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Tom Goerke with visiting speaker Dave Ward (right) at Cisco’s Future Technology Update, hosted by Innovation Central. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Increased connectivity and digital identities at the forefront of Cisco innovation

Cisco continues to forge ahead with innovation surrounding technology and the internet by sharing its extensive knowledge on connectivity, digital identity and cyber security.

Hosted by Innovation Central Perth, Cisco’s Future Technology Update was attended by IT architects, academics, business owners and others interested in digital technology.

Dave Ward, Cisco Chief Architect and Chief Technology Officer of Engineering, shared a number of Cisco’s strategies for dealing with the rapid pace of internet technology for businesses, enterprises and individuals.

For businesses looking to create or update policies around IT and digital technology, Dave suggested focusing on identity, devices, location and application.

“Streamlining the different ways we use the internet is currently underpinning Cisco’s work in the digital space,” Dave Ward said. 

“This will allow us to create digital identity, one that we carry seamlessly between our work and home lives.”

In order to allow this, along with other developing technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), internet connections need to be robust and ubiquitous.  

Internet of Things (IoT)

Dave Ward said IoT was the most transformative use of the internet we’re likely to see.

“It’s transforming not just business, but individuals’ use of the internet,” he said. 

IoT is the network of physical, connected devices that collect data, interact with the environment, and communicate over the internet. 

Over the years, 8 billion mobile phones have been added to the internet and by 2030, it’s expected that 500 billion devices will be connected. 

“This number is growing with IoT meaning more and more devices, from medical equipment to household appliances, are connected daily,” Dave said.

“The big question is how do we add millions of IoT devices without the internet tipping over?”

For IoT to work efficiently on this scale, the network must be secure and reliable.

Connectivity —  always online

Dave Ward said the expectation of constant internet access, along with the use of IoT, was driving the change towards better methods of connectivity.

“A lot of us didn’t grow up with the internet everywhere’,” Dave said. “But the younger generation assume they should see content anywhere, on any device, at any time.”

“There’s also an assumption that if it’s not done on the internet, it’s not worth doing. This is causing everything to be taken online.”

The approach Cisco is taking to the mammoth task of ensuring seamless connectivity involves combining what is already available — 5G (cellular) and Wifi 6 (wireless or wifi) technologies.

“A lot has been said about 5G and how it’s going to transform our lives,” Dave said. “However this technology is currently only available in selected areas of the world.”

The next generation of wifi — Wifi 6 — will offer increased speed, boost performance of the internet when multiple devices are connected and transform the digital side of many businesses. 

By creating a more streamlined approach, a consistent internet connection can be gained. 

“As we become more connected, we need more power to fuel this. There is a need to better manage wifi and cellular networks at the same time,” Dave Ward said. 

“This impacts workplaces and enterprises which are hubs of technology and innovation, such as hospitals, factories and manufacturing plants and universities.”

This is why connectivity is one aspect of internet technology that Cisco has prioritised.

Digital identities — no more passwords

Another area being developed is heterogenous networking, where digital identities bring together different elements of our day-to-day digital lives, such as work and home.

By creating a digital identity, different services can be pre-empted and accessed seamlessly. 

“Heterogenous networking will allow users to move between enterprises and individual identities freely,” Dave said. 

“It also allows for an easy flow between devices, from phones and tablets to laptops, without the need to continually log in.”

One way of safely streamlining this process is to get rid of passwords and instead focus on  verifiable information based around the user’s identity.

According to Dave Ward, multi-factor identification will lead us to a password-less world in the next few years.

Multi-factor identification involves collecting information unique to each user, usually physical characteristics such as retina scan, jaw line or facial recognition, thumb print or gait measurement.

These attributes are then stored as a highly secure, encrypted piece on the device where the risk of a hacker accessing this critical data is significantly reduced.

“It’s basically what modern smart phones do now, but on steroids,” he says. “The next generation of mobile phones will use this technology and we can’t move the internet forward without it.”

Cyber security

The question of security looms over the conversation — with a more mobile and remote workforce logging in from a range of devices, how do we ensure unique identifying information is kept out of the wrong hands?

“The privacy issue is very challenging,” Dave Ward said. “Cloud-based technology allows you to better manage security but overall, identity providers must be trusted.

Cisco offers this service via our Duo acquisition, which is based on a zero-trust networking model built around identity.”

A zero-trust networking model trusts nothing inside or outside of the network perimeters. Instead, all traffic is verified before being connected to the system. 

“This involves having a separate, encrypted tunnel through the untrusted network to a gateway that you do trust,” Dave said. 

This allows you have to have an identity-trust relationship from your device to the gateway and means your data cannot be stolen during transmission. 

Zero-trust networking is integral for employees logging into their cloud-based work system from a public network. 

“Fifty per cent of people carry out work away from the office and this number is growing,” Dave said. 

“You have to be careful of who and what you trust. Should you trust the public wifi at the café or shopping plaza your employees are working at?”

From an employer perspective, zero-trust networking allows you to authenticate users and continuously monitor and govern their access and privileges. 

However teams need to have the ability to verify user identities and evaluate the trustworthiness of their devices before granting them access to applications and data. 

“IT teams need to be able to ensure safety without compromising on service,” Dave Ward says.

The future is now

It might seem like science fiction, but the research into internet technology is moving at a rapid pace.

“I believe we’re going to see the everyday impact of what you hear about today around 2023,” Dave Ward said.

Dave said another big challenge associated with technological innovation was educating people, both enterprises and individuals, on the technology and what it means for them. 

“There are challenges in rolling out these changes,” Dave Ward said. “People don’t always understand them, and there are information gaps.

“Enterprises need to build awareness of knowledge and people will take this through to their life.” 

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