Cisco Systems Inc. will set up a $100 million “Internet of Everything” innovation lab in Toronto where organizations can develop M2M solutions when it moves into its new Canadian headquarters next year.

In a coup for the Canadian division, it will be one of only four Cisco facilities around the world and the only IoE lab in North America.

Company officials said Wednesday that Toronto was chosen in part because of the success of an intelligent building lab opened at its current headquarters in 2012. That facility has attracted 100 customers and 30 technology partners and integrators of organizations to build applications that in part make building systems like heating and air conditioning controls talk to IP networks.

“The Internet of Everything is a U.S. $19 trillion global opportunity over the next decade, including almost $500 billion available to Canadian private and public sector organizations,” said Rob Lloyd, president of Cisco’s development and sales division. “Today much of that opportunity is left on the table. Cisco Innovation Centres help to accelerate and catalyze IoE opportunities for our customers by developing partnerships and expertise in key verticals.”

The $100 million will be spent over 10 years.

The decision comes after Cisco promised to spend up to $4 billion to expand Cisco operations in Toronto and create up to 1,700 new jobs. The other IoE centres will be built in Germany, Brazil and South Korea.

The Toronto facility will occupy 15,000 sq. ft. of space in Cisco Canada’s new waterfront headquarters, which is scheduled to open in April 2015.

Cisco Canada president Nitin Kawale refused to say how many new jobs the IoE centre alone will create here. But he did say that Cisco is committed to raising its head count in Canada to 5,000. It has about 1,500 now.

Cisco will occupy four of the 30 floors of the new building, called RBC WaterPark Place, whose main tenant will be the Royal Bank of Canada and its retail head office. However, the IoE innovation centre will have a prominent place on the second floor near a pedestrian bridge that will link it to the Air Canada Centre, where the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA Toronto Raptors play.
That means many people will see the innovation centre as they walk to the area, Cisco officials say.

Cisco is involved in a number of buildings in the waterfront area, part of a revitalization project that will see a number of condominiums and office towers wired with ultra high-speed broadband that will enable new kinds of IT applications.

While Cisco will have a data centre in RBC WaterPark Place, the IoE innovation centre will also leverage Cisco’s cloud computing network. That begged the question of why have a physical lab at all, particularly because Cisco also heavily promotes video conferencing.

“What you need the innovation centre for is to fundamentally transform industries,” Kawale replied. “At the end of the day, it’s still about humans working with humans.”

RBC WaterPark Place will be a 935,000 square-foot building, built to high environmental standards — it will be the city’s first designed to LEED Platinum standards — and have building controls designed with Cisco’s help. It will have a green roof irrigated with recycled rain water, an air system that pulls in fresh outside air more frequently than most systems.

Michael Kitt, executive vice-president of Oxford Properties, which is developing the building, said in an interview the ventilation, lighting and physical access will “talk” to each other through a Cisco IP  network in a way that hasn’t been done before.

Cisco was part of a similar integrated infrastructure project in a nearby tower opened in 2011. However, Rick Huijbregts, Cisco Canada’s vice-president for smart and connected communities, said WaterPark Place will be the first office building with environmental controllers driven by Power-over-Ethernet.

Ultimately that will allow rules, policies and analytics to be set at the network level for buildings rather than on devices, he said.

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