymann, an analyst at William Blair. “They said, ‘Look, how would you just like to have a normal lifestyle, live an hour outside the Bay Area, make a quarter of a million bucks a year, and give your kids a really good education?’ ” At the end of 2013, GE had 750 people working in San Ramon.

The recruitment paid off.

Head count at the San Ramon office is 1,300, including some refugees from Google and Facebook. It already has aviation customers using Predix applications to monitor the wear and tear on their jet engines and calibrate their maintenance schedules based on that data rather than an average for the entire fleet. It’s created smart wind turbines that tell each other how to shift their blades to catch more wind, which GE says can increase their power output by as much as 20 percent.

GE is developing Predix, an operating system for the Industrial Internet.

GE says it’s beginning to sell Predix-based services to customers who design their own industrial equipment. Pitney Bowes is using Predix on its mailing-label machines and letter-sorting devices in corporate mailrooms; Toshiba is using it on elevators. “The Industrial Internet is going to be the dark matter of the Internet,” promises Harel Kodesh, chief technology officer for GE Digital, which is what the company now calls its software division. “It’s something you don’t see, but it is actually the bulk of what’s happening on the Internet. Other than porn, I guess.”

[How GE Exorcised the Ghost of Jack Welch to Become a 124-Year-Old Startup / Devin Leonard Rick Clough  / Bloomberg Businessweek]

What I’ve been up to recently on Light Reading

I went to the MIT Technology Review Digital Summit on 36-hour turnaround. While at the airport I stopped in at the restaurant at the Virgin lounge for dinner, and thought, “Pretty soon I’m going to be a regular here and they’re going to start recognizing me. I wonder how I feel about that?” Then the waiter greeted me with, “Welcome back! You’ve been here a few times, haven’t you?”

Light Reading posted these articles from me while I was away:

Microsoft Planning 7-Day Phone Batteries
SAN FRANCISCO — MIT Technology Review Digital Summit — Microsoft is figuring out how to make mobile phone batteries last longer. How much longer? Try a week…

Is Cisco’s Chambers Retiring in the Fall?
Cisco CEO John Chambers may be planning to announce his retirement soon, and may leave the networking technology giant in the fall.

Cisco Systems Inc. is also embarking on a reorganization that will result in 20,000 people changing jobs inside the company, according to Silicon Valley chatter. The reorganization would be intended to reduce duplicate work. Many employees are developing the same technology for different business units; the reorganization would streamline those redundancies.

Google Exec: Internet of Things Requires ‘Brand New Network’
SAN FRANCISCO — MIT Technology Review Digital Summit — The Internet of Things will require telecom operators to turn their networks upside-down, believes Google Developer Advocate Don Dodge.

The Internet is currently designed for expensive, high-bandwidth connections such as video. The Internet of Things doesn’t need much bandwidth but needs to be inexpensive, Dodge said.

Overture Adds Hardware to Its NFV Pitch
Overture is extending its existing NFV proposition with a new product designed to combine the benefits of virtualized functions with dedicated hardware located at the customer premises.

More to come.

My flight got in very late last night and so I got a late start this morning. Tea, meet neurons.